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About this Property
What was known as the Peerless Building is actually comprised of five individual buildings. Located at 229 and 239 Westminster Street at the corner of Union, the two most prominent are the Callendar, McAuslan & Troup building designed by Walker & Gould and The William H. Low Estate building, designed by Martin & Hall. This cluster of buildings, except for the Hannah Green Estate building on the corner of Eddy (Paolino Properties), make up the entire block of Westminster between Eddy and Union Streets. This block was famous for housing the largest and most successful regional department stores until the 1980s when they closed their doors.
The redevelopment of the former Peerless Department Store and attached former Woolworth’s buildings were the third jewels in the crown for Cornish Associates — the Alice Building was first in 1998 followed by the Smith building in 1999. Arnold “Buff” Chace had a grand vision to make downtown Providence walkable and livable once again, after years of seeing street life all but die after 5:00 pm. Ironically, one of the few venues that could attract up to 300 concert goers to Westminster Street after 5pm — Lupo’s — was kicked out of their space to make way for new residents.
Each of the 97 loft-style apartments were designed to provide for the maximum amount of natural light and ceiling height with an open floor plan. An ambitious central atrium opens the large block of connected buildings up to natural light, and opaque glass panels on the atrium facing side of the units let in light from the center as well as from the ample windows on the outside. Architects for the redesign were Durkee Brown Viverios & Werenfels.
Some of the more interesting design elements found are exposed columns and sliding wooden doors separating kitchens from living space. Original elements, such as wood floors, columns and original beams were saved whenever possible. Replacement wood floors are made from bamboo instead of other tree-woods. The windows are generally amazing, with distinctive styles on each floor. All units vary in size ranging from 835 square feet to 2,712 square feet.
- 40 Years of Rock and Roll at Lupo’s, Lou Papineau, Providence Online, posted September 22, 2015
- A Little Retail History: Providence, Rhode Island, Carmen & Ginger blog
- Downtown Providence – A Nostalgic Stroll Down Westminster Street, Betsy Von-Die, May 2020
- Downtown Providence of today vastly different from city of early ’90s, Anne Wooten, Brown Daily Herald, March 2006
- Downcity: What is Past is Prologue, Philip C. Marshall, captured from Archive.org
From “Downtown Providence: Statewide Historical Preservation Report P-P-5,” prepared by the RIHPHC, May 1981
The department store, of which Providence had three by 1900, in particular represents an economy of scale and mass marketing that was both made possible by and necessary for the increasingly complex economy. The first, Callendar, McAuslan and Troop’s “Boston Store” opened in the early 1870s at the corner of Westminster and Union Streets. The success of Providence’s first department store led not only to its substantial expansion by 1892, but also to the organization of competing firms, Shepard’s and the Outlet.
From the National Register nomination form for the Downtown Providence Historic District, prepared by William McKenzie Woodward, Principal Historic Preservation Planner, 1984
229 Westminster — William H. Low Estate Building (1897): Martin & Hall, architects. Mid-20th-century storefront, little changed classicizing upper facade has rusticated stone second story with display windows separated by engaged Ionic columns; striated composite pilasters on third through fifth stories; cornice above fifth story; attic with Doric pilasters on sixth story; heavy modillion cornice. Built shortly after the remodeling of the adjacent Boston Store, the Low Building is a subtle variation on the architectural theme established by its neighbor; seldom do competing architectural firms coordinate efforts so readily and so successfully. The William H. Low Estate Building, erected by his heirs, originally housed small tailoring and millinery firms; today Woolworth’s occupies the structure.
239 Westminster — Callendar, McAuslan & Troup Store, now Peerless (1866, 1873, 1892): William R. Walker, architect for original building and 1892 alterations. 6-story, brick and stone building with mid-20th-century, stone-sheathed storefronts; rusticated stone trim on second story; paneled composite pilasters on third through fifth stories; cornice above fifth story; attic with Ionic colonettes and Doric pilasters on sixth story; heavy modillion cornice.
Established as a department store — the first of its magnitude in Providence — in 1866, Callendar, McAuslan & Troup first opened in a smaller building on this site. The commercial venture, which soon became known as the Boston Store, was immediately successful and, having outgrown its original facilities, commenced expansion on the site in 1872. This building originally had a cast-iron facade which was removed during the 1892 expansion and remodeling.
The Boston Store was bought by Peerless in the early 1950s, and Peerless continues to operate in this location. Peerless is a landmark on Westminster Street, both as the oldest of the large, late 19th- century department stores and because of its high architectural quality. The 1950s renovations are not entirely sympathetic with the elaborate articulation of the upper stories, but the building retains much of its original visual quality.