Roger Williams Brewing Company

also known as Weybosset Mills Number 3, Central Iron Works Company

One of the oldest mill structures in Olneyville, this building housed a collection of 60 artists who were forced out in 2004

About this Property

Last Tenant

We find it interesting that the 2001–2002 ICDB lists this building under the name Rogers Williams Brewing Company while it only occupied it for seven years — from 1933 to 1940. Meanwhile, it was Mill Number 3 of the Weybosset Mills from its construction in 1880 until 1889. It was then part of the American Woolen Company from 1899 until 1930.

Roger Williams Brewing company crafted such brews as Handy’s Cream Ale, Polskie Piwo Beer, Roger Williams Ale, Union Ale, and Westminster Ale.1 Prohibition was in effect when the brewery opened, but not for long. Prohition started in 1920 but ended on December 5, 1933. Some breweries stayed in business by producing “near-beer” (low alcohol). No information as to whether any of these brews started as low alcohol. Since the brewery was shortlived, its cans and bottles are prized by collectors.

As the history outlines, a handful of businesses occupied the buildings of the former Weybosset Mills, from paper cup manufacturing to brewing to trucking and cast iron fabrication.

In 2006–2007, local developer John Risica proposed a redevelopment of 64 condos and 4,000 sf of commercial space in this mill and three others in the vicinity.2 That plan never came to pass. Earlier, in 2004, artists in this mill who were renting apartments were suddenly given 24 hours to move after the fire department and City condemned the building. (See In the News)

Current Events

There is an active corporation by the name of Roger Williams Brewery at 244 Oak Street. We can’t find any information about it activity and whether or not it is producing beer for sale. As far as we can tell, this building is home to studios and industrial space.

History

This property is part of the larger Weybosset Mills complex. A full report is available at the entry for the main complex.

From the National Register Form for the Weybosset Mills complex, 2008, by Jenny R. Fields and Alyssa L. Wood, PAL

Mill No. 3 (ca 1880)

Mill No. 3 is located in the southwest block of the complex, diagonally across from Mill No. 2. Mill No. 3 is a four-story, seventeen-by-five-bay rectangular building with a one-by-two-bay, hip-roofed central exterior stair tower on both of the long elevations. It has a flat, slightly-hipped, built-up roof and brick walls covered with modern parging. The corners of the building and stair tower have brownstone quoining. All of the windows are replacement one-over-one double-hung metal sash with no visible lintels or sills. A secondary entrance with a wood paneled door is located in the northernmost bay of the east elevation. The primary entrance is located on the first floor of the stair tower on the north elevation (Oak Street) and contains a modern glass door covered by a cloth awning. Original double wood panel and ten-pane doors with metal guardrails and heavy stone lintels are located on the second through fourth floors of the north stair tower forming a hoist bay. A metal hoist remains in place below the roofline. A modern, four-story, one-by-one-bay addition, obstructs the west elevation of the north tower.

On the east elevation, diamond-shaped metal floor beam anchor washers are located in horizontal lines at the third and fourth floors. An overhead passageway from the Mill No. 4 Store House was connected at or near the second bay from the north on the third story. A rolled iron beam supported by iron brackets extends from the south end of the east elevation at the first story, to the north elevation of the Engine/Turbine House. This beam previously extended across all of the east elevation and possibly supported an overhead tram rail. Pairs of I-beams at the east bay of the south elevation on the second floor and at the third floor between the second and third bays also extend across to the Boiler/Engine/Turbine House. A modern fire escape covers the fourth through sixth bays from the east on the south elevation. At the third bay on the first floor, a one-story addition connects the south elevation of the building to a one-story addition attached to the west elevation of the Turbine House. Both of these additions were constructed between 1937 and 1956.

In 1899, Mill No. 3 housed combing, drawing, and speeders on the first floor, carding on the second, muling on the third, and worsted spinning and spooling on the fourth. By 1921, the entire building functioned as a weaving mill.

Mill No. 3 Boiler House (ca 1880)

The Mill No. 3 Boiler House is located south of the Mill No. 3 south stair tower, in the middle of a fenced-in block. The Boiler House is a tall two-story, approximately four-by-four-bay square building with an asphalt shingle mansard roof with two gable dormers on the west elevation. Two modern personnel doors are located on the west elevation. The Boiler House contained two Corliss boilers in the western half of the building. A wall separated the first-story engine room and second floor drying room in the east half of the building. It appears that a chimney was located to the north of the building.

Mill No. 3 Boiler/Engine/Turbine House (1921)

The Mill No. 3 Boiler/Engine/Turbine House is located at the northwest corner of Magnolia and Troy streets, immediately east of the Mill No. 3 Boiler House. The building consists of a five-story, three-by-three-bay, square Boiler/Engine House and a four-story, two-by-two-bay, square Turbine House attached to the north elevation of the former. The building has a flat built-up roof, reinforced concrete-frame walls with brick window bays, and a concrete foundation. The walls are divided into three horizontal sections, including a rusticated first-story comprised of horizontal bands of formed concrete, engaged pilasters with flat capitals between recessed window bays on the second through fourth stories, and a fifth story, with poured concrete made to look like masonry block, visually separated by a concrete cornice above the fourth story.

The original, paired eight-over-four, metal sash awning windows remain on the fourth and fifth stories of each facade. The majority of the second and third stories have concrete block or brick infill and some have small modern double-hung windows. The first floor contains doors, most of which are covered. One original wood-paneled door with a six-light window above is located on the east elevation of the Turbine House. Modern doors to fire escapes are located in the east bay of the second floor and the west bay of the fourth floor on the north elevation of the Turbine House. On the west elevation, a modern metal personnel door is located in the south bay of the first floor. This bay is a hoist bay, with I- beams protruding from a second-story door opening and a third-story window. A steel pulley on the roof extends out over the bay. The west and north elevations of the building are inaccessible behind a chain-link fence. A rectangular, one-story modern addition to the west wall of the Turbine House is flush with the west wall of the Boiler/Engine House.

The building was constructed in 1921. An interior, east-west concrete wall divided the Boiler and Engine rooms and a concrete bearing wall divided Boiler/Engine House and the Turbine House. The Roger Williams Brewing Company occupied the building in the 1930s.

Weybosset Corporation Expansion

[…] The Weybosset Corporation continued new construction through the 1880s and 1890s and expanded its product line to include worsted cloth. The Corporation attained ownership of the three lots comprising the block bounded by Agnes, Troy, Oak, and Magnolia streets in 1871, 1880, and 1881. Mill No. 3 and the Boiler House connected to the south elevation of Mill No. 3 were constructed on the new property in 1880 for auxiliary carding and spinning. By 1884, the Weybosset Corporation removed the carding machinery from Mill No. 3 and replaced it with combing, drawing, and spinning machinery for worsted production.[…]

Division of the Weybosset Mills after 1930

From 1931 to 1934, the American Woolen Company slowly sold off the Weybosset Mill buildings and American Woolen-owned land parcels. The three blocks of Weybosset Mill buildings remained primarily industrial, containing a number of small assorted manufacturing and auto repair companies through the latter half of the twentieth century. Most of the lots and buildings transferred ownership frequently.[…]

Other businesses that located on Weybosset Mills property in the first half of the twentieth century included the Roger Williams Brewing Company, the Providence Wool Combing Company, and Nyman Manufacturing Company. The Roger Williams Brewing Company purchased the Mill No. 3 lot from American Woolen in 1934 and operated a post-prohibition brewery in the Engine and Turbine House from approximately 1934 to 1940. The Roger Williams Brewing Company incorporated in 1933, with Joseph Bertolaccini as manager and Julius Cabisius as the brewmaster. The Central Iron Works Company also appears on a 1937 map of this site.


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

It is a large, four-story, stuccoed stone building with quoined comers and a projecting stair tower centered on the fayade. The cruciform-plan mill building is known as Weybosset Mill Number 3. Fenestration is comprised of rectangular openings with replacement 1/1 sash and granite lintels and sills. The large building covers most of the lot and is set parallel to Oak Street.

To the rear of the lot, along Troy Street is a large, four-story, three-by-three-bay, flat-roof, pier-and~spandrel structure (early 20 century) set on a high concrete foundation. The building is notable for the projecting concrete piers with simple Doric capitals which articulate each bay. Fenestration consists of multi-light, fixed and awning metal sash windows with concrete sills; numerous window openings have been bricked in and feature small, rectangular 1/1 replacement sash windows. The northern half of the building stands four-stories in height.

This is the oldest surviving mill in the Olneyville area.

Roger Williams Brewing Company was formerly known as Weybosset Mills. The first structure for this company was erected in 1836; it was originally used for cotton weaving. The mill was shut down during the Civil War but reopened by Royal C. Taft who began to manufacture cassimere there after removing the cotton machines. A second mill building was built around 1865. In 1872 both mills were enlarged and improved. A third mill used as an auxiliary was built in 1880 (where Roger Williams Brewing company was later housed). By 1899 Weybosset Mi1ls merged with American Woolen Company (Woodward 1986).

There was a transfer of ownership to Crown Worsted in 1931. Then additional businesses were housed there in 1946. They consisted of two trucking companies, a wool dealer, a jewelry manufacturer, and an additional manufacturing company. By 1975 the building became mostly vacant and was primarily used by Eastern Wire and I-V Rigging. This is the oldest surviving mill in the Olneyville area.

In the News

Whose creative economy is it?

by Ian Donnis
Providence Phoenix | February 13–19, 2004 (abridged)

Tne building, a partially stucco-laden four-story structure with an improbable pink hue, seems unexceptional from the outside. Yet tucked amid old brick factory complexes in an industrial-age labyrinth of streets behind Olneyville Square, this was the place — with lofts bearing such names as the Pink Rabbit, the Bakery, Box of Knives, and the Providence Civic Center — that until recently served as the throbbing heart of Providence’s musical underground.

Serving as a successor to the late, lamented Fort Thunder, which was replaced several years ago by a new shopping development in Eagle Square, the old warehouse at 244 Oak St./71 Troy St. attracted its share of touring bands, and the almost 60 artists and musicians who called it home considered it a fertile artistic ecosystem. Although the residents, including people like Lighting Bolt drummer Brian Chippendale, and Jim Drain, a member of the critically regarded art collective Forcefield, kept a low official profile while operating in a forgotten part of town, their efforts nonetheless raised Providence’s reputation as a cool place. “It’s underground,” notes Bert Crenca, AS220’s artistic director, “but a very large part of the positive perception that people have nationally of Providence as an arts-vital city.”

Well, it was underground, anyway. The Shangri la that intensified at the Oak Street-Troy Street structure over the last six or so years — one loft was even dubbed Valhalla — abruptly came to a halt after inspectors visited the building on January 8, reportedly after a call that people were illegally living there. Arriving the next day, a larger group of officials was alarmed by what they found, telling the building’s tenants that living there was extremely dangerous. Although lawyer Michael J. Lepizzera Jr., who represents about 32 of the tenants, says they had residential leases from property owner Walter Bronhard of Fall River, Massachusetts, their legal case for remaining was weak since the building was not zoned for residential use. After a tense two-week period — which, tenants say, was marked by conflicting information and uncertainty about whether they’d have days or months to move out — the residents were forced to leave on January 24, during one of the coldest weeks of one of the coldest winters in recent memory. […]

Captured 29 June 2023 from https://providencephoenix.com/features/top/documents/03599594.asp

  1. “Roger Williams Brewing Corp. of Providence, Rhode Island, USA.” Captured 29 June 2023 from https://www.taverntrove.com/roger-williams-brewing-corp-of-providence-rhode-island-usa-br-477.html 

  2. Barbarisi, Daniel. “Developer gets OK to convert Weybosset Mills complex.” Providence Journal (RI), Metro ed., sec. News, 18 Oct. 2007, pp. C-01. NewsBank: America’s News, https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/openurl?ctx_ver=z39.88-2004&rft_id=info%3Asid/infoweb.newsbank.com&svc_dat=NewsBank&req_dat=D4BD6B42F1AB4706B5E1244D477DEE03&rft_val_format=info%3Aofi/fmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Actx&rft_dat=document_id%3Anews/1524265C97F12298. Accessed 29 June 2023.