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About this Property
Damiano Industries closed its doors in 2004 after nearly 60 years in business as a speciality metal fabricator and blacksmith shop. Their work can be seen around Providence still today (2021) and the work they have done that you can’t see influence the military, bridges, departments of transportation, and the rail system.
For a short time between 2005 and 2009, these buildings were home to Mirabelle/Carlin & Sons Antiques. Manta lists them as having been incorporated in 2007. Snookers purchased and expanded the location in 2009 after moving out of the second floor of 95 Chestnut Street. Some may remember seeing the Snookers neon sign in that building when Interstate 195 still ran through the Jewelry District and right by that building.
This location has been a billiard hall, bar and grill since opening in 2010: Snookers RI
This collection of small cinder-block structures are not present in a G.M. Hopkins cadastral map from 19371. In aerial photos, a few of the earlier buildings are present starting in the 1951-52 photo.2 The newspaper article written in July of 2004 said that the business opened at this location in 1945.
In 2003, the Damiano Brothers were given a Citation of Special Merit by the Providence Preservation Society. Here is the language of the Citation:
The Damiano brothers — Luigi, Roy, Freddi and their late brother Rico — are honored for the impact their work has had on the Providence cityscape. Since its establishment in 1936, Damiano Industries has dedicated itself to the craft of metalwork. Their impact on Providence is immeasurable – their craftsmanship can be seen throughout the city. Included within their many projects, the Damianos were responsible for the replication of historic railings at Waterplace Park and the historic fence panels at Moses Brown School. It is for this devotion to a lost craft and dedication to workmanship that the Damianos are being recognized today. This winter Damiano Industries will close its doors — although their work will continue to stand as a testament to the fine craftsmanship this company has come to epitomize. We take this opportunity to thank them for the positive impact they have had on the urban landscape.
#In the News
Built with pride, for 60 years - A Rhody original, Damiano’s to close
by Richard Dujardin
Providence Journal | July 7, 2004
You can see their work everywhere, from the ornamental iron work at Waterplace Park and the entrance to Providence College to the bridge railings that span most of the interstates in Rhode Island.
Their handiwork is also present in projects not quite so visible or aesthetic: the stone-crushing apparatus that the Navy uses overseas, the many bridge expansion joints that they replaced, and the booms and bulldozers that had begun to break down.
Luigi “Jiggs” Damiano and his brother, Roy, have been an institution of sorts, operating Damiano Industries, a welding and metal fabricating business, at 53 Ashburton St., where they opened in 1945.
They do work that some believe couldn’t be found anywhere else in Rhode Island.
“The construction companies relied on us 100 percent,” says Luigi. “Whatever they had and couldn’t do at their shop, they would load it on a truck or trailer and send it down here so we’d take care of it.
“In all those years, we never failed one job. Whatever came in this door went out complete.”
But now, the Damianos are closing the business they and two of their brothers opened nearly six decades ago.
“Age is against us,” said Roy, who turns 81 in August and lives in Cranston.
“If my health permitted me, I’d still be working,” says Luigi, who lives in North Providence and will be 91 in September. “But all alone, I can’t do it.”
But what a monumental decision it is. The brothers say that as far as they know, their company was the only one in the state that was called upon by those in the construction industry to fix anything that was broken.
“A lot of people tell us they don”t know where they are going to go now that we”re closing. Where in Rhode Island do you find another blacksmith shop? We”ve stopped making repairs but even now I get calls from contractors looking for advice,” said Luigi.
Luigi, whose father was a blacksmith in road construction, started out as a blacksmith’s helper after graduating from the former Technical High School in Providence in 1932. Within six months, he was working at at a company as the blacksmith for the night shift.
Then, as three of his younger brothers graduated, they joined him in a welding and blacksmith business he opened on Atwells Avenue.
But with the arrival of World War II, Americo (who is deceased), Roy and Alfred, (75 and living in Florida) joined the Army. Luigi stayed in Providence, because his skills as a welder and blacksmith were useful in building ships and were deemed essential to the war effort.
When the war ended, the brothers reunited and formed Damiano Welding, now Damiano Industries. Roy and Luigi have a list of 60 major projects they’ve been involved in over the years, from repairing construction equipment at an airport in northern Maine to rebuilding off-road trucks for the New York Thruway Authority for a job on a dam in California.
They were enlisted to build the decorative railings at Waterplace Park, and railings along the riverwalk and Memorial Boulevard.
Roy can’t help but think of the time spent installing the railings. It took so long, he says, that he almost felt that he lived there.
Besides making bridge railings in Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts, the brothers also lay claim to being first in the state to use heavy jacks to hold up bridges while they were being repaired. Before then, says Roy, “no one did much of anything” in terms of bridge repair because people assumed they would last forever.
There is one accomplishment that Luigi can also take pride in: about 15 years ago, he came up with a relatively quick and easy way for Amtrak to remove wooden railroad ties so they could be replaced with concrete ones.
“They were trying to pull out the spikes manually and weren’t making much progress,” he recalls.
That’s when Luigi devised a self-propelled spike cutter that could cut off half of the heads on the bolts that secured the ties. The cutter didn’t even have to stop between each tie.
The only problem came on dry days, when the shrubbery along the rail line dried up. Sparks from the spike cutter created a potential fire hazard, which they solved by installing nozzles that would create a spray of water 100 feet wide as the spike cutter passed.
“The machine saved them a tremendous amount of money, and I could have gotten rich on it but didn’t,” says Luigi. “Time and material, that’s all I charged.”
The brothers put their skills to use in other ways, too.
In the 1950s, they put together several Model T Fords, using old parts and new parts they fabricated. Two of them, a 1910 model that Luigi made for himself, and a 1921 roadster, sit at the home of another brother in Providence.
Luigi’s 1910 Model T, he says, once held the distinction of being the oldest car in Rhode Island registered for conventional use. “But I haven’t registered it for about 15 years,” he said. “Anyone who rode with me never rode with me again. It was a bone shaker.”
For the last few months, most of the Damianos’ attention has been devoted to selling their inventory, a slow process, they say, because much of the equipment is old.
“We had skilled machinists working on the old fashioned lathes,” Luigi said. “We didn’t move along with the times with automatic machines.”
One of the reasons it’s so difficult to unload the machines is that it’s hard to find people now who know how to run them.
“We tried to sell the company as a going business to young fellas, but nobody wants it,” Luigi said.
Luigi doesn’t have any children, and none of Roy’s sons is interested. “Two are now certified public accountants, and the third has his own insurance company,” says Roy.
“I had them working over here when they were in high school, and I gave them the dirty jobs, so they would want to go to college, and they all did. Am I disappointed they’re not working here? Not at all. They are doing well.”
Even as they prepare to close, Luigi and Roy manage to stay upbeat.
“When you come to work in the morning, you’ve got to come in with a smile,” Luigi said. “You don’t want to come with a long face because it’s going to be a long day.”
Captured from the Providence Public Library access to Providence Journal archives November 5, 2021
Captured November 4, 2021 from Plate 30 at http://www.historicmapworks.com/Map/US/895487/Plate+030/Providence+1937/Rhode+Island/ ↩
Seen in results from the Providence Historic Aerial Viewer. Captured November 4, 2021 from https://pvdgis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=b1b3a4a4c66847a8b767cde26264246e ↩