Atlas and Terminal Warehouses

also known as Shepard’s Department Store Warehouse

Two massive five-story, brick, pier-and-spandrel warehouses along the waterfront once used for storing cargo. Vacant for 15+ years before demolition from 2013-2015.

About this Property

#Reason for Demolition

On August 22, 2011, Cumberland Farms received permission from the Providence Historic District Commission to raze the two Terminal Warehouse Buildings off Allens Avenue. The convenience store chain had no plans to develop the land after the demolition, according to plans filed with the city’s Department of Planning and Development. At the request of the Providence Historic District Commission, a narrative with graphic scale drawings and photographic documentation were prepared and submitted according to and as a condition to the approval of demolition. The report was submitted to the RI Historic Preservation and Heritage Commission.

The giant warehouses were solid structures and had managed to survive 15 years of neglect with damage to the windows and some vandalism. Given their size and the sheer bulk of their mass, however, they were still structurally sound. The problem was more that they were huge, posed an insurance risk, and would have been hard to convert into something more desirable. Even though they were located along the waterfront, they were along the working waterfront, which is not a desirable location for most commercial or residential use.

During Vincent “Buddy” Cianci’s administration, it was proposed to redevelop the waterfront with a plan called “New Cities”. New Cities would create “Narragansett Landing”, a 200-acre development on land that is currently occupied by oil and gas storage facilities, as well as the Promenade (behind the mall) and Westminster Crossings (over the highway I-95). The idea of New Cities stuck around during the Cicilline’s administration, although nothing moved forward with it (Patrick Conley moved forward with his own version, called “Providence Piers” alongside the former Dunlop Tire building, but nothing materialized except a boat dock).

#Current Events

The land currently is used as waterfront storage by nearby businesses.

#History

Excerpts from Rhode Island Historical Resources Archive (RIHRA PROV-0001)

The Atlas and Shepherd buildings are two large, five-story warehouses intended as the two ends of a gargantuan warehouse at the Port of Providence, however, the middle sections were never constructed. The buildings were used for the storage of freight from the State Pier and were considered burglarproof and fireproof when constructed.

The current owner, Cumberland Farms, Inc. (CFI) relocated their Canton, Massachusetts headquarters in 1984, at which time it began using Shepherd, Atlas and the out buildings for a variety of storage and repair shop uses. According to CFI’s Construction Purchasing Supervisor, Jose Moreira, who started at CFI in 1986, three floors of the Shepherd Building were used to store fixtures and equipment from their retail outlets, and with the 1987 merger with Gulf Oil, extra signage. The Atlas Building was used from 1987 to 1992 for sheet metal repairs for their retail storefront and canopy components. The single story outbuildings contained material for construction, HVAC systems, gas pumps and new equipment until September 16, 2007. The garage in front continues in use to service and repair Gulf Oil tanker trucks.

From Providence Preservation Society’s “2010 Most Endangered Properties List”

It is a complex of two large, five-story, brick, pier-and-spandrel buildings set on the east side of Allens Avenue. The westernmost building stands close to the road and features a gable-roof parapet, brick corbelling, a stone stringcourse at the first story level, and brick pilasters. The north and south bays of the façade are demarcated by pedimented parapets and brick piers. The building’s primary entrance is centered on the facade, within a recessed opening. Secondary entrances are located on the north elevation of the building. The facade features minimal fenestration, with windows on the end and central bays. Fenestration is comprised of rectangular and segmental-arch openings with 1/1 sash windows. Tiers of freight doors are located at four bay intervals. The building’s rear elevation is devoid of fenestration. Painted signage on the building identifies the structure as “Atlas” (Atlas Warehouse).

To the east stands the second warehouse building, which also features rectangular and segmental arch window openings, stone trim, tiers of freight doors, and projecting piers. A small, one-story, flat-roof ell projects from the west elevation of the building. Two vehicular entrances are located on the north elevation of the one-story structure. The building is identified by painted signage as the “Shepard Warehouses”.

To the south stands a long, one-story, rectangular, concrete block building identified by the assessor’s records as a warehouse for Cumberland Farms. The structure is set perpendicular to Allens Avenue. A small, one-story, flat-roof ell projects from the west end of this building. According to the 1983 Sanborn map, this ell was constructed in 1950. Further south on the site stands a one-story building comprised of a concrete block ell (west) and a brick ell (east) identified on Sanborn maps as a Paper Warehouse (west) and a Beds, Springs, and Mattresses Warehouse (west).

Constructed in 1913, the five-story warehouses were intended as the two ends of a gargantuan warehouse at the Port of Providence. The middle sections were never constructed and the exposed, unfinished end walls of both buildings indicate the configuration originally intended for the complex. The Terminal Warehouse Company was incorporated in 1912. The buildings were used for the storage of freight from the State Pier, which laid 300 yards away at this time and was heavily used. When the building was first built it was deemed burglarproof and fireproof. City directories identify Walter E. Young, president, and William M. Harris, vice president, in 1929. The property was acquired by the Shepard Company in 1948. The buildings are currently owned by Cumberland Farms.