Burgess and O’Gorman Buildings

Two distinctive buildings joined together as downtown residential lofts — both with unique features, design, and spaces

About this Property

#Redevelopment

The Burgess and O’Gorman buildings – previously two distinct structures – were rescued from under-use, disrepair, and general neglect by Cornish Associates in 2002. Over $4.3 millions dollars was spent on the redevelopment, with DBVW Architects conducting the adaptive reuse design and Dimeo Coonstruction doing the hard work. The buildings are part of the core character of Westminster Street as we know it today. 1st-level retail has helped re-energize the streetfront and bring more people to walk downtown.

Both buildings have distinctive features if you look up. The O’Gorman building rises straight up on the corner of Eddy and Westminster with flamboyant peacocks decorating the upper stories. The Burgess building, older by more than 50 years, has a European look to it, with a bulging circular window and stained glass protruding from the second and third stories topped by a shallow mansard roof.

#Current Events

Leasing information for commercial storefront space and residential lofts is available from WestminsterLofts.com.

#History

From a text prepared by Mackenzie Woodward for the Providence Preservation Society

Thomas O’Gorman (1860-1944) lived the American dream. Born in Ireland, he came to this country as a child and climbed up the economic and social ladder. He entered the dry-goods business in Newport in the mid-1880s and later worked in Norwalk, Connecticut. He returned to Rhode Island around 1894, opened a small department store at the corner of Westminster and Eddy Streets, and subsequently moved it to the Alice Building. He sold this business and opened a store in Pawtucket in 1910; he retired from the dry-goods business in 1920 and ventured into real-estate development. His real-estate office was located in this building.

This building was one of a number of speculative office buildings constructed in the boom years of the mid-1920s. It was designed and constructed to accommodate an additional four stories to the six constructed in 1925. The peacocks that enliven the exterior articulation, with their tails rising to the top of the building, would have been even more dramatic, if less visible, at the intended final height.

George Waterman Cady, architect — the architect of [the Burgess Building], was one of the last self-trained architects. Until after the Civil War, when the Massachusetts Institute of Technology introduced an architectural course of study, based on that of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, most of the men in this country (and they were only men) who styled themselves as architects apprenticed themselves to builders or designers who had likewise learned from builders. Most of Cady’s work has since been demolished, so this is a rare survivor of the design work of another era. It has the mansard roof so much in fashion in the late 1860s and early 1870s, a feature that relates it to Providence’s City Hall, just around the corner, completed in 1878. The oriel window projecting from the center of the facade on the upper stories is a later addition that very much contributes to the vitality of the design.

Soon after its completion, this was the home of the recently founded Bryant & Stratton Business College, which later relocated to at 40 Fountain Street, now known as The Cosmopolitan. Its later occupants included hairdressers, a sewing-machine repairer, a gold-leaf manufacturer, and the New York Dental Parlors.

From the National Register nomination form for the Downtown Providence Historic District, prepared by William McKenzie Woodward, Principal Historic Preservation Planner, 1984

220-226 0’Gorman Building (1925): 6-story, brick-sheathed, steel-frame building with mid-20th-century storefronts; large plate-glass windows at second story with terra-cotta stringcourse above; upper stories resolved into window bays ornamented at bottom with stylized peacocks whose tails rise 3 stories to fan out at the top of the building. Built as an office building with 1st-floor shops, the O’Gorman Building has housed small commercial concerns and offices since 1925. The building’s exuberantly detailed facade adds variety to Westminster Street; its massing helps to define the scale of this block.

228-232 Burgess Building (1870): George Waterman Cady, architect. 3-story, stone-trimmed, brick building with mansard roof; late 20th-century storefront; stone walls with quoined corners on upper stories; late 19th-century, 2-story oriel window centered on second and third; sunbonnet gable centered in mansard with two flanking, smaller dormers.

Built as an office building with retail facilities in the first story, the building housed Cady’s architectural offices for a number of years […]. Today [1984] it houses a discount drug store. One of the earliest and now oldest surviving commercial structures on middle Westminster Street, the Burgess Building recalls the post-Civil War westward expansion of the central business district. Now altered, the building’s facade is nevertheless quite lively and contributes to the architectural vitality and historic quality of the streetscape.