U.S. Rubber Company building #85

also known as Waterfire Arts Center

A 27,000 sf piece of the former US Rubber Works has been developed into the Waterfire Arts Center

About this Property


After the withdrawal of Streuver Brothers, Eccles and Rouse (SBER) from the nearby American Locomotive Automobile Company buildings (ALCo), the fate of Building 85 was undetermined. Starting in 2010, Barnaby Evans and local development partners started to conceive a new Waterfire Arts Center at this location.

In November 2012, WaterFire Providence purchased this historic property. Empty for nearly a decade and rapidly deteriorating, the large, highly visible building was developed into WaterFire’s headquarters and multi-use arts center that has served as a cultural centerpiece for a burgeoning arts district. In addition to consolidating staff and operations in one facility for enhanced productivity, efficiency and economy, WaterFire’s development of this property complemented the significant investments made at the adjacent ALCo campus as well as further along Valley Street (Rising Sun Mill) and elsewhere in the neighborhood (The Steel Yard).

The WaterFire Arts Center is becoming a much needed alternative arts venue to host exhibitions, events, and performances that often bypass our City and State for lack of a suitable venue. WaterFire Providence has been exploring partnerships with the Providence After School Alliance, the nearby Paul Cuffee Charter School, and other Providence schools over time, to create after school and out of school youth development programs in the WaterFire Arts Center.

The historic building required extensive renovations, including the installation of a new roof, addition of new systems and complete build-out of office, meeting, production, exhibition, performance, education, and visitor spaces. WaterFire Providence and its community development supporters invested approximately $7,500,000 in this redevelopment over five years and opened in June of 2017.

More photos are available on the Waterfire Arts Center Flickr account. Videos of the process are available on Vimeo.

Current Events

A calendar of upcoming events as well as information on renting the various rooms and facilities are available at WaterFire.org.


Note: This property has been split in our archive into three parts: U.S. Rubber Company Mill Complex, U.S. Rubber Company building 85, and the American Locomotive Automobile Company buildings.

A note on the date of construction: The National Register nomination lists a range from 1937 to 1951. The Waterfire Arts Center uses the date 1929, presumably after further research or proof found while the building was being restored. Therefore we have used the date of 1929 for our listing.

From the National Register Nomination form for the United States Rubber Company Mill Complex, Edward Connors, 2005

Building 85, U.S. Rubber Company Building (between 1937 and 1951): A two-story, steel-frame, 200’ by 112’, brick, pier and spandrel building. There are two roof configurations: the rear section of the building has a shallow pitched gable roof; the front section along Valley Street is flat-roofed and 6’ lower than that of the rear. All windows along the Valley Street facade are filled and stuccoes. Some of the surviving original windows are grouped in threes: a 20-light sash flanked by two 16-light sashes. Others consist of three 16-light sashes. A large garage door and a commercial entrance are on the east elevation. This building exhibits the same brick corbelling pattern found on Buildings 11, 18, and 35. [Brickwork above the 2nd-floor windows is corbelled in four courses to meet the surface of the adjoining piers.]

In 1951 this building was utilized for the manufacture of roll covering. […]

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

Located on the south side of Valley Street stands a two-story, flat-roof, brick structure identified on maps as the roll covering building. The structure features slightly projecting brick piers between each bay and large, rectangular window openings with rows of multi-light metal sash windows; many openings have been filled in. Two oversized vehicular entrances with metal roll top doors are located on the building’s east elevation. The Valley Street elevation is devoid of entrances and all window openings have been filled in. A small, one-story, flat-roof, brick ell projects from the south elevation of the building.

The building appears on the 1937 map and is identified as part of the United States Rubber Company complex. […]