Handy & Harman Refiners

also known as Handy & Harrison, Coletta’s Garage

Three underutilized commercial buildings have been considered one since the 1930s and may face the wrecking ball

About this Property

Last Tenant

Coletta’s Downtown Auto Service, Inc. was the last tenant actively using any of these three buildings at the corner of Richmond, Eddy, and Marengo Streets. According to OpenCorporates.com1, Handy & Harman is a refinery operation still in operation, though we assume it is in a much different form. The earliest mention we could find of the company was from a 1930 City Directory listing the company under the heading “Smelters & Refiners” and the address of 425 Richmond.2 The 1926 map puts the company at this location a few years earlier.

We have not been able to find exactly what Handy & Harman refined. With a location on the outskirts of the Jewelry District it is a good bet they refined material used in jewelry manufacturing. We also suppose it is just as likely they refined material for some important local manufacturing process, given their early inception.

The buildings and business were too small (dare we say inconsequential?) to have been catalogued in local historic districts or surveys.


The buildings were built together over the course of about twenty years. The first garage and later garage building on the north end of the property are both one story brick structures with a parapet wall and garage door openings. The 1918 structure is narrow and deep with a symmetrical façade and a stepped parapet. The larger building has a slanted parapet and an old wooden hand-painted sign in which one can barely read “Refiners — Handy & Harman — (indistinguishable).” The smallest building on the south side of the property was originally a gas station. It is square with a chamfered corner, made of cement block, with garage door openings on the southern and western walls as well as a wooden ell on the western wall.

Current Events

The property is owned by Paolino Properties, who are holding onto it until an opportunity to make a tidy profit arises. Speculation includes opportunities to develop a medical building to house tenants who would take advantage of the proximity to Lifespan and Brown University complexes.


The oldest structure in this small complex of three semi-attached buildings was built in 1918 according to maps. The larger building to the north appears on maps between 1920 and 1926. A gas station building appears to the south between 1926 and 1937.

  • 1908 Providence RI L.J. Richards Insurance Maps, Plate 2 — The block bounded by Point St to the north, Eddy St to the west, Manchester St to the south, and Parsonage to the east has no buildings matching the shape of the current structures. Chestnut St runs through this block from north to south but will not at a later date. The southwest corner is largely empty except for some wooden (yellow) structures. Source: Providence RI City Archives.
  • 1918 Providence RI G.M. Hopkins Insurance Maps, Plate 6 — A small red (brick) building first appears labelled “J.C. Goff,” who owned a nearby masonry supply company to the west of the Davol Rubber Company, according to another map (1899 Sanborn, Volume 1, Plate 14 page 23). Manchester St has changed its name to Marengo St. Source: Providence Public Library Digital Collection.
  • 1920 Providence RI Sanborn Insurance Maps Vol 1, Plate 32 (page 43) — More detail emerges on this map. The former red shape is shown here in brown, indicating fire-proof construction. It is labeled with “Garage; Built 1918 — Fire proof constr‘n. Brick walls concrete floor.” To the north is building of a wood-frame construction (yellow) labelled “Gilmore Textile Co. 1st — Braid Fact’y — Roman Pearl W’ks. 2nd”. Source: Library of Congress, Maps Division.
  • 1926 Providence RI G.M. Hopkins Insurance Maps, Plate 6 — J.C. Goff is still the owner of the garage, and now, the building to the north has been replaced by a large 6700 square foot red brick building. Above the building drawing is a label for “Handy & Harrison.” Source: Secretary of State Digital Collection.
  • 1937 Providence RI G.M. Hopkins Insurance Maps, Plate 6 — The largest building to the north is now labelled “Handy & Harman” while the former garage is labelled “H.W. Caron” (?). A “Gas Station” building has been constructed to the south and abuts the garage’s southwestern corner. Source: Secretary of State Digital Collection.
  • 1920–1951 Providence RI Sanborn Insurance Maps Vol 1, Plate 32 (page 43) — The largest building of this small complex to the north is labelled “Handy & Harman Refinery” and there is now a wooden ell added to the western side. The garage in the middle is also labelled the same. The property on the corner with the gas station is labelled “Filling Sta.” In a slightly newer 1956 map the property is labelled “Used Auto Sales.” Source: Library of Congress, Maps Division.

In the News

Paolino to buy Jewelry District site. Ex-mayor expects to close in mid-June on 2-acre parcel that includes Coletta’s Garage

by Kate Bramson
Providence Journal | June 9, 2016 (abridged)

Former Providence Mayor Joseph R. Paolino Jr., a large commercial real-estate property owner, has signed a purchase and sale agreement to buy Coletta’s Garage and the two acres of property adjacent to the Victory Place site in Providence now owned by the Lifespan health-care group.

Paolino declined to discuss the sale price, saying negotiations continue. He expects his family-owned Paolino Properties to close the real-estate deal for 425 Richmond St., by mid-June, he told The Providence Journal.

The towing and auto mechanic shop, which is relocating to 250 Niantic Ave. this week, is blocks from Brown University’s medical school and the now-vacant, former Route 195 land. It’s even closer to the South Street Landing project now under construction and expected by 2017 to house Brown administrative offices and a shared nursing education center for the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College. Coletta’s is tucked behind the Tops Lighting & Supply building at 125 Point St. and across Richmond Street from a Brown-owned office building.

The building’s location was its appeal for Paolino, whose Paolino Properties owns, co-owns or manages more than 20 properties in Providence’s downtown. The presence of the nearby Ivy League school, the still-new partnership between URI, RIC and Brown in South Street Landing and Lifespan’s ownership of the property next door combined to interest Paolino in this property, he said.

Paolino praised Brown’s move beyond its traditional College Hill location and its dedication to building another campus in the city’s Jewelry District: “That’s what made it attractive for me to buy that building.”

Initially, Paolino said he’ll use the Coletta’s space for parking. He said others who are familiar with his agreement to buy it have contacted him to see if he’s interested in a “joint venture” or if he wants to sell it.

“And I’m open for anything that would be good for Providence, the neighborhood and my company,” Paolino said. […]

“Lifespan is doing a lot of work there and, quite frankly, I’m surprised they didn’t buy it,” Paolino said. […]

Phone calls to Coletta’s manager were not returned. City assessor’s records indicate the property is now owned by Black Duck Realty LLC and B&M Realty LLC and was assessed this year at $2.37 million.

— Bramson, Kate. “Real estate - Paolino to buy Jewelry District site. Ex-mayor expects to close in mid-June on 2-acre parcel that includes Coletta’s Garage.” Providence Journal (RI), sec. RI News, 9 June 2016, p. 10. NewsBank: America’s News, https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/openurl?ctx_ver=z39.88-2004&rft_id=info%3Asid/infoweb.newsbank.com&svc_dat=NewsBank&req_dat=D4BD6B42F1AB4706B5E1244D477DEE03&rft_val_format=info%3Aofi/fmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Actx&rft_dat=document_id%3Anews/15D66627AAE798C8. Accessed 23 June 2024.

  1. “Handy & Harman.” OpenCorporates.com. Accessed 24 June 2024 from https://opencorporates.com/companies/us_ri/000022279 

  2. Sampson & Murdoch Company. “The Providence Directory and Rhode Island State Business Directory.” 1930, page 1505. Providence Public Library contributor, Internet Archive repository. Accessed 24 June 2024 from https://archive.org/details/providencedirectunse/page/1504/mode/2up?q=Handy+Harman