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About this Property
The United Electric Railways Company (UER), chartered in 1919, was the Providence-based operator of a system of streetcars, trolleybuses, and trolley freight in the early- to mid-twentieth century. UER was born from the previous operator of the streetcar, the Rhode Island Company, after they went into temporary receivership. UER began operations of the consolidated network in 1921, and achieved an all-time high ridership annual of 154 million people in 1923. UER was purchased by the New England Power Company in 19261, the electric generation arm of what would later become Narragansett Electric.
The building was used as a power converter substation until 1955 went it was purchased by a private individual. As early as the 1959 Polk Business Directory2, Cape Cod Staging and Equipment Company, Inc, was listed at 7 Dike Street. Arnold Sahlberg was president and treasury, and the company rented out extension ladders and painter’s staging. The business appeared in the 1985 directory but was not listed in 1990.
After storing bulky, oddly shaped, and long equipment for years, the building changed hands around 1990 and the Skate Hut moved in. An upper floor was a series of skate ramps and one pretty large halfpipe. Underneath on the first floor was “Under the Hut,” a music venue where the likes of Green Day, Fugazi, and Jawbox played.
The building later became home to a series of night clubs starting with Club Therapy and the associated Gallery Insane in 2002. The first mention of Gallery Insane in the Providence Journal archive was a benefit night for the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council in 2002.3
The last mention of Club Therapy was in 2018 in reference to new restrictions imposed on places like Therapy, who do not have a liquor license of their own, but relies on the license of a caterer.4 We are not sure when the club officially closed.
The building itself is a lovely classically-inspired Beaux Arts red brick three story building with arched window tops all around. It is about twice as deep as it is wide, with eight window bays on the western and eastern sides and four on the northern and southern. Decorative elements are similar to the South Street power station, but less grand.
The building is vacant and bas been since 2018 at the earliest. Even when used as a club, it was only lightly used on weekend late nights, and likely has been suffering from much deferred maintenance.
From the “Industrial Sites and Commercial Buildings Survey (ICBS)” by PPS and the AIA, 2001-2002
The building is a three-story, rectangular, brick structure set on the north side of Dike Street immediately adjacent to the Huntington Expressway. The building features many hallmarks of the Classical Revival style, including a classically-inspired door surround, brick corbelling at the cornice, and a stringcourse. The building’s primary entrance is centrally located on the façade within an oversized opening with brick pilasters supporting a simple brick entablature. This entrance is currently boarded up. A vehicular entrance with metal roll top door is offset on the building’s west elevation. Fenestration is comprised of tall, round-arch openings now boarded up. A paved parking lot is located to the west.
This building was originally constructed for use by the United Electric Railways Company in 1914. The building sat adjacent to the railroad tracks of the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad Company. The structure was utilized as a rotary converter station for the United Railways Company until Narragansett Electric purchased the property in 1933. They utilized the property as a converter station as well until 1955 when it was purchased by James H. Doorley. The building sat vacant in 2001 and is now home to Gallery Insane.
All maps linked to original sources. Address shown as 21 Dike Street.
- 1920-1921 Sanborn Insurance Map, Volume 4, plate 14 (page 15) — The first appearance of this converter station, labelled “The Rhode Island Company Transformer House.”
- 1926 G.M. Hopkins Map, plate 36 — Building present and labelled “Transformer House, United Elec. Rwys. Co.”
- 1937 G.M. Hopkins Map, plate 36 — Building present and labelled “Narragansett Elec. Co. Converter Station.”
- 1920-1951 Sanborn Insurance Map, Volume 4, plate 14 (page 15) — Building present and labelled “United Elec. Railways Co. Transformer House, Fire proof construction, Built 1914, Concrete floors and roof, brick walls”
- 1920-1956 Sanborn Insurance Map, Volume 4, plate 14 (page 15) — Same as 1951 but labelled as “Vac.” for vacant.
#In the News
Nightlife - Dancing to the break of dawn - After all the bars close, Olneyville’s Club Therapy hits its groove
by Graham Ambrose
Providence Journal | August 21, 201 (abridged)
[…] At Club Therapy, an after-hours nightclub on Dike Street in Providence’s Olneyville neighborhood, attendance peaks between 2 and 4 a.m., after nearby bars have closed.
“In Providence there’s only one legal after-hours, and it’s Club Therapy,” says Eddy Verna, of Bristol, a promoter at the club. “It’s where people go who want to party until 6 o’clock in the morning.”
Since opening in October 2002, Therapy has filled a void on weekends between midnight and dawn — prime time for night owls not yet ready to sleep and seeking a space to let loose into the early morning hours.
“We’re a niche within a niche,” says Jeff LeClair, the club’s general manager.
From midnight to 6 a.m. each Friday and Saturday night, hundreds revel in the marathonic thrill of an all-night rave with the institutional legitimacy of a nightclub.
The venue hones its shadowy aesthetic, a tableau of ceilings, floors, couches, and stools all awash in black. Under cover of darkness, a spirited crowd moves about the rectangular dance floor in a mass of frenetic energy. Overhead, a whirligig of lights flashes to electronic dance music booming from a booth manned by a DJ. Therapy, which is not licensed to serve alcohol, attracts fans of EDM (electronic dance music) from across the region. […]
“This is by far less violent than any other nightclub I’ve worked,” said Marcel Hernandez, a Boston native who has worked security at clubs around Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
Patrons ascribe the venue’s safety to the security staff and the culture nurtured by the crowd. The small size of the after-hours cohort, especially compared with larger scenes in New York and Miami, encourages trust and fraternity.
“The people that work here are just the best,” said Megan Patry, 19, a Therapy regular from Providence. “I know the owner, I know the security guards, I know the regulars. This is the best club I’ve ever been to.”
On Therapy’s end, the tight-knit community among customers and staff fosters amity, mitigating would-be issues.
“A lot of our problems can be resolved through conversation — getting in between people,” said LeClair. “Knowing everybody resolves issues a lot of the time.”
To patrons and staff, that local spirit of camaraderie depends upon inclusivity.
“After-hours is a very diverse place,” says Verna, who lists doctors, lawyers and the chronically unemployed among club regulars. “It’s a melting pot. You’ve got your gay people, your straight people, your industry people, and everyone in between.”
For some, Therapy’s late hours pose a high barrier to entry, filtering out the visitors unable to stay awake and energized through the early morning.
“It’s not your average lifestyle, but that’s the beauty of it,” Verna said with a beam. “I’ve had the most beautiful and life-changing nights of my life here. What we have going on is really special.” […]
Ambrose, Graham. “Nightlife Dancing to the break of dawn - After all the bars close, Olneyville’s Club Therapy hits its groove.” Providence Journal (RI), sec. RI Features, 21 Aug. 2016, p. 1. 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/15EE7528E27A2048. Accessed 17 June 2023.
“United Electric Railways Company.” Wikipedia, various authors. Captured 17 June, 2023 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Electric_Railways ↩
“Polk’s Providence (Providence County, R.I.) city directory.” 1959 edition, Internet Archive. Captured 17 June 2023 from https://archive.org/details/polksprovidencep1959unse/page/n173/mode/2up?q=%227+Dike%22 ↩
“METRO NOTES.” Providence Journal (RI), Metro ed., sec. News, 12 Nov. 2002, pp. C-02. 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/152509F296795390. Accessed 17 June 2023. ↩
Tempera, Jacqueline. “Providence Mayor’s office outlines legislative priorities Among the bills getting support: Ban of assault rifles, funding for Providence River dredging, more stringent alcohol licensing.” Providence Journal (RI), sec. RI News, 22 Feb. 2018, p. A2. 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/16A3C44682194EC8. Accessed 17 June 2023. ↩