Congdon & Carpenter Building and the George & Smith Owen Building

also known as Steeple Street

One of the oldest industrial buildings in the state with a rich history that continues to this day

About this Property

#Redevelopment

The buildings at 3 through 9 Steeple Street have long been home to restaurants and bars, but even longer ago were rooted in the industrial development of Providence. Across the street were the shipping and railroad depots that made Providence the nexus of industry. The front portion of the cluster at 3 Steeple Street is one of the few 18th-century industrial buildings in the state.

Some of the favorite restaurants at the location in more recent memory were the “3 Steeple Street” tavern and the One Up Bar (which eventually became part of the bar downstairs). The third floor was known as “Summer Camp” from about 2003 to 2007, when several people lived there as a large commune and event space.

For a brief time the first floor space transitioned from 3 Steeple Street to Fat Belly’s (2010 to 2016), an Irish-themed pub. In 2009, after a small kitchen fire at New Rivers in 2007, floors 3 an 4 of 3 Steeple Street underwent a renovation and much of the exterior was cleaned and repointed. New owners Capitol Properties turned the upper floors into their corporate headquarters.

From the anecdotes, other businesses included:

  • 1950–1960: The Crystal Tap (bar)
  • 1960s: Armondo’s restaurant (first floor, with 3 Steeple STreet upstairs)
  • late 1970s: Simple Plastics
  • 1986–1990: Bryan Clegg Art Supply
  • 1994–1998: Newspeak bookstore and Obsidian video
  • late 1990s: Fast Forward record store and Cathartic Records label
  • 2000-2004: Contrast Record store
  • Pazzo restaurant in 9 Steeple Street, to which New Rivers later expanded

#Current Events

Currently at 7–9 Steeple Street is New Rivers restaurant, which has been in place since the late 1990s. The corner at 3 Steeple Street is occupied by Palo, an Andalucían-themed restaurant.

#History

The east wall of 9 Steeple Street housed a billboard for many years in the 1980s and into the 1990s. This billboard was used for Vincent Cianci’s re-election campaign in 1990 and was famously defaced by Shepard Fairey.

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

3 Steeple Street is a three-story brick structure with a hipped roof and is the oldest industrial building in Providence, and after Slater Mill in Pawtucket, the oldest industrial building in the state of Rhode Island. The building features stone sills and lintels and brick bracketing at the cornice line. 5 Steeple Street is three-stories high, with dentils under the roof and a recessed entry at the street level. This is the original building that housed the firm that later moved to Promenade Street.

The building is attached at the rear to the George and Smith Owen Building of 1847 (9 Steeple Street), a three-and-a-half-story brick building with a gable roof with an impressive monitor roof, designed to maximize the amount of light in the building. It has stone sills and flat lintels, as well as rectangular double hung windows, and a recessed entry door at the corner. The building at 9 Steeple Street was built as a jewelry factory and it is the oldest of its type in Providence.

Joseph Congdon founded this iron stock company in 1792, originally to supply blacksmiths. However, there was also a decent market to be found in the making of firearms, tools, maritime and farming implements, and the like. They also expanded into retail, selling hardware, horse supplies, and coach equipment. The company found great success during the Civil War, as the demand for many different types of iron and steel rose. During this time the company supplied many of the producers of hoops and bands, caulking steel, and horseshoes.

After the Civil War, more space was needed so Congdon & Carpenter moved one block north, to the corner of Canal and Elizabeth streets; this building has since been demolished. The buildings at 3 and 9 Steeple Street are now home to several restaurants and small businesses. The building that today is 3 Steeple Street was Congdon & Carpenter’s first warehouse. A restaurant called “3 Steeple Street” occupies the building today. Standing at the foot of College Hill, these two buildings are located at an early node of industrial activity in Providence; nearby stood the original buildings of Brown and Sharpe and Gorham Manufacturing (Woodward 1986; RIHPHC 1981)


Francis Wood Carpenter (1831 – 1922) was a prominent businessman and steel merchant in Providence, Rhode Island and from 1892 until his death, he was the president of Congdon & Carpenter Company, an iron and steel company which was founded in 1792, and operated in Providence into the 1980s. He was also the president of the Rhode Island Perkins Horse Shoe Company, the Quidnick Manufacturing Company, the Boston District Messenger Company, the Postal District Messenger Company of Providence, and the American National Bank. He was a director of the Peoples Savings Bank in Providence, the Corliss Safe and Vault Door Company, the Providence Washington Insurance Company, and the Union Mutual Insurance Company. He was a President of the Providence Commercial Club and of the Providence YMCA.

Captured April 11, 2021 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_W._Carpenter


The block at numbers 3 through 9 Steeple Street are actually different structures built at different times.

9 Steeple Street, George & Smith Owen Building, erected 1847. A 20’ wide (south front) x 40’ deep three- and-a-half story brick building with foundation of granite ashlar and a party wall on the west side with 6 Steeple Street. Original open shop front on ground floor, four bays, with granite posts and granite lintel supporting brick wall above; granite posts now removed. Double-hung windows, six-light sash, plain granite lintels and sills. Pitched roof with high monitor across the full width.

History prepared by Osmund R. Overby Yale University, May 1963, Library of Congress