Improved Seamless Wire Co.

also known as Handy & Harman Co., Improved Laminated Metals

A two-story brick L-shaped mill along Eddy Street south of the corner of Eddy and Public Streets. In decay for 10 years or more before being razed in 2005.

About this Property

Reason for Demolition

We saw this building coming down in late April of 2005. Passers-by on the street said it had been coming down for a week or two. The worst part is that it looked like it hadn’t been cleaned out — all the furniture was still in there. Could have been some cool stuff, but we’ll never know.

This building had been sitting vacant on Eddy Street near the Herff/Jones building for at least four years now… and that is only since we have noticed it. A flat front building with a long facade and an “L” shape that goes way back on the southern side. There is a space inside (under the bridge) that is actually more like a courtyard, with the building wrapping around you. The depth of the flanks must be about 40 feet.

The older windows are 15 lites over two large ones. Some of the rest of the windows are filled in with glass block and have smaller 8-lite apertures. Many are broken.

Handy & Harman Co., current owners, manufactured solder and other specialty metal products. Improved Laminated Metals was a division or acquisition. It’s possible that H&H may not now actually own the site and is only a legacy owner who has environmental responsibility, we’re not sure. They were trying to find a buyer as far back as 1999. At that time a group of artists was negotiating for purchase or lease, but nothing seems to have come of it.

The building was essentially sound, with a few roof leaks and the broken windows, as one would expect with no occupancy or maintenance for many years. It is completely trashed inside, particularly the offices. The place had a long hard life and had taken a real beating, but seemed fairly sound and intact nonetheless, including 19th c. elevators and an ancient boiler made by the Almy Company of Providence. The building needed a total restoration which no doubt has kept away the buyers. The neighborhood was not ripe for residential mill redevelopment (and still may not be in 2020).

Improved Laminated Metals manufactured precious metal wire, sheet and speciality shapes for the jewelry and electronic materials industries. Before that it might have been called Improved Seamless Wire Co. as early as the 1950s.

As far as contributing to the character of the area, it made Eddy Street look even more dismal at the time, being not far from the Eddy Street Church of Jesus and other smaller derelict sites.

Current Events

The area is now a parking lot for the Hospitals owned by Lifespan.


From Sanborn Insurance Maps

The mystery of this building’s construction date has been narrowed down to between 1900 and 1920:

  • 1899 Sanborn Insurance Map, Volume 3, Plate 241 — Lower left corner of map, Public Street runs along the left side, no sign of this building on Eddy Street or its neighbor along Public Street. Brown Digital Repository, Brown University Library.
  • 1920-1921 Sanborn Insurance Map, Volume 5, Plate 15 (page 16) — Center top, Public Street running along the top, 775 Eddy Street is clearly visible and labelled “The Improved Seamless Wire Co.” To its south is a garage structure and to its north is a Jewelry Shop (1st floor) with Metals Works and Printing on the 2nd floor. This building later becomes Herff/Jones.

By aerial photos it seems as though the garage to the south was attached to this building at one point, sharing a common wall that was built up along the alley shown in the old map. That garage disappears between the 1988 and 1997 photos. The wooden structure (houses) on the corner of Public and Eddy streets seem to be there as late as the 1951 aerial photo.

From Google Books

Precious Metals 1981

Proceedings of the Fifth International Precious Metals Institute Conference, Held in Providence, Rhode Island, June 2-5, 1981

Kris Vaithinathan, Improved Laminated Metals, Rhode Island. An article titled, “Conventional Bonding Techniques for Precious Metal Clad.”

From the “Industrial Sites and Commercial Buildings Survey (ICBS)” by PPS and the AIA, 2001-2002

The structure is comprised of three interconnected main blocks with numerous one-story ells. The main block is a large, two-story, L-shaped structure that faces Eddy Street. A pedestrian entrance is offset on the 15-bay wide façade (east elevation) and features a metal and glass door flanked by glass block sidelights. A large vehicular entrance is located in the northern-most bay of the façade. The building is embellished with projecting brick piers articulating each bay, corbelled cornice, and granite window sills. Fenestration is comprised of segmental-arch openings with 15/15 and 15/2 sash. Window openings on the north elevation are filled in with glass blocks; those on the rear have been boarded up. A brick chimney projects from the north end of the building. A one-story, flat-roof, concrete block ell extends along the south elevation of the main block. A square, one-story, brick structure (built between 1937 and 1956) stands to the rear (west) of the main block. Historic maps show that this block was used for storage. Attached to the north end of this block are two small, one-story, brick ells constructed between 1937 and 1956 (these blocks are not visible from the street).

A brick passage extends from the west elevation of the main L-shaped block and connects the block to a two-story, brick, flat-roof structure. This block was constructed later in the twentieth century and is lacking the architectural embellishments of the main block. Fenestration consists of rectangular openings with multi-light metal sash windows. A paved parking lot is located to the north. The property is bound by a chain link fence; overgrown shrubs and brush stand to the east of the building.

The Improved Seamless Wire Company was established and incorporated in the year 1896. The company was originally run by a Mr. Myron H. Fuller and located at 95 Pine Street. The business grew quickly in the first four years of its existence. This prompted the company to develop another location for the purposes of laminating metals and manufacturing sheet and wire tubing. They remained at their 95 Pine Street location until about 1908 when they purchased land on 775 Eddy Street for the purpose of expansion. By 1936, the company had a capitalization of $75,000 while under the leadership of George F. Sawyer. By 1952, the company is listed as a division of Laminated Metals, Inc. Nine years later the property was transferred to Laminated Metals, Inc. Directories from the 1970s, 80s, and 90s list the Improved Laminated Metals Co., manufacturers of wire and sheet metal. The building is currently for sale.