D.M. Watkins Company

also known as Rolo Jewelry, Johnson & Wales University Student Services Center

A low slung jewelry manufacturing building on the edge of the Jewelry District is now the main Student Services Center for Johnson & Wales University

About this Property

#Redevelopment & Current Events

From the Providence Preservation Society’s nomination to its 2008 Preservation Awards

Known to many as the Rolo Building, this two-story building built in 1921 is a remnant of Providence’s history as a center of jewelry manufacturing. […] Located adjacent to the soon-be-be-relocated I-195, Johnson & Wales saw the building as the ideal location for a new Student Services Center, consolidating six different academic services under one roof. They commissioned ARC/Architectural Resources Cambridge to formulate an adaptive reuse design solution that respects the historic building’s architectural integrity while integrating institutional requirements.

The spectacular rehabilitation, executed by Walsh Brothers, preserves original window openings and clerestory monitors and exposes the steel structure. The first floor, once a production floor filled with manufacturing equipment, now has a large, inviting lobby, conference room, and offices. The second floor originally held a machine shop and company offices. It is now home to light-filled workspaces and offices. Two historic objects were integrated into the new interior design. An industrial scale has been placed in the lobby and the circa 1961 “Rolo Building” sign has been installed above the second floor coffee bar. On the exterior, the original Watkins sign, which was covered for more than 30 years, has been restored. This project truly demonstrates Johnson & Wales University’s admirable commitment to the preservation of significant historic buildings in downtown Providence.

#History

This building is not listed as part of the Jewelry Manufacturing Historic District — neither the original nomination nor the district expansion after the interstate 195 was removed. The building sits outside the main district.

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

The rectangular two-story, flat-roof, brick building has a nine-bay façade, with an offset entrance recessed and comprised of a glass-and-metal door with sidelights. “Rolo Building” appears above this entrance. Three pedestrian entrances are offset on Foster Street, set below a hoist and pulley system at the second story. The building is embellished with brick corbelling at the cornice, projecting brick piers articulating each bay on the façade, a granite beltcourse and granite sills. Both the Foster and Pine Street elevations are highly ornate while the side elevation is devoid of architectural ornamentation. Fenestration is comprised of single, paired, and tripled rectangular, 4/4 and 6/6 sash with transoms. A chainlink fence surrounds the parking lot.

The D.M. Watkins Jewelry Company was originally located at 95 Pine Street. The company purchased land on 274 Pine Street in 1919 and moved into their new manufacturing complex at 274 Pine Street in 1921 when it is listed in the directory of that year. They manufactured findings, settings, ornaments, and screw machine products and by 1927, had capital of $125,000. The President of the company, Fred W. Watkins, held his position for over 20 years (since 1925). The company was incorporated in 1955 and a Mr. Joseph W. Ress took control of the company. In 1959 the company left the building and it was vacant until purchased by Rolo Jewelry in 1961. They ran their company out of the 274 Pine Street location until 1997 when the building was purchased for use by Johnson and Wales University.