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About this Property
In the early 80s, a small team of architects, engineers, and financiers (The Marathon Company) came together to redevelop this formerly industrial property into a Faneuil-hall-style indoor shopping establishment. A mix of quick and sit-down restaurants, small shops, specialty booths, and a few larger retailers were in the mix. It opened January of 1983.
By 1985, business was so strong that the developer, Robert Freeman of the Marathon Group, set his sights on additional properties ripe for redevelopment. As early as 1988, though, cracks began to show as competition from places like Garden City and other suburban malls increased. To attract more “destination” clientele, management started to bring in larger stores instead of smaller mom and pops that rely on casual foot traffic.1
Optimism remained high, and perhaps the plan to use better-known brands to attract shoppers worked. By 1989, Freeman was contemplating a hotel on some of the underutilized parking in the northeast corner of the property.2 Soon after, though, in 1990, the Journal is reporting that Narragansett Electric is considering buying the “troubled shopping center.” The University of Rhode Island College of Continuing Education might also take over the space (URI was being forced out of it Capital Center location in favor of the new Providence Place Mall).3
In February of 1991, Fleet National Bank moved to foreclose on the property, whose owners were in arrears on their $250,000 second mortgage.4 An economic downturn was underway and the local credit union crisis was about to begin. Its biggest tenant moved out in June.5
In November 1991, Freeman announced the center would become a costume jewelry trade center. The showrooms, which would not be open to the public, would display jewelry to volume buyers such as wholesalers and catalog merchandisers.6 The United Jewelry Show opened in February of 1992. About 60,000 square feet of the former mall had been converted into a year-round home for jewelry manufacturers with six-year leases for 131 of the 150 rooms being built.7
With a few good years as a jewelry showroom, the property once again languished as the local jewelry industry faced the pressure of cheaper imports. In June of 1996, Patrick Conley bought the title for Davol Square by paying their $618,995 overdue tax bill.8
In 2001, though, as the Jewelry District starts to reimagine itself as the Innovation District, the Rhode Island Economic Policy Council, the Rhode Island Technology Council, The Slater Center for Design Innovation, and The Slater Center for Interactive Technologies move out of spaces elsewhere in Providence and into Davol Square with companies like Global Risk Exchange, an Internet-based insurance marketplace; The Judge Group, a technology staffing company; and Simpli.com, an Internet search engine.9
It seems that Davol Square has been more successful without a theme — shopping or jewelry — and just as a beautiful set of spaces that are flexible enough to change with the business climate.
Space at Davol Square is available for lease through commercial real estate companies.
A remembrance of Davol Square Marketplace, 1983 to 1991, from Kevin Warren in 2006 at DeadMalls.com.
From the National Register nomination form 1980, prepared by Jeffrey Blydenburgh
In 1874 Joseph Davol and Emery Perkins founded the Perkins Manufacturing Company. This small experimental rubber company was located on the site of the Eban Simmons Planing and Saw Mill, not far from the present facility, owned by Davol’s grandfather-in-law, Eban Simmons. In 1878 Davol was sole proprietor and two years later the Davol Manufacturing Company moved into the Simmons Building. In 1884 the first building of the main complex was completed. The late 1890’s and the early 1900’s were periods of rapid expansion for Davol. The name of the company changed again to the Davol Rubber Company and became a “pioneer in a field hitherto exclusively controlled by foreign manufacturers”.
Among the innovations of the company, Joseph Davol engineered the vanishing seam on rubber tubes used to carry plasma. They produced over 23,000 different products for druggists, surgeons, dentists and stationers. The company continued to grow and in 1913 a three-story brick and steel frame structure was erected on the corner of Point and Eddy Streets. The complex was essentially complete.
In the 1930’s as the textile industry was declining in Providence, Davol employed 700 men and women. The company name changed again to Davol, Inc., as it expanded beyond the rubber industry. In the 1960’s, working in association with Tufts and Harvard universities, Davol researched and provided capital for the first heart pump machine. In 1969 a new facility was built in the suburbs and in 1977 the last operations in Providence moved to North Carolina.
In 1977, when Davol, Inc., stopped manufacturing at its Providence facility, it marked the end of one of the city’s oldest industrial complexes maintained for its original function. It contains the earliest remaining structures built by Providence’s once important rubber industry which included, aside from Davol, the Providence Rubber Company, the Joseph Bannigan Rubber Company, and the United States Rubber Company (Uniroyal).
The Simmons Building housed all of Davol’s operations until 1884 when the first structure of the main complex, north of Point Street, was constructed to provide room for expansion. […]
The main complex of buildings was built in several stages. From the exterior the complex appears as several large rectangular structures surrounding interior, alleyways and courtyards. The flat-roofed, brick structures generally are three and four stories in height.
The original three-story, brick structure, at 15 Point Street, built in 1884, has heavy-timber framing, segmental-arch windows, and a five-bay storefront with large round-arch windows and a central, arched doorway. In the late 1890’s a one-story (later a second story was added) office was added to the west side and a large three-story addition was added to the east of the original structure. The Point Street elevation appears as one continuous building because of similar detailing in the earlier and later facades.
Between 1895 and 1908, more brick, heavy-timber frame buildings were added on the South Street side of the property. The complex continued to grow in the early 20th century with the 1913 addition of a long, rectangular, flat-roofed, steel-frame, brick structure (a glass and steel fourth story was added in 1960), and a three-story addition of similar detailing was built in 1918.
Read more History
From the RIHPHC’s survey of Providence Industrial Sites, July 1981
69 Point Street Davol Rubber Company (1880, c. 1884, and later): The Davol Rubber Company, founded by Emery Perkins and Joseph Davol in 1874 as the Perkins Manufacturing Company, was the result of two years of experiments and inventions by Joseph Davol. Although the manufacture of rubber goods such as boots and shoes was well established in the United States, and there were a few such manufacturers in Providence, the processes used by Davol to manufacture drug and surgical supplies were entirely new to this country. In 1878, Davol assumed control of the company which he renamed the Davol Manufacturing Company. Incorporated in 1882 as the Davol Manufacturing Company and in 1884 as the Davol Rubber Company, the firm was the international leader in the production of rubber drug-and-surgical supplies by 1888 and had markets for its goods in South America, Germany, Australia, China, and Japan, as well as in all parts of the United States. The Davol Rubber Company continued to expand in the twentieth century under the leadership of Davol’s son, Charles Davol; between 1900 and 1930, the company increased its workforce from 275 to 600. In 1932 the company reorganized as Davol, Inc., having expanded its line beyond rubber goods.
The original site of the Davol Rubber Company was near the site of the planing works owned by Davol’s grandfather- in-law, Eban Simmons. The earliest existing structure built for the company is the Simmons Building on the south side of Point Street. Named for Eban Simmons, the Simmons Building (1880) is a long, 4-story, brick structure with a flat roof, granite beltcourses above rectangular windows, and 1st-story cast-iron storefronts. In the late 1880s and 1890s the Simmons Building was occupied mainly by jewelry manufacturers, but by the early 20th century it was reoccupied by the Davol Rubber Company. The main complex of the Davol Rubber Company, on the north side of Point Street, contains several late 19th- and early 20th-century structures, the earliest of which is a 3-story brick structure (1884) with segmental-arch windows, a 5-bay storefront with large round-arch windows, and a central arched doorway. About five years later, the company constructed a nearly identical, 3-story structure which was connected to the 1884 structure by a small, 3-bay, 3-story structure with rectangular windows and a large rectangular central entrance. As intended, the three structures present a symmetrical facade on the Point Street elevation. Other structures in the complex include a 2-story, brick office (c. 1900; second story added later); a long, 4-story, steel-frame brick structure (1913; fourth story added in 1960); and numerous late 19th- and early 20th-century additions at the rear of the complex. In 1969 Davol, Inc., built an additional plant in Cranston, and in 1977 the company vacated its Point Street plant for a modern factory in North Carolina. The Davol Rubber Company Complex is currently being developed for adaptive re-use.
From “RHODE ISLAND: An Inventory of Historic Engineering and Industrial Sites”, Gary Kulik and Julia C. Bonham, 1978
This company was established by Joseph Davol in 1874 as the Perkins Manufacturing Company and incorporated in 1882 a- the Davol Manufacturing Company. In 1885, the company produced fine rubber goods for use in the drug, dental, and stationery trades. At that time, the firm’s name was changed to the Davol Rubber Company. By 1891, Davol employed about 275 workers. Today the original 3-story, brick building, 100’ X 200’, with large arched windows separated by piers, is still used in the manufacture of Davol products.
It has been heavily altered by a fourth story construct ed of glass and a large modern addition which looms beside it. A second. plant which was built in 1880 is located nearby on Eddy Street. This 4-story, brick structure has three sets of granite belt courses running above rectangular windows. Cast iron columns support the building on the ground level. This build ing was originally employed in the jewelry industry.
#In the News
A “Flashback” video from Channel 10 showing their footage from the opening of Davol Square, January 2, 1983.
Read old news articles
by Jane Holtz Kay
The Christian Science Monitor | January 21, 1983 (abridged)
[…] Boston’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace, is a success story. An in-town amusement park that boasts more visitors than Disneyland, Faneuil Hall is clearly an architectural and commercial achievement that is emulated everywhere. […]
They are one of the few prospering forms of architecture in tough times. Or, as Jeffrey Blydenburgh, the architect whose firm refurbished Davol Square, which opened here last month, puts it: “Everything except markets is a hard-time business.”
[…] for Providence, one of the most laggard of the nitty-gritty cities of New England, the openings, first of the Arcade downtown two years ago and now Davol Square, are less ambivalent; and they’re especially instructive in showing the range of these architectural purveyors of quiches and quirkery.
The downtown Arcade, originally built in 1828, winner of several architectural awards in the two years since it was redone by Irving B. Haynes & Associates, bills itself as “the first indoor shopping mall constructed in this country.” […]
Davol Square, less arresting in its original outlines — a gutted medical supply factory — is more striking in its contemporary enhancement. Though its abundant parking and eight-minute walking distance from downtown define it as a suburban mall, its grandiose size (a chain of buildings amounting to 115,000 square feet of restaurants, shops, offices, and function rooms) somehow makes the complex a more citified space.
Above all, Davol Square stands out from the glut of markets for its glimpse and its deep breath of the outside world. The neighborhood is visible through windows and accessible through doors.
Architects Beckman, Blydenburgh & Associates (the project manager was Alfred Oakes) have supplemented the staple Galleria with cutouts to the outside world through windows on the street.
Combined with a zest for the details, a strong hand in designing shops, and buildings wayward enough to allow wandering, it has a human irregularity. Davol Square avoids some of the mall’s dense and overwhelming materialism which gives shoppers a sense that they are smothering in an overenchanted forest of Paddington bears.
High-tech touches also relieve the tedium of the idiom. Steel bridges crossing the 260-foot-long Galleria enliven the interior beneath an energy-efficient Kalwall translucent roof.
[…] In short, the architects, with their consumer haven, have observed and enlivened a neighborhood that never even had a name. […]
Captured December 28, 2021 from https://www.csmonitor.com/1983/0121/012135.html
Cianci gives loan for Davol Square
by Providence Journal Staff Providence Journal | August 3, 1982
Business and community leaders got a sneak preview today of Davol Square, a renovated area of shops and offices in a former factory that is scheduled to open by the end of this year.
Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr., in a brief ceremony, presented a check for a $3.8-million loan to Robert P. Freeman, president of Marathon Companies. Marathon Companies is renovating the Davol plant at Point and Eddy Streets.
The loan will provide construction financing to the developers for 18 months until permanent financing can be obtained. It is being lent at 8 percent interest, which is about half the prevailing market rate.
William E. Collins, an aide to the mayor, said that the loan is part of a new city program intended to cut financing costs for developers and encourage more construction in the city. Marathon will save about $300,000 in financing costs because of the loan.
The $3.8 million is from the federal Community Development program. The money eventually will be spent on various projects in the city.
“Cianci gives loan for Davol Square.” Providence Journal (RI), CITY ed., sec. NEWS, 3 Aug. 1982, pp. B-03. NewsBank: America’s News, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=NewsBank&docref=news/1525C39330A3EB68. Accessed 28 Dec. 2021.
JOSELOW, FROMA. “Better days seen for Davol Square Vacant stores belie plans to bring in new retailers and spruce up marketplace.” Providence Journal (RI), ALL ed., sec. BUSINESS TUESDAY, 20 Dec. 1988, pp. D-01. NewsBank: America’s News, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=NewsBank&docref=news/15252770F76895E8. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021. ↩
“Freeman mulls hotel, office space on parking lot at Davol Square.” Providence Journal (RI), ALL ed., sec. REAL ESTATE, 3 Dec. 1989, pp. G-02. NewsBank: America’s News, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=NewsBank&docref=news/1525255A2C23CE00. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021. ↩
“Utility weighs purchase of Davol Square complex.” Providence Journal (RI), ALL ed., sec. BUSINESS, 13 Dec. 1990, pp. F-02. NewsBank: America’s News, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=NewsBank&docref=news/1525BA8E54D870E8. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021. ↩
HARROP, FROMA. “Davol Square retail, office center facing the auction block.” Providence Journal (RI), ALL ed., sec. NEWS, 5 Feb. 1991, pp. A-01. NewsBank: America’s News, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=NewsBank&docref=news/1525B9D4DEA51BA8. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021. ↩
HIDAY, JEFFREY L.. “Largest tenant leaves Davol Square.” Providence Journal (RI), ALL ed., sec. BUSINESS, 28 June 1991, pp. B-13. NewsBank: America’s News, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=NewsBank&docref=news/1525BA1B2AB624A0. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021. ↩
TOOHER, NORA LOCKWOOD. “MALL NO MORE Davol Square deal announced Complex to become jewelry trade center.” Providence Journal (RI), ALL ed., sec. BUSINESS, 9 Nov. 1991, pp. D-01. NewsBank: America’s News, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=NewsBank&docref=news/1525B93731CB96D0. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021. ↩
TOOHER, NORA LOCKWOOD. “Rival jewelry shows slated, one in new UJS quarters.” Providence Journal (RI), ALL ed., sec. BUSINESS, 29 Feb. 1992, pp. C-02. NewsBank: America’s News, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=NewsBank&docref=news/1525B89FB2E90CF0. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021. ↩
SMITH, GREGORY. “Tax sale king takes title *Patrick Conley and a group of partners forked over $1.74 million to pay the overdue taxes on three large properties, acquiring tax claims in the city’s largest tax sale.” Providence Journal (RI), METRO ed., sec. NEWS, 27 June 1996, pp. C-01. NewsBank: America’s News, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=NewsBank&docref=news/1525216C06211780. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021. ↩
STAPE, ANDREA L. “Davol Square emerging as a high-tech hotbed.” Providence Journal (RI), All ed., sec. Business, 10 Mar. 2001, pp. B-01. NewsBank: America’s News, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=NewsBank&docref=news/152510EB86035268. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021. ↩