Combination Ladder Company

also known as Salvadore Tool & Findings, Waterman Stables, West Fountain Lofts

Two indistinct one-story infill buildings flanked by 100+ year old two-story mill buildings that manufactured fire safety equipment

About this Property

#Redevelopment

When we originally posted this collection of buildings in 2007, it was under the label “R.I.P.” because the Armory Revival Company released plans to raze these buildings and build new residential. The West Broadway Neighborhood Association (WBNA) and PPS’s Architecture Review Board stood in opposition. The project described “a mixed-use, 6-story masonry building with 4 floors of residential condominiums, a lobby, basement and 1st floor parking and storefront commercial spaces along West Fountain Street. The new building would have 82 units, 8 of which are affordable with 109 parking spaces and approximately 8.000 sq. ft. of retail space.”1

In December of 2005 the Zoning Board unanimously approved the height and dimensional variances for the project. The City Plan Commission and the Historic District Commission had already given their approvals. In March of 2006 the sale of the two main properties was completed by West Side Lofts LLC, an Armory-sponsored LLC. One sold for just over $550,000 and the other for $1.8 million.

In 2008, the local real estate economy took a downtown. The exuberance of the early 2000s came to an end and many projects stalled — American Locomotive, the Dynamo House, One Ten Westminster and the so-called “Power Block” to name a few.With many of those projects, demolition began and we lost many buildings without getting the promised replacements.

Here, instead, the funding was there to purchase the buildings but not demolish them and begin construction. The buildings remained, and in 2012, plans to reuse them as residential started to move forward. What came out was a mix of residential and ground-floor commercial that immediately created a denser neighborhood. Since then more commercial space on West Fountain Street towards Battey has turned around with retail, restaurants, and breweries.

#Current Events

These spaces are managed by Armory Management. From their website:

“The 40,000 square foot former Waterman Stables and Combination Ladder Company buildings feature fantastic skylights, big windows, and exposed wood beams and duct work, and are now home to a private office community at 383 W Fountain, Bayberry Beer Hall, Planet Fitness, residential apartments, and The Shop breakfast bar.”

#History

Some paperwork mentions “Waterman Stables” as having been at 381 West Fountain Street. That would mean that the building at the corner of West Fountain and Cargill street was once Waterman Stables before it was part of Combination Ladder. The history below mentions Combination Ladder as having only occupied these buildings in 1923, but the 1920-1921 Sanborn lists this company name. Alas, with historic records, there will be some inconsistencies. We were unable to confirm any information about Waterman Stables or the timeline of Combination Ladder ourselves.

The 1899 Sanborn map shows “A.S. Waterman and Company Boarding” but you can also see a structure labelled “manure bin.” This could have been Waterman Stables, but from the footprint of the buildings alone, we do not think any of those structures survived. That said, it could have been that A.S. Waterman demolished the original collection of structures in favor of a larger, singular structure before selling it to Combination Ladder between the maps of 1899 and 1920.

From the “Industrial Sites and Commercial Buildings Survey (ICBS)” by PPS and the AIA, 2001-2002, hosted by ProvPlan.org (now defunct)

Combination Ladder is comprised of several one- and two-story, brick structures. A large, one- to two-story, flat-roof block stands at the corner of West Fountain Street and Cargill Street. Due to the topographical changes, the building stands one-story in height at the rear and two-stories in height at the West Fountain street end. This block features an altered, centrally-located, vehicular entrance that has been bricked in and has an offset pedestrian entrance comprised of a metal-and-glass door.

Fenestration is comprised of rectangular window openings with modern 1/1 sash on the façade with stone lintels and sills. Segmental-arch window openings with modern 1/1 sash and small, rectangular multi-light sash are located on the Cargill Street elevation. The rear elevation of this block features bricked in window openings.

Attached to the west elevation of this block is a one-story, flat-roof, brick structure with a band of small, multi-light sash. Further west stands a two-story, brick, flat-roof structure with an oversized bricked-in vehicular entrance offset on the façade (south elevation). This block features replacement windows that are visibly smaller than the original fenestration. The structure is embellished with bands of brick corbelling at the cornice line and splayed brick lintels and the date “1905.” A one-story, rear ell projects from the north elevation of this block. A one-story, hip-roof, asphalt-sided shed/garage stands on the property.

The first mention of the Combination Ladder Company was in a Providence business directory dating back to 1884 when the firm was listed at 300 Fountain Street. The firm is later listed at 366 and 399 West Fountain Street. The 1908 map identifies the occupants of this property as the Fountain Society, referring to the Rawson Fountain Society, which owned the property since 1887. Combination Ladder Co., Inc. purchased the property in 1923 and remained here through to 1954. The company manufactured wood and iron fire escape ladders, basket seat chairs, rocking horses, lawn settlers, Boys clipper sleds, snow shovels, steps, Whitener’s horses, clothes horses, revolving clothes dryers, wash benches, hitching and clothing posts, painters’ roof boards, ladder hook and etc. The firm continued to manufacture fire department apparatus and supplies at this site until 1954.

  1. From an Urban Planet discussion thread captured September 3, 2021 from https://www.urbanplanet.org/forums/topic/18681-in-progress-armory-revival-west-fountain-street/