Fountain Street, #66

also known as Dunkin Donuts/Coffee King

The littlest building in downtown (not including parking lot shelters) that was once home to small coffee shops.

About this Property

Reason for Demolition

After about 10 years as the Coffee King, this little structure was cleared to make way for a much, much larger building. The building was purchased for $450,000 in June 2016 by 78 Fountain JV Owner LLC, a company owned by Nordblom Development Company and Cornish Associates. These owners were seeking financing for a large apartment complex. Later in 2017, they went before the city’s Downtown Design Review Committee for a demolition request. It was granted based on the merits and scale of the new project that would replace it.

The small structure came down in about 3 hours. The lot was cleared and basement filled in over the next few days. Videos of the demolition uploaded to YouTube by the Providence Journal:

Current Events

As of 2020, finishing touches are being put on a new residential building called “The Nightingale”. What was a block to block parking lot — from Fountain to Washington and from Clemence to Mathewson streets — is now 133 apartments ranging from 500 to 1200 square feet. Ground floor retail will also occupy the spaces. The project is being developed by Cornish Associates, led by Arnold “Buff” Chace.

The Mystery

Why is this building so small, on the corner of such a large street to street parking lot? Who designed it, when was it built, and why?

There has been speculation that this was a “study” building — a small version of a larger building to test out and see finish details, brickwork, windows, massing, etc… This would be very difficult to verify. Typically, these structures are torn down after the main building has been completed.

Folks in the anecdotes have also noted that there was a building that wrapped around this one that burned in the mid-70s. Map research verified that it existed but no accounts mention when it burned. It housed businesses such as a restaurant called Honeydew, a coffee shop called The Mouthpiece (on Clemence), an Army Surplus Store, and Jimmy’s Bar. We can’t find any additional information (yet) about these businesses.

In aerial photos, there was a building that fronted Washington Street and went halfway down this block. Sometime between 1988 and 1997 it was razed. In an aerial from 1972 we can see a building wrap around this one right up against it. In 1962, the entire block is filled with buildings. We used a photo from 1952 because the quality was better.

History

Very little (not just the building). We have found this building on the following cadastral maps:

  • Sanborn, 1889, Plate 03 — Similar shape as the 1904 map but the surrounding buildings are very different that later maps. We believe the “3” indicates that it was three stories high surrounded by 2 story frame structures. We would guess that this particular building was not present in its 20th century, 2-story form yet.
  • Sanborn, 1904, Central Business District — shown in yellow to indicate a “frame” building. We believe the “3” indicates that it was still three stories high, surrounded by a red “brick” building of 2 stories.
  • L.J. Richards, 1908 — No indication of height but surrounded by a building still. The name looks like ”J. Lavell.“ It could be that between 1904 and 1908, the building structure here changed while the plat boundaries did not. Interestingly, the adjacent building is “Nightingale.”
  • G.M. Hopkins, 1937 — Hard to make out the name on this block, looks like “M.A. Gillick.”

From 1940 to 1973, this building was the union hall of Operational Engineers, Local 57. They were at this location for those 33 years until a new hall was built on Gano Street near Engineer’s Field.

In the News

This Restaurant Made Fools of Hipsters Everywhere (or did they?)

by Ryan Holiday
Observer.com | November 9, 2015 (abridged)

The launch of a satirical restaurant “Lura” (Swedish for trick or deceive) […] A few anonymous artists got together to create an absurd sendup of your classic, hipster foodie joint — complete with obnoxious social media accounts and window displays. In reality, Lura’s Rhode Island location is a shuttered coffee shop. The project got a little traction online but by the artists admission, approximately two people were offended when the stunt was revealed as a fake.