Builder’s Iron Foundry

also known as Norcross Brother Stone Cutting, B-I-F Industries, Providence Wire, Eastern Wire

A bricked-in and enclosed one-story building along Kinsley Avenue exploded in a chemical fire that leveled it and threw conder blocks across the street

About this Property

Reason for Demolition

We don’t know when Eastern Wire moved out, but they were current occupants in 2002. The building had been in light-to-heavy industrial use since it started to appear on maps in 1899. An illegal hash-oil facility that used highly flammable butane to extract oil from marijuana leaves didn’t properly ventilate the buildings and an explosive fire occurred in March of 2015 that leveled the entire block.

The rise of the Builder’s Iron Foundry (BIF) was a bit complex, and spawned the Providence Steel & Iron company nearby as well as being related to the Armington & Sims company for a short time as well. This was the second location of BIF with another being across town on the West Side, no longer extant. They were known as ornate iron workers, having built the cast façade for the Equitable Building downtown and a marble and steel staircase for the Library of Congress.

Current Events

Farm Fresh Rhode Island built a new distribution center and indoor farmer’s market at this location with community-led storefront retail as well.


According to “RHODE ISLAND: An Inventory of Historic Engineering and Industrial Sites”, by Gary Kulik and Julia C. Bonham, 1978, the Builder’s Iron Foundry cast the ornate iron facade of the 1872 Equitable Building at the corner of Weybosset and Custom House Streets.

BIF’s former complex on Codding Steet, which is no longer a street, was on Providence’s West Side near the former New England Butt. The area of this complex was bounded by Westminster to the north, Knight to the east, Cranston to the south, and Dodge to the west. That complex was razed between 1962 and 1972 to develop Wiggin Village Apartments.

From the “Industrial Sites and Commercial Buildings Survey (ICBS)” by PPS and the AIA, 2001-2002

A large complex of one- and two-story, rectangular, brick blocks set at the corner of Kinsley and Sims avenues. The building is embellished with brick corbelling at the cornice. The majority of window openings have been bricked in; those remaining include small, rectangular, awning sash along Kinsley. The two northernmost blocks in the complex are flat-roofed while the two central blocks feature end-gable shallow pitched roofs. The southernmost block is constructed of concrete block with a brick face on the Sims Avenue elevation. According to Sanborn maps, this block was constructed in 1968. A centrally-located vehicular entrance remains on the west elevation of the 1968 block.

The first large-scale industrial use of this property was Norcross Brother Stone Cutting, cutting stone for construction and monumental use. The head office was located in downtown Providence and this was their “steam stone works.” By ca. 1919, Builders Iron Foundry (established 1822) had moved to this location. Builders Iron Foundry had its origins with the High Street Furnace Company (1820-1853) until being established as Builders Iron Foundry in 1853. The company was affiliated with Armington and Sims in the 1890s, suppliers of large steam engine castings. They produced the marble and steel staircase for the Library of Congress.

The company operated under this name for 100 years until changing its name to B-I-F Industries, Inc. in 1953. The foundry manufactured architectural iron work as well as precise castings and in 1948, adopted a new method to insure the production of uniform castings. A new office building was opened in 1950 on the company’s 130th anniversary. The long building along Kinsley Avenue is identified in a 1956 map as an assembling plant. The building is currently occupied by Eastern Wire. The building is also associated with the Providence Iron & Steel Company building at 27 Sims Avenue.

Map Sources

In the News

Fire engulfs Kinsley Avenue building

by Paul Edward Parker and John Hill
Providence Journal | March 10, 2015 (abridged)

A massive fire overnight engulfed a low structure on Kinsley Avenue, sending plumes of smoke east over the city and keeping firefighters working into the morning.

Three walls and the roof collapsed while firefighters poured water onto the building at the corner of Kinsley and Sims avenues, according to Providence Public Safety officials. There was also an explosion during the 4-alarm fire, Public Safety Commissioner Steven M. Paré said.

One firefighter suffered a shoulder injury. Fire officials don’t believe anyone was inside the building, but they haven’t been able to get inside it yet themselves.

The building, which bears a sign for the Providence Wire Company, was mostly vacant but housed a medical marijuana growing facility, RIPAC, according to public safety officials. That facility did not sustain fire damage but has a lot of water damage. […]

Little is left standing of the building, which covered about an acre, except charred support columns. Metal beams, bent by the immense heat, are visible. Cinder blocks are strewn about Kinsey Ave., which is covered in 1 to 2 inches of water.

Investigators are treating the cause as suspicious until they can determine otherwise, Paré said. The cause will be investigated by the Providence and state fire marshals offices, the state police, and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, fire officials said. […]

Burned mill building housed illicit drug lab

by Tom Mooney
Providence Journal | March 21, 2015 (abridged)

[…] The city’s acting fire marshal confirmed Friday that officials investigating the cause of the fire are looking closely at an illicit drug lab operating in the largely vacant building that produced a concentrated form of marijuana oil.

The lab apparently used highly flammable butane gas to dissolve away plant material and collect the concentrated resin. But the butane can explode at a relatively low temperature.

The produced drug is known as butane hash oil or butane honey oil (BHO), which marijuana advocates say is growing in popularity — including at Rhode Island’s three medical-marijuana compassion centers.

“People ask me all the time for BHO,” said Seth Bock, CEO of the Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center, in Portsmouth. “It is a highly concentrated product for break-through pain, but it’s very dangerous to make.”

Bock said his center sells hash oil, produced locally by patients or caregivers licensed in Rhode Island to grow small amounts of marijuana. Occasionally that oil is BHO, he said.

But the bulk of the center’s oil is supposedly made “from non-explosive materials” such as grain alcohol. Bock admits he has no way of knowing for sure: “Which is why the state obviously needs to seriously regulate this industry.”

JoAnne Leppanen, executive director of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, which promotes the medicinal use of marijuana and whose office, at 498 Kinsley Ave., is located at the complex where the fire occurred, agrees.

“If you are going to be making a product with butane, well, it’s a poison. Do you want people ingesting a carcinogen? Do you want people blowing themselves up?”

Leppanen said, “It’s my understanding all three [Rhode Island compassion centers] are selling it. We have a dilemma. We have a medicine that is highly effective for some patients and at the same time we have to find a way to get it to them in a safe manner.”

Fire Capt. Peter McMichael said on Friday that fire investigators are looking at the illegal drug lab as one possible cause of the fire but that no official cause has been released yet.

“This is the first time that we’ve become aware of” this drug-production process in the city, McMichael said. “We haven’t seen this before.” […]

The fire remains under investigation by the state and city fire marshal’s offices and with investigators from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Capt. McMichael said the federal agency was providing resources such as chemists, engineers and other experts.

Mooney, Tom. “providence Burned mill building housed illicit drug lab.” Providence Journal (RI), sec. RI News, 21 Mar. 2015, p. 1. NewsBank: America’s News, Accessed 13 Feb. 2022.