American Locomotive, for. US Rubber


Urban Plant page:
A historic look at the name of ALCO by the Rhode Island Photographic Survey


Its been 3 years since the start of construction at this site, and unfortunately, the project is not even half done. There were plans for new construction at this site – some infill buildings of more housing and office space – but due to the economic downturn at the end of 2008, these plans were never realized. Furthermore, SBER has since gone belly up in RI, and is in Chapter 11 filings in its home state of Maryland. A few other SBER projects that had begun before the proverbial shit hit the fan are in even more trouble than this project – at least ALCo has some tenants. The Dynamo House is in much more dire straits.

So, in retorspect, the questions here are:

  1. Was it wise to treat SBER as a savior, and give them as much historic tax credit and TIF money as we did?
  2. Did the lack of this tax base – and the lack of expansion of this tax base due to the unfinished construction at the site – contribute to the dire state of the State?
  3. Have real estate speculators, counting on high rents and high demands, gotten what they deserve?
  4. Would the site have been better off without the redevelopment, seeing as it was full of tax-paying small businesses?

Smiles, optimism surround project in mill district

by Cathleen Crowley
March 9, 2006 | Providence Journal

“We want to make Providence the coolest place in the world,” says developer Bill Struever.

A concrete loading dock set the stage for city and state officials to celebrate the proposed transformation of several Valley Street mill buildings.

[... A] new locomotive engine moved in yesterday. Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse officially announced their plan to infuse $333 million into the 22.5-acre site. Struever wants to refurbish 26 historic buildings and construct a handful of new buildings to create a neighborhood of retail, office space, apartments and condominiums. The plan includes two parking garages wrapped up and hidden behind condominiums.

The project consist[ed] of the former American Locomotive Works, U.S. Rubber and a portion of the Nicholson File sites, which are all owned by the Licht family. The development is nicknamed ALCO, and its insignia was borrowed and updated from American Locomotive Works’ letterhead. Struever hopes to complete the first phase of the project, which includes a hotel and office buildings, by the end of the year, and finish the entire project by 2008.

... [Governor] Carcieri... has threatened to cut back the state’s historic tax-credit program, said ALCO was the perfect, neighborhood-transforming use of the credits. Struever will be using $30 million in state historic tax credits.

Rep. Steven M. Costantino, D-Providence, said the credits will benefit the city and state through increased property taxes, jobs, income taxes and sales taxes...

But beneath yesterday’s atmosphere of good cheer hovered a layer of uncertainty. The ALCO project will displace more than 30 small businesses, and community leaders fear that it will drive real-estate values above the means of the low-income and working families in the nearby neighborhoods. Also, the developer is relying on the city to approve a $40-million bond to pay for infrastructure improvements.

...One person who was not in the crowd was Norman A. Ospina, president of the Olneyville Neighborhood Association. Ospina said he wasn't invited. Ospina is skeptical that ALCO will improve the lives of the people who reside nearby. He thinks it will force them out.

“We don’t want to displace all the low-income people,” Ospina said. “We need people to clean the hotel bathrooms and shovel the sidewalks, but we don’t want to build housing for them to live in a dignified manner. This [ALCO] is not going to be for our people. This is going to be out of their reach.”

Indeed, the 600 residential units at ALCO will range from $1,200 to $1,800 a month for rental units and $300,000 to $450,000 for condominiums.

Bill Struever acknowledged that the project will drive up property values, but his company plans to partner with affordable-housing agencies and other community projects. The company has dedicated 2 percent of its construction costs to community projects and an additional 10 percent of the profits from the project to a trust fund for community initiatives, including affordable housing...


A quick Google search turned up this info, though nothing specific about this complex of buildings:

American Locomotive Company (ALCO) was formed in 1901 when seven smaller locomotive builders merged with the Schenectady Locomotive Works (Schenectady, NY) in order to compete against the largest locomotive builder of the days. Among the seven locomotive builders was the Rhode Island Locomotive Works, Providence.

Over all of its time (prior to merger and after), ALCO produced about 75,000 locomotives with more than 63% of them built in Schnectady, NY. In fact, all of the locomotive manufacturing (except in Canada) was consolidated in Schectady by 1931 and continued until 1968.

Of the smaller works, Rhode Island was the first to be closed in 1907 having been founded in 1866 and after producing 3400 locomotives. The Rhode Island division, however, did have the distinction of producing ALCO’s first line of automobiles in 1906, after buying a license from Automobiles M. Berliet of Lyons, France, after an investment of $6,000,000. In 1909, an ALCO automobile, driven by Henry Fortune Grant, won The Vanderbilt Cup on Long Island, N.Y., with an average speed of 62.81 MPH and in 1910 ALCO again won The Vanderbilt Cup. Grant and his “Bete Noire” won the race by 25 seconds with an average speed of 65.18 MPH. In 1913, though, ALCO closed its automobile manufacturing facility because it proved unprofitable. An interesting side note, however, in 1911 Walter P. Chrysler, the works manager for The Allegheny NY Plant, moved to Detroit to work for Buick Motor Company. The Chrysler Corporation was subsequently founded on June 6, 1924.

During World War II, ALCO produced army tanks (7,362 of them), tank destroyers, shells, bombs, gun carriages, gun mounts and 4,488 locomotives. Employment increased three fold to over 15,000 people by 1945.

Most of the general files, technical manuals and ALCO designs are located in George Arent Research Library at Syracuse Univerity (Phone: 315-443-2697). The Buider’s Photos and many of the Erecting Cards (photographs of the drawings) and Painting Diagrams are in the possession of a sub-chapter of the Mohawk & Hudson Chapter of the NRHS. This group of volunteers is known as “ALCO Historic Photos” and is preserving over 32,000 ALCO negatives.

The information about each building grows as visitors let us know about their experiences. Did you or a member of your family work here? Did you grow up near it as a child? Let us know. All entries will be moderated and may be posted in an edited form. We will use your name unless you tell us otherwise. We will not make your email public.

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