An unassuming mil building at the corner of Point and Eddy Streets, this is one of those places that seems to have always been something else. Redeveloped in the early 80s as commercial space, the complex is now home to such businesses as a fitness company/gym and the jazz club, the Hi-Hat. Brown University also has office space in the complex. There is no doubt that if office space in the Square is unoccupied, that if the neighboring South Street Power Station was redeveloped, space in the entire area would become a hot item again. Who knows, though... with more investment in the Jewelry District and the intent to repurpose it as the “Innovation District” or something to that effect, this 120 year old complex may be poised for a whole new generation of tenants.
From the 1981 RIHPHC Industrial Surveys report:
The Davol Rubber Company, founded by Emery Perkins and Joseph Davol in 1874 as the Perkins Manufacturing Company, was the result of two years of experiments and inventions by Joseph Davol. Although the manufacture of rubber goods such as boots and shoes was well established in the United States, and there were few such manufacturers in Providence, the processes used by Davol to manufacture drug and surgical supplies were entirely new to this country. In 1878, Davol assumed control of the company which he renamed the Davol Manufacturing Company.
Incorporated in 1882 as the Davol Manufacturing Company and in 1884 as the Davol Runner Company, the firm was the international leader in the production of rubber drug-and-surgical supplies by 1888 and had markets for its goods in South American, Germany, Australia, China and Japan, as well as in all parts of the United States. The Davol Rubber Company continued to expand in the twentieth century under the leadership of Davol’s son, Charles; between 1900 and 1930, the company increased its workforce from 275 to 600. In 1932 the company reorganized as Davol, Inc. having expanded its line beyond rubber goods.
The original site of the Davol Rubber Company was near the site of the planing works owned by Davol’s grandfather-in-law, Eban Simmons. The earliest existing structure built for the company is the Simmons Building on the south side of Point Street. Named for Eban Simmons, the Simmons Building (1880) is a long, 4-story brick structure with a flat roof, granite beltcourses above rectangular windows, and 1st-story cast iron storefronts. In the late 1880s and 90s the Simons building was occupied mainly by jewelry manufacturers, but by the early 20th century it was reoccupied by the Davol Rubber Company.
The main complex of the Davol Rubber Company, on the north side of Point Street, contains several late 19th- and 20th-century structures, the earliest of which is a 3-story brick structure (1884) with segmental-arch windows, a 5-bay storefront with large round-arch windows, and a central arched doorway. About five year slater, the company constructed a nearly identical, 3-story structure which was connected to the 1884 structure by a small, 3-bay 3-story building with rectangular windows and a large rectangular central entrance. As intended, the three structures present a symmetrical facade on the Point Street elevation.
Other structures in the complex include a 2-story, brick office (c. 1900; second story added later); a long 4-story, steel-frame brick structure (1913; fourth story added in 1960); and numerous late 19th- and 20th-century additions at the rear of the complex.
In 1969 Davol, Inc. built an additional plant in Cranston, and in 1977 the company vacated its Point Street plant for a modern factory in North Carolina. The Davol Rubber Company Complex is currently being developed for adaptive reuse.
Cindy Doyle Jul 27 2012 My grandmother told me she met my grandfather Bernard Doran in that mill in 1919. She was only 12, left her small family farm in East Providence, and met him at age 14, and he was 19. She worked 12 hr. days pinning up new hot water bottles on a pulley and sent them to him in the next building.
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