Pilgrim Congregational Church

also known as Lawton Family Storage, Pilgrim Lofts

A fire-damaged former church used for many years as a furniture storage facility recently turned into 15 residential units

About this Property

#Redevelopment

In a largely residential neighborhood in the Armory neighborhood sits a former church built in the mid-1800s. After a hurricane which removed the steeple and a fire that gutted the interior, the building was used for furniture storage starting in the 1940s. In many ways it seems that the property was underutilized, but its strong, thick walls held fast and the owners of the storage company kept the roof in good shape.

In the mid-2000s a new owner stepped forward with plans to convert the structure into 20 residential condominiums. A zoning variance was sought and granted to lease the required parking spaces from the U.S. Gas station on the corner of Harrison and Westminster. Neighborhood groups opposed the compromise — on the one hand, an empty building was getting revitalized but on the other, a key parcel on a busy street would remain a parking lot instead of being developed in its own right.

The economic downturn of 2008 put the project into limbo. The owner eventually sold in 2009 to a new developer, the brothers Federico and Antonio Managio, who were able to convert the building. A combination of interior parking spaces on the first floor and an agreement to reduce the number of necessary spaces per unit allowed the project to move forward without a negative impact on the neighborhood.

The former U.S. Gas location is under development now into a residential project.

#Current Events

Unit availability and details about the amenities can be found at PilgrimLofts.com

#History

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

It is a large, brick, Late Victorian church building notable for its elaborate decoration, including brick corbelling, engaged columns, round-arch openings, projecting brick piers, and brownstone trim. The building was originally constructed for a church and was later used as a furniture warehouse. Entrances are located within recessed openings at both the north and south bays of the façade (east). The southern entrance features paired, paneled wood doors set within a recessed, round-arch opening articulated with brick corbelling, delicate, engaged columns, and stone trim. The northern entrance features the same articulation but has been altered for use by vehicles; it now contains a large, roll-top vehicular door. Fenestration consists of narrow, round-arch openings now filled in with brick or concrete block; original trim remains. Two, one-story, flat-roof, concrete block additions project from the building’s rear elevation.

According to an RIHPHC data sheet for the property, the Pilgrim Congregational Church was constructed in 1866. Maps from 1875, 1882, 1895, and 1918 identify the structure as Pilgrim Congregational Church. According to assessor’s records, ownership of the building was transferred to James A. Foster in 1918. Historic maps show that two additions were made to the rear and Powhattan Street sides of the building during this time. The property was acquired by Herbert Schofield in 1936. Schofield is identified on the 1937 map as the building’s occupant. By 1949 the property was occupied by Furne, a furniture store, and Harrison Furniture. Around 1956 another addition was made to the Powhattan Street side of the building. The building currently houses the Lawton Moving and Storage Company.

From the “Broadway-Armory Historic District” National Register nomination form, 1974

19-21 Harrison Street Pilgrim Congregational Church (1866): 3-story; flat; brick church; with square plan and granite, brownstone and cast iron Gothic and Moorish detailing. Windows have been blocked and a large brick elevator stack added for current use as a moving company warehouse.

#In the News

Residential project rehabilitates once majestic church in Providence’s West End

Christine Dunn
Providence Journal | December 25, 2017

For years after it was built in 1874, the Pilgrim Congregational Church at 19 Harrison St. was a focal point in the city’s West End. Its majestic steeple could be seen from miles away.

At some point, the steeple was toppled, either by a hurricane or by fire, and fire gutted the interior, destroying the original stained glass windows, many of which remained boarded up when the building was later reused as a furniture warehouse.

According to a Kite Architects report, the former church “was damaged by a series of unfortunate events, including a hurricane which removed its large steeple as well as a number of fires which destroyed the original roof as well as gutted the interior.” But a report by the West Broadway Neighborhood Association said that “19 Harrison Street is rumored to have endured a fire many years ago that destroyed the steeple at the northeast corner of the building.”

Despite the damage, and however it was caused, “a tremendous amount of richness” was left behind, according to Christine West, of Kite Architects.

A previous plan to rehabilitate the former church for residential reuse was derailed after the banking crisis in 2008, and the building has been vacant ever since.

Now, at long last, the four-story, 30,000-square-foot property is set to reopen as Pilgrim Lofts, with 15 loft-style apartments, after a $3.5-million renovation by brothers Federico and Antonio Managio and Knight & Swan LLC. The project was supported in part by federal and state historic preservation tax credits.

“This was really Antonio’s project,” Federico said. Antonio is a designer and Rhode Island School of Design graduate. The brothers also worked together on Rooms & Works, a combination apartment/office complex and culinary business incubator at 55 Cromwell St. Rooms & Works opened in June with 40 apartments and 12 offices, many rented by other RISD graduates.

The former church building could be ready for its first tenant on Dec. 28. Eight of the 15 apartments are already leased, according to Sara Petrichko, the building manager. She said monthly rents start at $1,400 for the studios (all rented) and go up to $2,400 for one of the two-bedroom townhouse units.

The first floor includes the two duplex units, an indoor parking area and the mail room. All of the units have laundry machines and large walk-in closets, many with exposed brick walls. Some of the apartments have views of the Cranston Street Armory or the Industrial Trust (aka “Superman”) Building in downtown Providence.

There are five units on the top floor, five on the third floor and three on the second floor. A two-bedroom unit on the fourth floor includes a loft space with a row of small round windows. This is the section that used to include the long-lost steeple. The apartment also has a living room with a lofted ceiling and two big skylights.

Each unit has a unique layout, Petrichko said.

“It’s just so exciting … to see [the project] activated” after a rehabilitation that was “sensitive” to the surrounding historic neighborhood, said Kari Lang, executive director of the West Broadway Neighborhood Association. She said that a previous plan to rehab the church called for a house next door to be torn down to provide space for parking. Harrison Street is tree-lined and filled mainly with restored Victorian homes.

“This renovation has stabilized and highlighted the sometimes quirky and always charming details of the original architecture, including eyebrow windows, stonework, and heavy timber framing,” the Kite report added. “The high-ceilinged loft apartments reflect the rich character of the structure with a variety of large and unique floor plans and ample exposed brick and warm wood. New windows, stairs, and indoor parking complement the spacious, open floor plans.”

West said it is not known who originally designed the Pilgrim Congregational Church, but it looks “suspiciously” similar to another Providence church, the First Universalist Church at 250 Washington St., built in 1872 and designed by architect Edwin L. Howland.

She noted that Kite worked with the previous owner of 19 Harrison St., as well as with Knight & Swan, on the plans for the building. Packard Builders, of Jamestown, was the contractor.

For more information about rentals at 19 Harrison St., email info@pilgrimlofts.com or call (401) 304-9214. The website is www.pilgrimlofts.com.

Captured September 22, 2021, from an Archive.org copy at https://web.archive.org/web/20171229111214/http://www.providencejournal.com:80/news/20171225/residential-project-rehabilitates-once-majestic-church-in-providences-west-end

Previous News

This development plan was opposed by neighbors and the neighborhood advocacy group, the WBNA, for its requirement to have parking at a former gas station lot on the corner of Harrison and Westminster. The developers never moved forward due to the economic downturn of 2008.

Community Groups Lose Bid To Block Armory Condo Plan

Daniel Barbarisi
Providence Journal | March 28, 2007

A local development partnership has received the key zoning variance it needs to go forward with a condo project in the Armory District, over the opposition of the local neighborhood association, the area’s councilman and the Providence Preservation Society.

Developers Bernie Guttin and Nathan Lindenfeld want to renovate the four-story Lawton Family Realty warehouse at 19-21 Harrison St. into 20 residential condominiums, ranging in size from 960 to 1,125 square feet and selling for between $225,000 and $260,000.

But the lot only has four parking spaces, requiring the developers to ask for a zoning variance to get around city parking requirements, and forcing them to look for alternate parking spots. So the developer has made a deal with the New Covenant church across the street to lease 10 spaces, and has an agreement to purchase the U.S. Gas property on the corner of Westminster and Dexter streets, roughly two blocks away from the proposed condos. The surface lot at the U.S. Gas station would be used for parking and the building on the site converted to offices for the management company.

Generally, however, neighbors have been supportive of the reuse of the building, assuming the parking situation could be solved.

“I think it’s great that they’re interested in reusing the building. What concerns me is the parking,” said Jack Gold, executive director of the Providence Preservation Society. City Councilman John J. Lombardi, who represents the area, also voiced his concern about the parking problem in a letter to the Zoning Board.

But the solution that the developers came up with raised new problems for the neighborhood groups. “The largest concern we have is with the U.S. Gas site,” said Kari Lang, executive director of the West Broadway Neighborhood Association. The site, she said, had been earmarked in neighborhood plans as a perfect spot for mixed-use development. “Now, it’ll be stuck for years and years as a parking lot,” she said.

Members of the Zoning Board acknowledged that the solution wasn’t perfect, but said that it’s still an improvement. The board voted to approve the variance by a 4-to-1 vote.

With the variance in hand, Guttin said he expects the project to start in July, and finish early in 2008, perhaps in February.

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