Lilly Building

also known as Rhode Island Supply Company, Herman’s Furniture

A striking black and cerulean blue Art Deco first floor facade adorns this commercial building along a historically significant portion of upper Westminster Street

About this Property


A gorgeous 1930s Art Deco storefront was restored to its glorious detail as part of this early 2000s renovation project undertaken by the Armory Revival Company. A furniture store since shortly after its construction, the street level storefronts now have three floors of 12 apartments in total. Michael Viveiros, partner in Durkee, Brown, Viveiros & Werenfels, was the architect in charge of the renovations.

The previously painted brick on the upper floors has been blasted off and a new main entrance to the apartments has been added to the rear of the building off of the parking lot. The building shares a party wall with the Burrows Block to its east and a narrow courtyard to its west along what was once a public way called “Normal Court.”

Current Events

Units at 755 Westminster are privately owned and come on the market time and again. The fourth floor units with vaulted ceilings are particularly impressive.


From the Westminster Street Historic District nomination form, 2003, prepared by Jeffrey D. Emidy and Mary E. Varden

Located at the southwest end of the district, southwest of the Burrows Block and northeast of the Bongartz Building, this four-story building is rectangular in plan, nine bays wide and sixteen bays deep, and has brick walls constructed atop a brick foundation. The low hip roof of the building is sheathed with asphalt shingles and has a one-story, square tower rising from the center of and flush with the south-facing facade. The tower is topped by a pyramidal hip roof clad in metal shingles, and has a flagpole rising from the peak.

Metal letters applied to the south-facing facade of the tower read “Lilly Building 1899.” (A.I.R.: No longer existent, but can barely be seen beneath the Herman’s Furniture sign in the 1999 photo) An interior, brick chimney is located at the northwest corner of the building. Fenestration of the building consists of one-over-one, vinyl replacement windows in nine bays, with cast concrete lintels and sills. The central bay is set off from the others by flanking corbeled brick pilasters. A 1907 photograph of the building shows that there were cast iron fire escapes across all but the center bays of the front of the building, and a cast iron railing at the edge of the roof. It also appears to show recessed storefronts and a recessed center entrance bay.

An Art Deco style storefront was added to the building in the late 1930s, and included corrugated metal panels beneath the windows, and black Vitrolite panels above. This storefront covered the second story facade, including the windows, and was topped with a decorative copper band with stamped geometric elements. The new storefront was designed by David Shapiro, of Providence, and constructed by William Bloom & Son, general contractors, also of Providence. The building is currently under renovation and is being transformed into residential space in the upper stories, with storefronts below.

Ownerships and Titles

The Lilly Building, at 747-753 Westminster Street, was constructed in 1899, for Charles Allen. Prior to the construction of this building, the site was occupied by the State Normal School on the floor above a dry goods store, and was owned by A.C. Barstow. In 1905, the building housed Henry Cram & Co., a furniture company that sold new and second-hand furniture. Allen and his heirs owned the building until 1920, when it was sold to the Rhode Island Supply Company, a furniture store. In that year, the building had a hall on the fourth floor, and the furniture store below. The building remained a furniture store, though under many different owners, for the next 80 years.

The Rhode Island Supply Company owned it until 1946, when it was purchased by Lloyd E. and Maynard M. Bliss, and James F. Armstrong, who sold it to Woodrow’s Realty in December 1959. Julian B. Savage purchased the building in 1983. In 1985, the building was occupied by the Herman Myron Company previously at 705 Westminster. From 1990 to 1998, the building was the home of Herman’s Furniture Galleries. In 1999, the building was sold at a tax sale to Saul and Company, who held it for two months before selling to the Armory Revival Company. In 2001, 775 Lofts LLC took control of the building.

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

It is a four-story, brick, low-hip-roof structure with a small, square, central turret projecting above the roofline with the building’s name and date in relief. The first floor of the building’s façade features storefronts, remodeled in the 1920s with carrara, purple glass, and metal trim. The building is further embellished with an overhanging cornice supported by simple brackets, simple lintels and sills, and Art Deco-style detailing on the storefronts. Fenestration is comprised of regularly-spaced, rectangular 1/1 replacement sash windows. The building is attached to the Burrows block at 735 Westminster Street and is currently being renovated for residential use.

Charles Allen built the building as an investment in 1899. Allen acquired the property in 1896 and is listed on the 1908 map as the owner. The 1908 map shows a large wood-frame structure to the rear of the building, which by 1918 had been removed. This wood-frame structure was part of the Burrow & Kenyon Lumber Company (see separate entry for Burrows Block). The 1918 map identifies the structure as Charles Allen Hrs. — Lily Building. By 1918 a smaller, brick structure had been added to replace the earlier wood-frame ell at the rear of the lot.

The building remained under the ownership of Charles Allen Heirs until 1920 when it was purchased by the Rhode lsland Supply Company, Inc. The 1900 city directory lists the company as bill distributors located at 163 Hudson Street. Subsequent directories identify the company as furniture dealers. In the 1920s the Art Deco storefront of carrara, purple glass, and metal trim was added to the building (Woodward 1986). The 1926 map identifies the structure as the Rhode Island Supply Company. Subsequent owners of the building included Lloyd E. Bliss, Maynard M. Bliss, and James F. Armstrong (1946). Maurice Bliss was the president of Bliss Furniture Co., Inc., which operated out of the building. The building remained under Bliss family ownership through to 1959 when it was transferred to Woodrow’s Realty, Inc. City directories list Woodrow’s Modern Age Inc., furniture, at this location. In 1983 the property changed hands once again and was occupied by Herman’s Furniture, Julian B. Savage, owner and company president. The Armory Revival Company acquired the property in 1999 and is currently rehabbing the building for residential use.