Thayer Street (from Bowen to Waterman)

The ever changing face of Thayer Street captured whenever we can (mostly from 2004 and 2020)

About this Property

#Current Events

Everyone remembers the Thayer Street they grew up with as the best version of that street. The shops, the places to hang out, the people you bumped into. You were a Store 24 person, or a skate shop person, or a music store person, or a combination of them. You were punk, metal, alternative, skaterat, or college kid. While we may think our Thayer Street was the best, someone else has the same kind of story and same amount of fondness even though the names of the stores have changed.

#History

From the College Hill Historic District nomination form, Edward F. Sanderson & Keith N. Morgan, January 1976

Listings starting from the northern end of Thayer at the corner of Cushing Street. Newer updates from A.I.R. come after each entry from the CHHD.

Cadastral maps used for reference:

311–315
CHHD The Cushing Apartments, 1902. Hilton & Jackson, architects. Tudor Revival; 3-1/2 stories; cross gable; brick; irregular u-plan around courtyard with multiple entrances under chain-hung flat hoods; round-headed doors; modillion cornice; segmental-arched dormers; black and red brick retaining wall with stone trim and wrought iron archway with suspended light.
307
CHHD 1857-75. 2-1/2 stories; end gable; asphalt shingle; 3 bay house with transom and sidelight entry; simple.

In a 1908 L.J. Richards map and subsequent Sanborn Maps until 1956 this home appears. This diminuative house sits almost against The Cushing Apartments to the north. The home retained more of its historic character before a renovation in 2016. Previously, it retained an original entrance with sidelights and a transom, as well as window and gable trim. It has now been restored but without any hint of its pre-20th century nature.

300–308
CHHD Pembroke Dormitories, 1974-5. Moore, Lyndon, Turnbull, architects; Donlyn Lyndon, partner in charge. Modern; 3 to 4 stories; flat roof; brick; asymmetrical grouping of asymmetrically massed rectilinear blocks with internal courtyard connecting to Pembroke Campus; mixed use with residences over storefronts on Thayer Street, residential space on Bowen Street; distinguished by bands of multi-color glazed brick; courtyard contains a large, playful, tower-archway assembled from steel pipes. Winner of Progressive Architecture’s First Design Award in 1970, it is a classic example of the ordinary, inclusivist, “new vernacular” architecture of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Also 223-33 Bowen Street. (Non-contributing structure)

In a 1908 L.J. Richards map and subsequent Sanborn Maps until 1956 there were three similarly shaped two and a half story wooden houses, each with a one story porch on Thayer Street.

297
Not listed in the District report. On the Sanborn Maps from 1920 through 1956 it was a 2-1/2 story wooden house. The current building was erected circa 1989.

Oop was located here from 1989 until 20061, and that is the tenant we best remember this building for. Other tenants included In Your Ear, Allston Beat, Pecks Bad Boy (which became Lunasea), a rollerblade store owned by Nancy Kerrigan, Optical Shop, Mobee’s Music (clothing and musical equipment), and various other short-lived enterprises. Home to Only in RI and Supercuts as of 2020.

291
CHHD After 1895. 1 story; flat; brick; corner commercial block with windows bricked up; shaped parapet; corner entrance.

Currently a CVS, previously Thayer Market. In the 1908 L.J. Richards map there are two wooden structures on this plat. By the 1920-21 Sanborn Map it is a one story brick structure with three storefronts on Thayer Street and a Post Office on Cushing. On the 1920-1951 map it is two unlabelled storefronts, one on Thayer and one on Cushing. Same configuration in 1956.

292–6
CHHD After 1895. 1-2 stories; flat; brick and glass; multiple storefronts under shaped parapet; slightly set back 2nd floor added above end store.

Currently Sneaker Junkies, previously Beadworks, Skate-Away before that and Clark’s Flower Shop before that, and Black Wolf became Savage Brothers in the rear space off “not a public way.”. Other storefronts were J & J’s Candy Bar (formerly Supercuts), and Bagel Gourmet (formerly Ronzios).

In a 1908 L.J. Richards map there is a single wooden structure with a different shape than the two that come later. On the 1920-21 Sanborn Map 294, 292, and 290 are there but 288 is not present. On the 1920-1951 map the same wooden structures now have brick facing and 288 and 288 1/2 are brick buildings now on site.

285–9
CHHD After 1895. 2 stories; flat; brick with stone trim; 4 bay commercial block similar to but not as fine as 278-86; various storefronts; triple windows above under stone lintels; parapet. (since demolished)

Currently Urban Outfitters, which is a new building built in 2001. A fire destroyed the previous building “several years” previous.2 Before Urban Outfitters was built, there was a row of small stores at street level. Taco Maker, a Thai restaurant, a nail salon, and upstairs was a clothing store called Cinderella’s Closet, a comic book place, and Tom’s Tracks was there before they moved down the block.

Represented on the 1920-1921 Sanborn Map as a single wooden structure at 285 with 287 located at the rear of the plot. On the 1920-1951 map 285–289 is a 2 story brick building.

283
Not in the College Hill nomination. Hard to tell when this diminutive building, squeezed between 285 and 281, was built. It is too small to be seen from aerial photos. The Hole in the Wall restaurant was mentioned in a 1989 police report, so it was located here for a long time. Sushi Express was the most recent tenant, but closed around 2021 during COVID.
281
CHHD 1875-95. 2-1/2 stories; end gable; shingle; 2-family house converted to commercial use; greatly altered; storefront on 1st and in basement; recent Colonial Revival door frame on 1st floor door; iron railings; fish scale shingles in gable end.

Currently Dojo Smoke Shop and Mighty Sharp Barbershop in the basement. Tom’s Tracks and Shades Plus in the basement were the well-known long-standing tenants. Shades Plus started as a hardware store (you could still get keys made) but switched to sunglasses and knick-knacks to please the younger crowd. They were also one of the best places to get Manic-Panic hair dye.3 It sounds like there used to be a toy store called the Merry Go-Round here, too.

This house is was one of the oldest surviving structures on this commercial portion of the street (the oldest being 223). The house at the street front and another 2-1/2 story house at the rear of the property is present on a 1908 map. Available in the same configuration on all Sanborn maps from 1920–1956. They were demolished in 2022.

278–86
CHHD 1875-95. 2 stories; flat; brick with stone trim; 4 bay commercial block with storefronts on 1st and stone pilasters running up through 2nd floor; keystoned windows on 2nd; pantile overhang; fine details.

In 2004, East Side Pockets and Phillips were on the ground floor to be replaced soon after by Kartabar. A “For Lease” sign hangs where In Your Ear and Lunasea used to be. Before them we had a really great vintage clothing shop called Roxy Deluxe which occupied the whole upstairs. They closed around ‘91 or ‘92 and moved to Point Street before finally packing up shop entirely and moving to the west coast. Previous tenants of East Side Pockets included O-Cha which moved to Wickenden but was a fast food style setup at this location, East Side Weiners which sported some “up da ahm” New York System action and had a signature race car they would park out front. In 2020 East Side Pockets was joined by the Shaking Crab on the first floor, with Ritual Sweat Society and Base Station VR Lounge on the second.

Despite the date above of 1875–95, we believe this is a mistake. In the 1908 map 280-282 and 284-286 are wooden structures. On the corner of Meeting and Thayer is a ”City of Providence School.” This is the same in the 1920 Sanborn. By the 1951 updated edition, a 2-story brick building is in place at 278–286 and the school land is now “Auto parking.” This would place the date of construction between 1921 and 1951.

271–279
CHHD After 1895. 1 story; flat; brick and glass; commercial strip with patterned brick and a variety of storefronts; 4 small stores with paired recessed entrances.

A row of five storefronts, now postal numbers 273 units one and two, 275, 277, and 279 — three in one continuous building and one attached in a similar style. In 2004, they were the Army Navy store, Details, Dunkin Donuts, Details again, and Spike’s Junkyard Dogs. The higher number Details used to be Blooming Blossoms. Spikes used to be a clothing shop called Palmers that featured, among other things, the worlds biggest pair of Levis. In 2020 there were mostly eateries — Chinatown, Durk’s BBQ just left, and Baja’s Tex Mex.

The Army Navy was a Thayer Street staple for more than 30 years until the fall of 2020.4 It was a privately-owned “mom and pop” that suffered greatly due to COVID-19. Before that, it was a business called The Garage. It was demolished in the fall of 2022.

In 1908 this lot had three wood-frame buildings on it. On the 1920 map they were labelled as a three story and two two-story wooden houses. By the 1951 map these cinderblock buildings were in place, with the main building extending a bit further back than the 279 building which housed the Army Navy store. The 273 was originally constructed as a double but has since been cut into two. This would place the date of construction between 1921 and 1951.

272
CHHD Anjoorian Block, c. 1980. 2 stories; flat roof; brick and glass; corner commercial block with recessed entrances to 1st floor shops under tall stoops leading to 2nd floor shops; scalloped shingle overhang; truncated corners north and south; more stores in rear ell set back from Meeting Street. (non-contributing)

Has there been a time when Berk’s Shoes was not located here? Barely. A Providence Journal article from 1985 mentioned Berk’s at 278 Thayer — where East Side Pockets is now.5 Also mentioned was how business owners at the time thought it was getting too commercial — a theme that continues to this day. This rather ugly building on Thayer sits on top of what was once a school. In 2004 businesses located there were mainstay Berk’s, Shanghai, Max’s Upstairs, a bank ATM machine, and Wings to Go. The building wraps around a parking lot off of Meeting Street and houses long-time tenants Campus Fine Wines and the Meeting Street Cafe. Previous tenants include Cafe Java, Montanas, Goldies Records, a futon shop and also a Game/Toy store. Before Wings to Go there was a pizza place and an Indian fast food place, too. In 2020 it was still Berk’s, Rev’d (a cyclebar) above that, Soban, and Tropical Smoothie Cafe.

A plaque on the wall says “Anjoorian Building 1976,” which disputes the nomination form’s date of 1980. In the 1908 map was a City of Providence School on this corner of Meeting Street and Thayer. By the 1951 map it was “Auto parking” and it was the same in 1956.

271
Not on the district nomination. In 1908 this parcel under where the Warby Parker (2020) and Gap (2004) sat was two home structures with address 271 Thayer but also 220, 232 and 234 Meeting. An adjacent lot on Meeting was half a concrete structure. By the 1921 map, the concrete structure was a two-story auto garage. This structure is now the Kinko’s FedEx with Flatbread above it. In the 1921 map 271 Thayer Street is a one-story small structure labelled “cobbler” and the homes remain, each three stories, with addresses 228, 230, 232, and 234. By the 1951 map all the houses and the small cobbler shop are gone and replaced with a filling station (gas) and three one-story concrete structures. They are still present in the same configuration in the 1956 map. In a 1962 aerial photo the plat looks like it is being cleared and by 1972 there are cars parked along the Meeting street side but the steep roof of a International House of Pancakes can be seen. It is very blurry, but we believe it was still there in the 1988 photo and replaced by this building by 1997.

The Gap closed late in 2004 as they already had a store in the Providence Place Mall. Other tenants of this building in the past few years were City Sports and Denali Outdoor. A subsidiary company of Brown University owns the building, Fairview Inc., who holds real estate that the University is not using for educational purposes.

269
CHHD After 1895. 2-1/2 stories; hip; clapboard; plate glass windows in broad shallow bay; dormer; greatly altered for commercial use. (since demolished)

We did not capture a photo of the building that this one replaced, but according to comments it contained a vintage clothing store called Appropos. Johnny Rockets was the first tenant of the new building built circa 2001, and remained there for 20 years. The space is now vacant.

The 1908 map shows a house at this location, and the same outline is present in the 1921 map. It was labelled a 2-1/2 story wooden structure. Like much of the Meeting, Brook, Euclid, and Thayer street block, it was likely a bulky if not stately home.

268
CHHD After 1895. 1 story; flat; brick and glass; corner commercial block with parapet.

Andréa’s restaurant moved to this location in 1984, only “three doors from its old site.”6 They are such a staple that celebrities often stop in. As recent as April 2022, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones were seen having Easter brunch. In the same building is another commercial spot at 262. In 2004 Spectrum India was there, who later moved down to 254. That space has been taken over by Andréa’s.

The 1908 map shows houses here as well as where the Avon Cinema is located. By 1921 the configuration is the same as these buildings now, but the building at 252 is not yet constructed.

267
CHHD (labelled 263) After 1895. 2 stories; hipped; stucco; entrances under capped turret; greatly altered for commercial use.

Businesses at this location have been numerous. Nice Slice was there in 2004 until 2017 with Rockstar piercing above them. Now there is a Mexican take out restaurant with a few seats called Caliente.

In the 1908 this plat is empty and extends to Euclid. In 1921 and through 1956, there are two houses here: one labelled 261 which is wooden and 2 stories and seems to have the same outline as the 267 building with the turret. On the corner is what was 257 Thayer and 2 Euclid. The Kebab’n Curry building was not present

261
Before Kebab’n Curry was here, it was a coffee/tea house called Penguins.

Not in the nomination form as we understand it. The Kebab’n Curry house must have been built around 1970 or 1980 as infill between what was 263 and 261 in the report — the description of both 263 and 257 match the visuals we have on file. Addresses change, and so it is possible that this block has shifted.

257
CHHD (labelled 261) After 1895. 2-1/2 stories; end gable; shingle; 2nd overhangs 1st on deep brackets above recessed entrances; shaped bargeboards; greatly altered for commercial use.

Esta’s Too and the Providence Bicycle Annex in the basement we located here in our 2004 photo. In 2011, a short-lived Pizza in a Cone business was here.

261 Thayer/2 Euclid shows up on the 1921 map along with 267 (map snippet seen above). It was demolished in 2013 as part of a larger block of demolitions to make way for 257 Thayer.

260
CHHD Toy Theatre, 1915, remodeled 1938. 2 stories; flat roof; brick; recessed entrance under triangular marquee to L-plan theater; shaped parapets.

The Avon Cinema traces its roots at the location back to the renovation in 1938. The unsuccessful Toy Theatre closed soon after it opened and became a garage for over two decades until the facility was remodeled and opened as the Avon Cinema.7 The triumphal arch design behind the big neon marquee is a notable architectural detail for the street. Its narrow entrance moves back from the street in a long lobby before taking a right turn into the theatre, which actually faces north and fronts Meeting Street.

The 1908 map shows houses where the Avon Cinema is currently. By 1921, the building is there, but as Cinema World mentioned, it is labeled a garage with the note “Built 1915.” In the 1951 map the building is labeled “The Avon Theatre.”

252
CHHD Commercial Block, 193O’s? 1; flat; brick and glass; storefront with corner entrance and polished granite facing on base.

A concrete plaque at the center of the Thayer Street side says “Dale Building.” College Hill Bookstore was located in this building, steps away from the Brown University bookstore, for the longest time. By our photo in 2004, it had closed and Spectrum India was moving from the other side of the Avon into this larger space.

The 1921 map does not yet show this building, but instead shows a two story house and a small plumber’s shop at 258. The 1951 map shows the configuration as we know it now, but sub-divided into three spaces and labeled “Auto Sales.”

249
CHHD Commercial Block, c. 1975. 1 (story); flat (roof); brick, glass and modern comp.; central entrance with bands of windows under half-timbered parapet. (non-contributing)

Many people loved and hung out at the Store 24. Others didn’t appreciate it. Maybe you had to appreciate the movie Clerks to understand the Store 24.

In 1908 there was a large house on this plat. The 1921 map labels it a 2-2/2 story dwelling. The 1951 and 1956 maps show the same dwelling but labeled as 245 Thayer. Its very hard to tell for sure, but the 1962 aerial photo seems to show an empty lot where this house was, in the 1972 photo it is definitely empty, and by the 1981 photo the one story commercial building is in place.

Store 24 closed around 2014 and the small parking lot was used by Gilbane as they were building the new 257 Thayer. Demolition started around 2018 and the new four-story building was completed by 2019.

240-248
CHHD Brown University Commercial and Office Building, 1968-70. Kent, Cruise & Partners, architects. 4 stories; flat; concrete and tile; corner site with 5 bays per side; 3 windows per bay in concrete reveals with concrete frame to each bay; high arcade across east front; recessed entrance to office building off Angell Street.

In the 1908 map a block long, L-shaped building occupies most of the plat and is labeled 238, 240, and 244. The same footprint is on the 1921 map and it is labelled as 2-stories. The 1951 and 1956 maps add the label “Bank” and there is a gas filling station behind it on Angell street. The postal addresses now range from 238 to 248.

Between 2017 and 2019 (according to Google Streetview), the building underwent a facelift to open up the façade with two-story-tall windows.

235
CHHD (178–180 Angell Street) E. P. Anthony Drugs, 1895. Tudor Revival: 2-1/2 stories; brick first story and half-timbered above; gable roof with large gable dormers; varied window treatments; entrance in southwestern corner.

Businesses that we remember here: Maximillians, Geoffs sandwiches, Smoothie King, Ragtime vintage. Now a Chipotle.

In the 1908 map, the outline of this house is present and the back one story portion is brick construction. In the 1951 map, the first floor is outlined in red, which means it was brick-faced. Perhaps it got its brick mid-century.

New set of maps for the remaining properties:

224-234
CHHD (labeled 224–6) c. 1940? 2; flat; brick and glass; former medical office building converted to commercial use; storefronts on 1st turning corner; shaped parapet.

Paragon restaurant was here for what seems like forever. Commenters have mentioned that it used to be Spats, and there was also a clothing shop and jewelry store in this building. Upstairs was Fast Forward Records (which moved from the Coffee Exchange location on Wickenden and then moved to Steeple St.) and at one point In Your Ear was upstairs before they moved up Thayer to 297.

According to GoLocal, Spats was at an Angell Street location for 14 years and was owned by the same family that ran Paragon. Paragon lasted 23 years,8 which is amazing for a restaurant on a commercial strip where changeover happens so fast. Its now (in 2022) a Chase bank branch.

In the 1908 map this is an empty plat and Fones Alley runs all the way through Brown University and down the hill to Waterman Street. By 1921, though, this “C” shaped building is in place and so is the bus tunnel entrance around the corner. In the 1951 map it is labeled simply “Office Building.” That puts the build date of this building earlier than 1940, between 1908 and 1921.

225–233
CHHD Commercial structure, c. 1940. Early twentieth-century modern; 1 story; red brick with plate glass windows set in tan and black tiles surmounted by a red and tan tile belt; large red brick columns flank corner entrance, curves around corner lot.

Before Tealuxe was here for 15 years, the building had many short lived businesses including a chain record store. Two other spaces in this building housed Juniper, Thayer Street Cleaners, Skewers Kabobs, Baja’s Taqueria, and Pie in the Sky. It was home to Ceremony for a short period of time after 2019 but by 2022 it moved around the corner to a new building on Brook and Euclid.

The 1908 map shows an outline of a building that is also in the 1921 map, labeled “The Barrington” boarding house that extended over three lots along Angell Street. By the 1951 map this building is in place and sub-divided into five spaces with postal numbers 223-225, 227, 229, 231, and 233. By 1956 it was the three spaces it is now, though between 2012 and 2014 the size of the spaces were swapped — 225 as the Thayer Street Cleaners was larger than 225 is now, and vice versa for the other space when it switched from Juniper to Skewers.

223
CHHD 1857-75. 2-1/2 stories; hip with cross gable; brick and glass; stable converted to commercial use with storefronts on 1st floor; shaped lintels and stone sills on 2nd floor; bracketed cornice; ventilator; round-headed windows in gable to north.

We remember Au Bon Pain being in this building up until 2016, probably since earlier than 2004. It housed a business called By Chloe for a time, but changed over into Beatnic, a vegan restaurant.

At a build date of 1857, this is the oldest building along this commercial strip of property. All maps show the building, with the 1921 and 1951 maps labelling it a Doctor’s office.

215–221
CHHD Mid-twentieth c. 1; flat; concrete and glass; commercial strip with plate glass storefronts.

Various small businesses over the years, none mentioned specifically yet as this seems to feel like the end of Thayer and perhaps none of the “cooler” shops ever located here. In 2020 FroyoWorld and a poké place were located here.

In the 1908 map had two wooden houses on this lot. The 1921 map labels them a 2 story at number 217 and a 1-1/2 story at 106 Waterman Street. They were still present in the 1951 and 1956 maps. By a 1962 aerial photo this building was in place.

214–218
CHHD Medical Arts Building, B. S. D. Martin, 1938. Mid- twentieth century-modern; 2 story limestone and glass; curving around corner lot.

According to comments this was the first location of The Gap before they moved to the newer 271. Now its Starbucks, a Santander bank branch, Ben & Jerry’s, and Ten One Tea House on the second floor. The Ben & Jerry’s moved here from a a Meeting Street location after that house was torn down as part of a block-wide teardown for the new 257 Thayer. Previous tenants include Allegra print shop, Chez Lenore, and upstairs was Yangs and a cool Jazz record shop.

In 1908 a small house was on this plat in the name of Mary Jackson, postal address 196, with an empty plat to the west in the name of Louize L. Peck. In the 1921 map a different house outline is present and the lot next door has a split duplex on it. The postal address of this house was 218. In the 1951 map the building is present, subdivided into four units, with addresses 222, 220, 218, 216, and 214. Same configuration in 1956.

82 Fones Alley
CHHD Mid-20th century. 1 story; flank gable; concrete block and glass; saltbox with glass storefront.

Bonus! Not technically located on Thayer Street but part of Thayer Street culture, the diminutive Creperie has been making late night sweet and savory crepe snacks since 1999.

Not present in any of the Sanborn Maps and too small to pick out on the aerial photos.

  1. SICLEN, BILL VAN. “Crafty solutions to holiday shopping.” Providence Journal (RI), ALL ed., sec. LIFEBEAT, 12 Dec. 1996, pp. G-01. NewsBank: America’s News, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=NewsBank&docref=news/15251FE227117700. Accessed 5 Aug. 2022. 

  2. IMBRIE, KATHERINE. “BROWSING - Urban Outfitters: Fun clothes, furnishings.” Providence Journal (RI), All ed., sec. Lifestyles, 19 Aug. 2001, pp. L-06. NewsBank: America’s News, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=NewsBank&docref=news/15250B45B9934DB8. Accessed 5 Aug. 2022. 

  3. THOMAS, PAM. “Browsing around On Thayer Street, a place for the kid in all of us.” Providence Journal (RI), ALL ed., sec. HERS, 1 Jan. 1998, pp. H-03. NewsBank: America’s News, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=NewsBank&docref=news/15251D0969F472B0. Accessed 6 Aug. 2022. 

  4. Borg, Linda. “Thayer Street’s Army-Navy store closing.” Providence Journal: Web Edition Articles (RI), sec. News, 28 Oct. 2020. NewsBank: America’s News, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=NewsBank&docref=news/17E68600D2E207B8. Accessed 6 Aug. 2022. 

  5. HUDSON, BERKLEY. “The face of Thayer Street Chains change traditional street Higher rentals, new shoppers force family-owned businesses to move out of immediate area.” Providence Journal (RI), ALL ed., sec. NEWS, 9 Nov. 1985, pp. A-01. NewsBank: America’s News, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=NewsBank&docref=news/1525BEAED009AAC8. Accessed 7 Aug. 2022. 

  6. GALE, WILLIAM K.. “DINING OUT Andrea’s Greek food is tasty, inexpensive.” Providence Journal (RI), ALL ed., sec. WEEKEND, 2 Nov. 1984, pp. D-02. NewsBank: America’s News, infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=NewsBank&docref=news/1525C0ED0FE7F1F8. Accessed 7 Aug. 2022. 

  7. “Avon Cinema.” Cinema Treasures. http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/465. Accessed 9 Aug. 2022. 

  8. “Thayer Street’s Paragon Closed After 23 Years in Providence.’ GoLocal Providence, June 04, 2018. https://www.golocalprov.com/food/new-thayer-streets-paragon-closed-after-23-years-in-providence. Accessed 10 Aug. 2022.