Almira P. Allen House

also known as The Blue Elephant, The Duck & Bunny

This turn-of-the-century Federal-style two-story wooden house-turned-resturant was razed quickly on Good Friday in 2021

About this Property

#Reason for Demolition

Rumors abound. Some folks who know the owner told us via Instagram that the owners intended to renovate the building, but it became an albatross as they uncovered more and more problems due poorly executed earlier renovations as well as issues with the foundation. A small group of neighbors lobbied the owners to continue to save the building or sell it to someone else who would.

The demolition came quickly and largely by surprise. There is not a historic district overlay that would have prevented a permit from being issued. There is a demolition delay instituted for downtown Providence, but this is outside the bounds. As another user stated, “Wildly rising East Side property values mean the pressure to ‘develop’ the neighborhood keeps building,” no pun intended.

Statement from the Providence Preservation Society Facebook page:

The demolition of 312 Wickenden — formerly the Duck & Bunny — is an unfortunate reminder that while National Register Historic Districts provide recognition of architectural and historical significance, they lack local preservation protection. The Federal-style former house contributed to the College Hill Historic District on the National Register, but Wickenden Street is not part of a Local Historic District — and this means NO demolition delay/denial or review of new construction plans. Preservation is only as effective as the guidelines a neighborhood agrees to enact. PPS confirmed last year that the building was in rough shape, but we wish more could have been done.

A statement from Councilman, Ward 1, John Goncalves:

…the permit for demolition was issued on March 15. Again, while notifying abutters is not legally required, not letting the neighbors know prior to the contractor’s work creates challenges for the neighborhood. We have expressed our disappointment regarding the lack of communication, particularly due to the adverse impact this has had on our constituents as well as the way this demolition impacts the historic vibrancy and fabric of our neighborhood. The long-time owners indicated that they had hoped to rehab the property, but the building was in such poor shape it was preferable and more cost-effective to demolish and rebuild than to repair.

#Current Events

The building was only recently demolished and we have not been able to confirm what will take its place. Some rumors include a new restaurant for the owners of the Duck and Bunny and locals predict more unaffordable housing.

#History

The building’s footprint is shown on a Sanborn Insurance Map from 1900 and it is also shown on an 1889 Sanborn at street number 248.

#In the News

A Duck and Bunny Mystery

by David Brussat
RI news Today | April 24, 2021

On Easter weekend a colonial-style building at 312 Wickenden St., in Providence, was razed by its new owners, who also owned the Duck & Bunny Snuggery, which was shut for the pandemic. I heard about this calamity on Sunday and instantly wrote an obituary for the lovely building, which was said to have been built in 1900, but might have been built as early as 1790.

After my post ran I was informed by email that reporter Lynzi DeLuccia of WJAR Channel 10 had done a story in which the new owners said that code issues and structural instability had forced their hand, but they hoped to rebuild 312 Wickenden and reopen the Duck & Bunny. Good news, if true!

But other emails came to me saying that there had been no code or structural issues arising at 312 Wickenden as of 2018, when the new owners bought the building for $405,000. I confirmed this with city planning officials.

And yet the new owners insist that those issues were there, and they are backed up by the Providence Preservation Society. There is direct contradiction here not just between the new and old owners, but between PPS and the city planning department. And the evidence has been demolished.

The local historic district’s boundary excludes Wickenden Street, so it was not protected by the city and the owners were able to demolish it “by right,” without any notification to abutters or the community, which they did not provide.

Now I have learned from the prior owner that 312 Wickenden might have been built in the 1790s, early in the Federal period. The city gave it a pro-forma date of 1900 because the actual date was unknown, even though it was thought to be “earlier than 1857.” Local preservationist Mack Woodward dated it to between 1810 and 1830. The previous owner cites 18-inch floorboards and other features that suggest the older reaches of its age. If the building, officially the Almira P. Allen House, really dates from the post-colonial era, then its loss is doubly tragic.

The new owners intend to rebuild 312 Wickenden as closely as they can manage to its old look, but they are using a quad construction system. It will be built in sections off-site and erected on-site. How well they can replicate the building using such a method seems unclear to me. For example, did they rescue the elegant front door surround? If not, can they reproduce it? Will the clapboards be as narrow as the original ones? They claim to have saved some of the beautiful interior features, but that will be of little account if the exterior looks as bad as 298 Wickenden, two doors downhill from 312. It was torn down a year or so ago and replaced with a clunky faux colonial. If anything like that happens at 312, the Duck & Bunny may end up in bad odor with the neighborhood, no longer so beloved. Naturally, I am rooting for a high-quality exterior restoration that the Duck & Bunny can occupy with their heads held high.

The city contends that the Duck & Bunny could have operated in 312 Wickenden for the foreseeable future. But it seems there may have been a fly in the ointment. According to one source, the owners’ purchase of the building involved a new insurer in its fate, which may have said it would not insure the building unless it was brought up to a higher level of fire and safety codes and ADA disabled access that would take effect because of the owners’ desire to renovate substantially.

Providence has 35 districts on the National Register of Historic Places. A listing is purely honorary. The city has only seven local historic districts with limited actual protection for historic properties. The local College Hill Historic District extends into Fox Point but only to within one block of Wickenden Street. If its merchants and residents fear for its historic character, they will need to petition to have the College Hill Historic District extended by at least one block. Eventually, the merchants who blocked the street’s inclusion in the local district decades ago will regret what is brought by the winds of change. Yet, by then it is likely that Providence as a whole will no longer boast the allure from which Wickenden Street borrows its charm.

Duck and Bunny Building Demolished on Wickenden Street in Providence

by the GoLocalProv Lifestyle Team
GoLocalProv | April 4, 2021 (abridged)

The building that housed the Duck and Bunny in Fox Point has been demolished.

The Duck and Bunny was a local — and national favorite — since it emerged on the scene, with cupcakes, crepes, cocktails, and more in a cozy, stylish converted Colonial house.

The structure at 312 Wickenden Street — which the City of Providence says was built in 1900, according to tax assessor records, was nearly completely torn down on Saturday.

In 2019, the Duck and Bunny announced it would be closing for “major renovations” — and in July 2020 said it would be taking an extended hiatus due to coronavirus, staying the following:

The Duck & Bunny will be closed until further notice as we deal with the current health and economic climate. This includes our auxiliary space in Pawtucket. Thank you for your patience and understanding. Our goal is still to raise enough money to reopen our Wickenden Street location in 2021. Peace and love to all. Please be safe and nice to one another. This too shall pass.

The Duck and Bunny did not respond to request for comment on the demolition on Saturday.