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Providence Machine Company

 

The Providence Machine Company was another early (2001) example of the Providence real-estate boom, but it was for a different reason. A developer didn’t want to make it into condos or erect a new residential tower in its footprint. No, unfortunately, the building was in the way of the I-195 relocation project. It stood in the way of new on-ramps and off-ramps, and so the state purchased the property in 2000 and by 2001 it was gone. Notably, many tenants were displaced and if Thurston Saw taught us anything, much of the machinery, doors, and woodwork that existed was taken down with the building instead of being salvaged.

 

Excerpted from a Providence Journal article about the displaced businesses:

The Providence Machine Company had quite a history, and had tenants up until its last days. It was on the list along with 35 other buildings the state planned to demolish in order to untangle the knot of blacktop that carries the highway across the Providence River. Those buildings were home to 80 businesses and six families. Mandell’s garage, India Point Auto Service & Repair, in the city’s Corliss Landing section, were also demolished, which was in a former fire station just east of the Fox Point Hurricane Barrier. Other buildings slated for demolition were Thurston Manufacturing, the Centerfolds topless club, parking lots owned by Rhode Island Hospital, a 136,000-barrel oil tank owned by U.S. Generating Company, Gerardo’s Alternative Nightclub and five houses on Crary, Globe and Manchester Streets.

M. Bertram Forman and a business partner bought One Allens Ave in 1962, after it had been vacant for eight years. Forman built a new roof, installed new burners for a heating system and rewired the electricity. He put in fire alarms, three elevators and dozens of partitions. His building became home to 45 tenants, from photography studios and an art-framing store to a children’s acting workshop and a bar.

“It’s got more ambience than you could ever believe,“ Forman said. “The molding, the doors and everything in this building – you don’t see them built like this anymore.”

The red-brick monolith survived the Hurricane of 1938. As water gushed down the streets outside, Forman said, the building’s only hiccup was a small sewage backup in the lower cellar.

It has never fared well against highways. When the state built the Allens Avenue on-ramp to Route 95 many years ago, workers had to raze the rear of the building. The new Route 195 finished off the rest. Forman had been feeling it coming for some time. Rumors about the new highway had kept rents lower than he would have liked for about seven years.

From RIHPHC’s 1981 Providence Industrial Sites report.

The Providence Machine Company was originally part of the Providence Steam Cotton Manufacturing Company, controlled by Samuel Slater and Sons. Thomas J Hill, one-time laborer at the Old Slater Mill and later partner of Samuel Slater, became the sole owner in 1846. He had new buildings constructed for the site. The shop manufactured all kinds of cotton and woolen machinery. In particular, they manufactured English fly frames and American riving frames for weaving.

The 2-acre complex included two main buildings, a foundry, a pattern shop, several storehouses and an office building. The buildings that remained for the most part of this century was only the main building, a three story brick structure with a pitched roof. Originally, the mill had four octagonal, castellated corner towers.

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