Lilly Building

also known as RI 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

#Redevelopment

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.

#History

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.