Read-Ott House

A more than 150 year old mansion has been empty and derelict for the past 30 years, waiting for plans to repurpose it

#DemolitionAlert

Added a snippet of a news story about the owner’s planning to move forward with demolition

About this Property

Last Tenant

The Greek Orthodox church next door came to own the former mansion in an interesting way. In 1996, as Interstate 95 was splitting Pawtucket in two, the church was forced to leave its building on George Street. They purchased the Read-Ott mansion and held services there until their new Byzantine-style building was finished.1

The mansion housed the church’s priest and included office space, meeting rooms, classrooms, and more. The current priest said his predecessor was the last to live in the house back in the 1990s.2

In 1992, the church created a memorandum of agreement to develop a comprehensive plan to maintain all of their properties. The church has never created the plan and, one can argue, has not maintained its properties equally. As early as 1997, the City found violations and pressed the church to complete necessary updates.3

In or around 2012, the church was seeking to demolish the building but efforts by neighbors in Quality Hill stopped it.4 The church had complained that to paint the large mansion cost a minimum of $10,000 and they would need to have it painted every five years, which they could not afford.5

In 2021, an abutting neighbor submitted a complaint to the City of Pawtucket about the condition of the house. The neighbor had been in a long-standing dispute with the church.6 The letter got the attention of local preservation groups and the news, which sparked the interest of a potential buyer. Their offer was rejected by leadership and the congregation.7 The price offered was equal to demolition — $250,000.

The church and the city had been in negotiations and in and out of Municipal Court over the condition of the building for about two years. In February 2023, the process of seeking a demolition permit began. The church will need to wait six months before demolition can be granted, during which time a case may be made to deny or supply the permit.8:

Architecture

The home as originally built in 1842 was a fine example of the Italianate style — symmetrical design with windows more tall than they are wide, central portico and bay window, cornice with decorative brackets, and low roof with central cupola. At the time, the home sat away from Walcott Street and had a wide front yard as well.

Around 1914, the home changed hands from John Read’s widow, Jane Thatcher Ingraham, to Joseph Ott and family. The Ott family with architect W.G. Sheldon converted the home to a Georgian/Greek Revival or Neoclassical style and increased its size by adding a full third story. The two-story, Ionic-columned front porch and simpler cornice design were the dominant changes to the exterior along with the extra floor.

Current Events

The house is currently within a six-month waiting period to see if it can saved or if the City will have no choice but to issue a demolition permit. While listed in the National Register’s Quality Hill Historic District, there are no protections or monies available to save it if the owner’s choose demolition.

History

From the National Register nomination form for the Quality Hill Historic District

Read-Ott House (1842; 1914-15): A 2 1/2-story, five-bay, Greek/Italianate house of the mid-nineteenth century given a full third story and a wealth of Georgian Revival details in the early twentieth century (W.G. Sheldon, architect for remodeling). Chief among these later details is the two-story, balustraded front portico. It was originally built for John B.Read, a hardware merchant and was remodeled for Joseph Ott, founder of the Royal Weaving Company.


From the RIHPHC Statewide Historical Preservation Report, Pawtucket RI, 1978

(Page 58) Read-Ott House 1842, 1914-1915; W. G. Sheldon, architect for remodeling, A 2 1⁄2-story, 5-bay, Greek Revival-Italianate house given a full third story and a wealth of Georgian Revival details in the early 20th century. Built for John B. Read, a hardware merchant: remodeled for Joseph Ott, founder of the Royal Weaving Company.


About John Read

READ, John Blake, a prominent hardware merchant of Pawtucket, was born in Eastport, Me., Dec. 2, 1802, and died in Pawtucket, Feb. 27, 1862. He was the son of Jonathan and Dorothy (Blake) Read, both of whom lived to a great age. Jonathan Read was an old soldier and was a prisoner on the old Jersey prison ship during the revolution. He died when 91 years old, and was the father of 13 children, 12 of whom grew to maturity. John B. was next to the youngest. When five years of age his parents removed to Westbrook, where he was sent to a district school until he was 14 years of age. At this time he went to work in a tin shop, living with his oldest sister while he learned the trade. In 1821 he came to Pawtucket, where he remained during the rest of his life, and for nearly half a century was in the hardware trade. His shop was opened on Main street, on the site where the John B. Read block now stands, and was located about where James A. Slattery’s drug store is. In 1842 he built his residence, where his widow now lives, on Walcott street, and in 1850 he erected the brick block, which now numbers 176 to 180 Main street. The block next to it was built by Amos M. Read, his older brother, who was also a hardware merchant. The Reads were the oldest and most prominent merchants in their line of business for many years. Amos Read came to Pawtucket several years before John. He died in 1880, a very old man. Nov. 17, 1828, Mr. Read was married to Jane Thatcher Ingraham, only child of Elias and Phebe (Thatcher) Ingraham of Attleboro, Mass. Her father was a mechanic, and died in 1847. Mrs. Read was born in Attleboro, Mass., June 5, 1809. In September, 1896, she visited the White Mountains, and enjoyed the trip as keenly as when in 1832, sixty-two years before, she, in company with her husband, made the same journey on horseback. Mr. and Mrs. Read also had but one child, Mary Drowne Read, afterwards the wife of Edward LeFavour. She died in 1858, after the birth of John Edward LeFavour, Mrs. Read’s grandson and her only descendant.

John B. Read was distinctively a business man. As a public spirited citizen, however, he was induced to accept various offices, such as town councilman, etc., all of which positions he filled with great credit to himself and to the best interests of his constituents. Politically he was a Whig, but at the formation of the Republican party before the war he became one of its staunchest members. When Pawtucket was a part of Massachusetts, he was elected to the lower house of the state legislature and served four years. He was a very popular man. For a long time he was commanding general of the Massachusetts militia.

Captured 19 March 2023 from http://theusgenweb.org/rigenweb/articles/107.html


About Joseph Ott

OTT, Joseph, third child of Jacob and Genevieve (Hodler) Ott, was born March 11, 1861, of Trochtelfingen, in the district of Hohenzollern, Germany. He attended school in his native town until he was 16 years old, when he entered the school of Art and Science at Reutlingen, Germany, from which he was graduated in 1878. He then entered a mill in Bavaria to obtain a practical knowledge of operating machinery and the details in the manufacturing of cloth. In 1880 he went to Augsburg as a designer, and later to Ash, in the silk district of Bohemia, where he remained until 1882 and acquired a knowledge of the manufacture of silk in all its details. He went next to Chemnitz, in Saxony, entering the employ of Goeritz Brothers, one of the largest silk manufacturers in that country.

To avoid military service he came to America in 1884 and connected himself with Coffin, Altemus & Co., of New York, as a designer. In 1885 he went with the Fare Alpaca Co., Holyoke, Mass., as a designer, and later with the Lyman Mill Co., of the same place, as superintendent, having charge of and successfully operating 1000 looms. A year later he came to Slater Cotton Co., Pawtucket, and remained in its employ until 1888 when, deciding to operate on his own account, he devoted a year to perfecting a loom for weaving silk, fine cotton and worsted, in which he succeeded, and began business with eight looms in the old Hicks building off East avenue. The enterprise prospered and later he associated with him as partners Daniel G. Littlefield and Darius Goff, and in May, 1889, the business was incorporated under the name of the Royal Weaving Co., and the plant was removed to the factory of the American Hair Cloth Co., corner Mill and Cross streets, Central Falls, and later to the new factory across the street from the hair cloth mill. This new mill is an unique structure and was specially constructed for delicate weaving, the light all being obtained from the roof.

Captured 19 March 2023 from http://theusgenweb.org/rigenweb/articles/106.html

In the News

Pawtucket church turns down offer of financial aid, will demolish mansion

by Ethan Shorey
Valley Breeze | January 31, 2024 (abridged)

Representatives from the Assumption of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church have turned down city officials’ offer of financial assistance to restore a historic mansion on their Quality Hill property.

The notice from the church to the city appears to be the final nail in the coffin for the Read-Ott House at 97 Walcott St.

According to Peter Microulis, of the church’s property beautification committee, this final conclusion came with “great distress and regret,” but he said having an active and rezoned residential property within a few feet of the church building “would seriously disrupt the church’s core operations.”

“The proximity and central location of the building to all other structures and aspects of the overall property at 97 Walcott could not entertain or afford the inclusion of such third party activity without significantly limiting and impeding the church’s ability to achieve its primary spiritual goals and functions,” he wrote in a Jan. 24 letter.

While the possibility of a city grant to aid renovations was new and unexpected, Microulis said, it did not change the fact that the total cost to make the old mansion truly functional would leave the church with a burden it can’t afford. They’ve reached this conclusion with great distress and regret, he said, but they don’t have a reasonable alternative option.

Microulis acknowledged the delicate nature of this issue, noting that it’s been a sensitive matter within the church body for some time. He also emphasized the church’s own status as a historical fixture in the neighborhood and city for more than a century.

“It lost its first home on Cedar Street in the 1960s to make way for the building of Route 95, and has been holding liturgical and community services on Walcott Street since that time,” he wrote. “We value our existence in Pawtucket. We recognize ourselves as a part of Pawtucket, a part of Quality Hill, and a part of the history and the future of this great city.” […]

The three options presented included demolition, selling the property, or for the city to offer up to $500,000 toward the church’s own restoration of the property. After considering all options, said Microulis, demolition “remains the only option we find to be supportive of the long-term viability of the church, and clearly in its best interest.”

Last Oct. 11 marked the end of a six-month demolition delay for a property that members of the Historic District Commission and Heritage Alliance of Pawtucket have been adamant about seeing saved.

Officials in September detailed a $1.3 million estimated cost for repairing the building, not including renovation or remodeling.

Church leaders have been accused on multiple occasions of demolition by neglect, or allowing the building to become so dilapidated that it becomes too expensive to restore. Church leaders have insisted that they would only be looking to convert the property into open green space, but have been accused of wanting it for parking. […]

Captured February 4, 2024 from https://www.valleybreeze.com/news/pawtucket-church-turns-down-offer-of-financial-aid-will-demolish-mansion/article_2f101698-bec2-11ee-a433-4fee435d33ba.html


Church applies for demo permit on Read-Ott House

by Ethan Shorey
Valley Breeze | February 22, 2023

The end of the line for the historic Read-Ott House in the Quality Hill neighborhood now appears inevitable, after the city received a demolition permit application from its owner on Feb. 10.

Per city ordinance, the owner, the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, now faces a six-month period before the demolition permit can be issued for the historic property.

City officials have not been active in attempting to save the old mansion, while preservationists have become increasingly pessimistic in recent months about saving it.

The owners have said nothing publicly about their intentions, but are widely believed to want the adjoining property for a new parking lot. They previously told a municipal court judge that they were raising funds to tear it down. […]

Captured March 19, 2023 from https://www.valleybreeze.com/townnews/architecture/church-applies-for-demo-permit-on-read-ott-house/article_f43590de-b139-11ed-a90d-2f22d333cc83.html

Previous stories from the Valley Breeze about the Read-Ott House.

  1. Shorey, Ethan. “Preservation Society focused on protecting Quality Hill landmarks.” Valley Breeze, 03 December 2019. Captured 19 March 2023 from https://www.valleybreeze.com/news/preservation-society-focused-on-protecting-quality-hill-landmarks/article_6f8a17ea-8e37-5a26-a437-56d112a7f068.html 

  2. Deluca, Zack. “Fate of Read-Ott House in question; resolutions being discussed.” Valley Breeze, 21 August 2022. Captured 19 March 2023 from https://www.valleybreeze.com/townnews/building_industry/fate-of-read-ott-house-in-question-resolutions-being-discussed/article_21646c6a-27ab-11ed-bb0a-936f616e2888.html 

  3. Shorey, Ethan. “City cites owners of Read-Ott mansion; future in doubt.” Valley Breeze, 01 December 2021. Captured 19 March 2023 from https://www.valleybreeze.com/news/city-cites-owners-of-read-ott-mansion-future-in-doubt/article_cfa128ea-5132-11ec-b8aa-ff11e7f26c05.html 

  4. “Preservation Society focused on protecting Quality Hill landmark.” 

  5. “Fate of Read-Ott House in question; resolutions being discussed.” 

  6. “City cites owners of Read-Ott mansion; future in doubt.” 

  7. “Fate of Read-Ott House in question; resolutions being discussed.” 

  8. Shorey, Ethan. “Church applies for demo permit on Read-Ott House.” Valley Breeze, 22 February 2023. Captured 19 March 2023 from https://www.valleybreeze.com/townnews/architecture/church-applies-for-demo-permit-on-read-ott-house/article_f43590de-b139-11ed-a90d-2f22d333cc83.html