J.L. Clark Manufacturing

also known as National Casket Company

A forgotten building on the industrial edge of the north side may be getting a new life

About this Property

#Last Tenant

This approximately 25,000 sf building has been seemingly unoccupied for over 20 years. It has been sitting in various states of decay, the portion facing the train tracks covered in ever changing graffiti. Around 2017, either in preparation for a sale or shortly after a sale, new paint was put on the windows and some clean up around the perimeter was conducted.

More recently, a “For Lease” sign was put up by MG Commercial real estate and it remained for a few years. No, windows have been completely removed and workers have been on site, presumably to turn the building into apartments.

Architecture

The ProvPlan description below is accurate, but makes little mention of the red-painted corrugated steel that covers four-window-bays-worth of the east end of the on either side. This is an addition that was added on to the original 15-bay long building, but with four-stories on steel on two of the three façades. It makes the building very distinctive, and makes us speculate whether or not there used to be two arms of a “T” that were chopped off. Alas, no Sanborn map shows such a design.

#Current Events

In October of 2020, the owner, Goulding Properties and EJS Investments, petitioned the zoning board for a change from M-1 to M-MU-75. Plat AP 2 Lot 15 is “currently occupied by a four story building that the applicant is proposing to convert to a multifamily dwelling.” M-1 does not permit multifamily dwellings but M-MU-75 would. The recommendation was to allow the change.1

It seems as though this will become apartments of some kind in the near future. With train tracks on one side, the raised highway on another, and a one-way street on the other, we can only assume tenants will have some street noise to deal with. Goulding Properties purchased the property in 2017 for $390,000.2

#History

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

A four-story, rectangular, brick, five-by-fifteen-bay building with a flat roof and a raised basement. The building sits close to the street with railroad tracks to the rear. Several pedestrian entrances set within recessed, arched openings are located along the Ashburton Street elevation. A loading dock is offset on the west elevation of the building. A wood cornice is supported by wood brackets. Fenestration consists of single 8/16 sash windows set within segmental-arch openings. Windows in the exposed basement level have been boarded up. Iron fire escapes are centrally located on the building’s façade. A four-story, flat-roof addition sheathed in corrugated metal siding on its east elevation extends from the east elevation of the main block. A one-story, flat-roof ell projects from the southeast corner of the building.

The National Casket Building was constructed between 1908 and 1918 on the site of an earlier complex owned by Clark Manufacturing. The 1908 map shows several wood-frame structures set on this lot between Ashburton Street and the railroad tracks to the west. By 1918, the brick building had been constructed and several of the earlier wood-frame structures were still standing. The 1918 map identifies the complex as Clark Manufacturing Co. Clark Manufacturing Co. manufactured caskets and burial cases. Ownership of the property passed to National Casket Company, Inc., who used the building as a warehouse. The 1937 map identifies the structure as National Casket, a branch of Clark Manufacturing. In 1964, the property was acquired by Milton Stallman and served along with the neighboring complex at 286 Charles Street as a facility for Stallman Latex and Plastic Foams. Repairs were made to the building following a fire in 1993 (assessor’s card).

  1. Captured from a PDF on August 1, 2021, at https://www.providenceri.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Referral3479-50AshburtonStreet-SR-docs.pdf 

  2. Captured from an online parcel database on August 1, 2021, at https://gis.vgsi.com/providenceri/Parcel.aspx?pid=42901