Stillman White Brass Foundry

A small flatiron-style 19th century mill building right on the bank of the Moshassuck River in a formerly dense industrial area

About this Property

#Current Events

This building has housed many businesses and used more than one address over the years. When built for the Stillman Brass Foundry, it was located at 1 Bark Street, and Stillman Brass remained here until 1949. When the 1971 photo was taken, it was the home of William R.M. Brown Co, Printers, and the address was 51 Mill Street. In the 1978 survey, it was located at 47 Charles Street.

In 1971-1972 it suffered a fire along with the neighboring American Screw Company complex and the building was badly damaged — the north wall had collapsed. Because an urban redevelopment project had already been considered, and the fire leveled most of the significant buildings in the area, development of the newly vacant land continued. The neighboring Moshassuck Square Apartments were built in 1972 and the Moshassuck Medical Center was built in 1975.

Since then the building has been home to Textiles2 (squared) when the 2005 photos were taken, and it was another printer, Sir Speedy, from about 2010 to about 2015. Now there is another business on the first floor and we believe that the second floor is actually residential. Would love someone to confirm that in the comments.

Along with the Fletcher Manufacturing Company across the street and the remains of American Screw up the hill on the corner of North Main and Stevens Street, these are the survivors or the formerly-vast Randall Square industrial district. They stand as a symbol of the diversity and vitality of Providence’s industrial heritage.

#History

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

Set on the east side of Charles Street, just east of the Moshassuck River. It is a brick building comprised of three sections: the northern part is a one-story brick structure with a gable roof, and tapered, square chimney; the middle section stands two-stories and has a gable roof and corbelling; the southern section, which was built in the early 20th century, has a flat roof and a chamfered facade. The primary entrance faces Charles Street and is comprised of paired metal-and-glass doors set below single-light transoms; a secondary entrance is set within the chamfered corner and along the east elevation facing a small paved area. Fenestration is comprised of rectangular, single-light awning sash with stone lintels and sills.

This is the foundry complex in which Providence industrialist Stillman White manufactured an anti-friction metal used to line machine bearings. His product was renowned throughout New England during the Industrial Revolution. The Stillman White Brass Foundry continued to operate at this site until 1949. By the early 1970s the building was abandoned. Later in the decade it was rehabilitated for office use (Kulik 1978; RIHPHC 1981:46; RIHPHC data sheet). Along with the Fletcher Office Building and Warehouse at 2 Charles Street, it is one of the few remaining nineteenth-century industrial buildings in the once heavily industrialized Moshassuck Square area.

From “RHODE ISLAND: An Inventory of Historic Engineering and Industrial Sites”, Gary Kulik and Julia C. Bonham, 1978

One of the oldest brass foundries in Rhode Island, the Stillman White Foundry was established in 1856. The firm acquired a reputation for the manufacture of all kinds of light and heavy brass, bronze, and composition castings. The specialty of the firm was the “S. White Lining Metal” which was used in the bearings of light and heavy engines. By 1886, according to Welcome Greene, this product had become the “lining metal in more use than any other.”

In 1896, six furnaces, a melting kettle, and a core oven, which could produce 1,500 pounds of finished metal product per day, were in operation. The remaining building, a small, 1-and 2-story brick structure, was built between 1871 and 1876. The structure provided offices for the Research and Design Institute (REDE), the group responsible for the building’s adaptive reuse. REDE was originally set up as a non-profit research institute focusing on energy conservation. The foundry was refitted to conserve energy and, in the process, exterior alterations, such as the installation of new thermal windows, and the replacement of granite lintels with cement, were made.

From the National Registration form for Moshassuck Square Historic District, 1972

The foundry occupies a constricted site bounded by Bark Street, the Moshassuck River, and the Mill Street Bridge. Stillman White, who became a prominent Providence civic leader, began business here in 1856. The firm continued at this location through 1949. Construction and detail of the extant building, however, suggest that its three sections date in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. (External evidence, e.g. the Providence atlases of 1875–1918, supports this assertion.)

Though the roof profile varies from section to section, the coherent overall appearance of the building is due to its uniform brickwork, window openings and corbeled cornice. Lintels and sills are cast concrete throughout the building, save in some portions of the middle section where stone may be found. The two-story middle and south sections contained office, storage and work spaces. The north section was the foundry-room proper. It is identified by its tapering square chimney and four large wind-adjustable sheet-metal vents mounted on the roof. Though the interiors are badly damaged, they retain a series of overhead I-beam tracks used to transport castings to the Bark Street and Mill Street entrances. This straight forward working building is an effective contrast to the ornamented office across the bridge.