United States Rubber Company Mill Complex

also known as Saxon Worsted Company, Joseph Banigan Rubber Company, Revere Rubber Company, Uniroyal, Eastern Butcher Block

A dense complex of 20 buildings built over the course of 50 years has ben converted from maufacturing to new-arts-industrial to residential

About this Property

#Redevelopment

In July of 2010, Rachel Rafaelian1 bought what was then Eastern Butcher Block for $530,000. She and partner Erik Bright of PCIS renovated the building for artist spaces. They had planned on only 25, which makes us wonder which building they purchased or how large the spaces were supposed to be (the buildings currently house 302 apartments). The grand plan was pretty grand. According to an article from the Providence Business News in 2010:2

Rafaelian and Bright plan to create 25 spaces and rent them to artists at $5 to $6 a square foot, plus utilities. Plans also call for wood-making and glass blowing shops that people can rent by the hour or the day. And, if financing permits, they want to install a commercial-grade kitchen that beginning caterers and culinary students can use.

The idea and their intentions, it seems, were good. The article talks about how they wanted to make sure artists could afford the space, recent graduates had a place to create community, and another “luxury” condo development would be avoided.

Indeed, in April of 2011, 24 code compliant units opened. “This is a similar model to our current projects, located at Conley’s Wharf and the Nicholson File Building, where we have 56 commercial tenants that employ 147 full-time and 42 part-time jobs,” said Rafaelian. “It is our firm belief that this development will complement the industrial character and much of the recent historic preservation work in the Promenade District […]”3

2013 Providence Phoenix issues listed events at “Butcher Block Mills” up until early 20134. We are not yet sure what happened in mid- to late-2013, but according to news reporting, Connecticut developers Brady Sullivan became owner of the property in January 2014 and applied for state historic tax credits to redevelop it into residential loft spaces. It took more about two years, but spaces opened for lease in late 20165.

#Current Events

For leasing information, visit the Brady Sullivan website.

#History

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 story about Joseph Banigan on RhodeTour
  • Information about the broader company dealings outside of Providence from En-Academic.com Interesting highlights
    • Nine companies consolidated to become the United States Rubber Company in 1892
    • The companies also consolidated their footwear brands under one name and became Keds in 1917 — the first canvas-top “sneakers”
    • U.S. Rubber was one of the original twelve companies listed in 1896 on the Dow-Jones Industrial average
    • Then-company-president Arthur H. Adams dies in the sinking of the “RMS Lusitania” at the age of 46
    • After 1931, U.S. Rubber’s plant in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, was one of the world’s largest supplier of original equipment tires
  • Around 2008, Scott Molloy published a book about Joseph Banigan called “Irish Titan, Irish Toilers”

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

The United States Rubber Company Mill Complex is a large factory complex that evolved from the late-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, consisting, for the most part, of large, long, gable-roofed, red brick buildings, one to five stories tall, on an expansive site along Valley Street, on the banks of the Woonasquatucket River. […]

The complex occupies an area of slightly more than 23 acres. It is defined by Valley Street to the north, Richmond Place to the west, Hemlock Street to the east, and the Woonasquatucket River to the south. Eagle Street, the former eastern boundary of the late 19th-century Joseph Banigan Rubber Company Complex, now runs in a north-south axis through the complex. The [US Rubber property] consists of buildings, overhead walkways and pipeways, asphalted areas, and interior roadways. A granite water level marker is also inventoried. There are significant remains of two bridges that once spanned the Woonasquatucket River and a reinforced concrete enclosed bridge spanning Eagle Street. […]

Significance

[…] Joseph Banigan (1839–1898) relocated to Woonsocket from Providence in 1864 to set up a factory for the production of rubber blankets and rollers for clothes wringers. He had previous experience in the manufacture of rubber bottle stoppers in a small operation in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.

Banigan appears to have had a potent combination of technical and entrepreneurial genius and luck, for his operations expanded dramatically, eventually encompassing the manufacture of rubber boots and shoes. By 1889 he had set up the Alice factory in Woonsocket, at the time the largest rubber factory in the world.

The economic climate of the 1890s drew Joseph Banigan into the United States Rubber Company, a combination established in 1892. Banigan became president of this firm a year later, only to resign in 1896 out of a distaste for the company’s singular emphasis on stock value and consequent disinterest in manufacturing innovation. The same year, Banigan purchased the plant of the Saxon Worsted Company along Valley Street on the north bank of the Woonasquatucket River and hired William Gilbane and Brothers to erect a 7-story tower on the main Saxon factory building and add at least one story to Building 3. Banigan added other buildings to create a plant for the manufacture of rubber footwear. Although altered, expanded, and connected by infill over the decades, the early Saxon buildings and most of the early buildings associated with the Joseph Banigan Rubber Company survive.

Banigan died in 1898. His successor, Walter S. Balou, who had been associated with him for decades, took over the company, eventually selling it in 1910 to the same rubber trust from which Banigan had resigned fourteen years earlier. The new owner was Revere Rubber Company, a division of United States Rubber Company. Revere shifted its production from footwear to rubber tires and rubber thread. […]

In the eight years following the acquisition, the Banigan plant underwent a dramatic expansion. […] In 1910 U.S. Rubber Company purchased a parcel of land on the east side of Eagle [Street] in the vicinity of the American Locomotive Company plant. […] With the U.S. entry into WWI, the company had difficulty meeting war production orders for rubber goods, notably balloons for military use. In what the Providence Journel described as “one of the largest real estate transactions that has been recorded in this city,” U.S. Rubber purchased the idle ALCO buildings and began outfitting them for the manufacture of solid and pneumatic tires. […]

U.S. Rubber secured extensive military contracts during WW2, reaching an all-time high employment figure of 3200. Because of military needs and restricted sources of latex, rubber was rationed during these years. DuPont introduced synthetic rubber, or neoprene, on the market in 1932 and the Providence U.S. Rubber plant converted to this new technology to address the shortages. By 1948 the company had reconverted to natural rubber production. […]

Architecture

[Unlike the National Register nomination report, we have placed the buildings in order by build date. Headings for building groupings have been added by A.I.R.]

Buildings 3 and 5 represent the Saxon Worsted Company as built between 1890 and 1896
Granite water level marker (after 1875)

On Richmond Place in the vicinity of Building 15 is a polished granite marker with inscribed notations of various water levels for dams (including the early Rutenberg dam and upstream Rising Sun Pond), raceways, normal flow, and hurricane waters. The four faces of the base are inscribed with four correctly-oriented compass points. The only date inscribed is that of an 1875 hurricane water level. The marker rests on a concrete bed. […] Although resembling a monument, this marker may have served the purpose of visually indicating changes in water level due to the raising of dams.

Building 3, Saxon Worsted/Banigan Rubber Company building (c. 1890, 1896)

A brick, four-story, roughly 125’ by 50’, trapezoidal plan, timber frame, building. The foundation is granite; the roof is flat with a wooden cornice. Although the exact history is unclear, this building appears to have been built as a one-story component of the Saxon Worsted plant. An 1896 Providence Journal of Commerce item describes Joseph Banigan’s intentions to build a one-story, 137’ by 40’ addition to the existing plant. The roof has a small parapet at the east end, from which the rest of the roof pitches downward. This parapet is supported on the Valley Street façade by a cantilevered brick bracket. Attached to Buildings 1, 2, 4, and 5, this building occupies the space between the rear of Building 5 and Valley Street. In 1921 it was used as a wash house (1st floor) and rubber drying room (2nd, 3rd, and 4th floors). […]

A rear 3-story, brick tower connects this building to Building 5, Building 7 (q.v.) and provides passage between this building and Building 5.

Building 5, Saxon Worsted/Banigan Rubber Company Main Manufacturing Building (c. 1890, 1896)

A four-story, 325’ by 50’, brick building resting on a granite foundation, built by Saxon Worsted about 1890. Joseph Banigan acquired this building in 1896 and hired Gilbane Brothers to build a 7-story tower. This building served as the main manufacturing plant of Banigan Rubber Company. Iron columns are round-section; floor and truss framing is timber. The 1896 off-center, seven-story tower with segmental arch windows and ornate Victorian detailing has been altered significantly. These tower alterations include the removal of two stories above the brick corbelling as well as removal of the original paired segmental arch windows on the three remaining floors. These arched openings were partially bricked-in the early 20th century to create the rectangular openings visible today.

Building 5 once faced a landscaped courtyard defined by the perpendicular siting of Building 10 (1896) and a former hipped-roof, frame, two-story office building (demolished between 1951 and 1960) that once stood along Richmond Place. The west end of the first floor (adjacent to the boiler room in Building 2) housed an engine room.

The building has a gable roof with exposed rafter ends. A 20th-century brick transformer enclosure is found at the west end of the first floor. An early-20th-century, one-story, brick electrical room has built at the foot of the tower’s west wall. The area to the east of the tower serves as a loading dock for Building 5 and 8. […]

Original windows, many of which are found on the rear elevation are segmental arch, wood-frame windows with a wooden sill. These consist of an 8-light transom fitted to the arch and lower 12- and 8-light sashes. The remaining windows are of various 20th-century designs or brick-filled.

The main entrance to this building is an altered 20th-century doorway at the base of the tower. A partial east tower connects this building with Building 6.

Buildings 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, and 14 represent the Joseph Banigan Rubber Company plant as it existed from 1896 until 1910

Saxon Worsted Company was acquired by Joseph Banigan who added buildings 1, 2, 10, and 14 immediately in 1896.

Building 1, Banigan Rubber Company Building (1896)

A small, two-story, pitched roof brick building attached to Building 2 and originally of trapezoidal plan. In the early 20th-century, a small ell was added to extend the building westward about 15’ to Richmond Place. The older part of the building has a granite foundation; the foundation of the ell is concrete. Although the original function of this building is unclear, its location next to the Boiler House (Building 2) and adjacent to a chimney (now demolished) that once stood n the gap between these two buildings indicates that it served as part of the plant’s power generation. In 1921 it served as a Compound Room.

Windows in the 1896 portion are segmental arch, consisting of upper, paired, 4-light fixed sashes with a 12-light sash below. The sills and sashes are wooden. In the later ell, the windows are segmental arch with a brick sill with rectangular metal frame windows. […] A large, elevated, double wooden door at the west elevation of the ell opens onto Richmond Place.

Building 2, Banigan Rubber Company Boiler House (1896)

A brick, deep single story, roughly 30’ by 50’, timber-frame, shallow gable-roofed boiler house connected to Building 1. Although the foundation is not visible, the construction date of this building would indicate that it is granite. The cornice is wooden with rafter ends exposed. Single story, brick infill built between 1918 and 1921 occupies the space between this building and Building 5.

Building 10, Banigan Rubber Company Carpenter and Last Shop (1896)

A four-story, 160’ by 50’, brick, gable-roofed building, sited perpendicular to Building 5 and built as the Carpenter and Last Shop. A “last” is a model of the human foot used in the forming of footwear. Framing consists of heavy timber with round-section iron columns.

This building originally faced into the courtyard until the construction of the Buildings 8 and 9 in 1911. […] The foundation is granite. The cornice is wooden.

Although several are brick-filled, upper floor windows are typically segmented arch, wood frame consisting of an 8-light upper sash fitted to the arch, a fixed 12-light sash, and a movable 8-light sash. […]

In 1921 this building housed a thread cutting operation (1st floor), steam curing (2nd floor), and golf ball manufacture (3rd floor). […]

Building 14, Banigan Rubber Company Building (1896 et seq.)

A brick, 62’ by 18’, single-story, gable-roofed building on the north bank of the Woonasquatucket. The western approximate half of this building appears to date to the original Banigan Rubber plant. It was lengthened to about twice its original size by the U.S. Rubber Company between 1911 and 1918. The original space separating it from Building 18 was infilled in the early 20th century. Four segmental arch openings on the north elevation are cinder block filled or altered with modern metal inserts. On the west elevation is a cinder block connector to the modern shipping dock of Building 15. Its floor is concrete.

The function of this building in the original Banigan plant is unknown. In 1921, it served as a cement house and churn house. […]

Joseph Banigan Rubber Company acquired by U.S. Rubber 1910

Buildings 4, 6, 8, 9, 11, 12, 15, 18, 33, and 34 represent an expansion of the banigan Rubber Company plant after its acquisition by the U.S. Rubber Company in 1910. Most of these buildings were constructed by Cruise and Smiley, of Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

Building 9, U.S. Rubber Company Building (1911)

A two-story, 162’ by 56’, brick, rectangular plan, steel frame, gable roofed building. At the ground level two original segmental arch openings are altered: one is brick filled; the other has been altered to accept a modern door. Upper story windows are rectangular metal frame. An oculus facing the alley is now filled with plywood. Above this oculus is a panel reading RRCO 1911 (Revere Rubber Company).

In 1921 this building was used for rubber storage (1st floor) and tire curing (2nd floor).

Building 15, U.S. Rubber Company Machine and Carpenter Shop (1911 et seq.)

A two-story, steel-frame, brick, flat-roofed, 120’ by 50’, pier and spandrel building. Ground floor steel columns are partially encased in concrete. Originally this building had an irregularly-shaped, single-story brick ell labeled as Building 16. In the late 20th-century a concrete block second story was added. This addition may have been carried out at the same time as the construction of the modern shipping dock and enclosure used by Eastern Butcher Block. […]

An altered segmental arch door opens to the courtyard defined by Buildings 5 and 8. An original, wooden, 2nd story freight door survives. Although most windows are of the modern replacement type, original metal-frame windows are found on the 2nd floor of the north and west elevations. These are rectangular, 30-light, metal frame, with a 9-light hopper. The roof is flat with half-round ceramic coping defining the roofline.

In 1921 this building housed a machine shop (1st floor) and a carpenter shop (2nd floor). It also housed the company printshop. […]

Building 4, U.S. Rubber Company Building (between 1911 and 1918)

A single-story, brick, trapezoidal plan infill building, roughly 130’ by 44’, built int he space defined by Valley Street and the rear elevation of Building 5. This shallow-pitched gable roof building is attached to Building 3, 5, and 6. It has a concrete foundation, steel beam roof structure, and half-round ceramic coping at the roofline. Windows are loosely-spaced, segmental arch, metal-frame, 12-light, with a brick sill. The entrance to this building is at the east end of neighboring Building 3. In 1921 it served as a rubber thread room.

Building 18, U.S. Rubber Company Dip Goods Building (1911)

A two-story, brick, 115’ by 32’ building sited at the edge of the Woonasquatucket. This steel frame, pier and spandrel building has a concrete foundation and a flat roof with a half-round ceramic coping defining the roofline. Brickwork above the 2nd-floor windows is corbelled in four courses to meet the surface of the adjoining piers. Surviving original windows are 20-light metal frame set in a rectangular opening with a brick sill. A six-light casement pivots open. Some original windows, especially those on the first floor, have been replaced with late 20th-century replacement type. Two overhead walkways span the alley to permit passage to Buildings 8 and 10. There are three segmented arch openings on the first floor; two are brick-filled. The remaining arched entrance has an original transom and a late 20th-century metal door. A partial, shingled gable roof was added over the existing roof sometime ca 1970.

Building 25, U.S. Rubber Company Laboratory (1913)

A 3-story, 100’ by 37’, flat-roofed, reinforced concrete building with brick walls. Altered modern entrances are located on the east and north elevations. No original windows survive.

Combined walkway, bridge, and ground-floor enclosure connecting Buildings 10 and 24 (between 1913 and 1921)

A reinforced concrete frame and stuccoed brick structure that comprises a ground-level enclosed room. This structure is 160’ by 12’ and is supported by four concrete piers and the walls of the ground floor enclosure. A low parapet, partly brick and partly concrete is defined by ceramic coping. Windows are rectangular, 24-light, metal frame with a concrete sill. […]

Building 11, U.S. Rubber Company Dip Goods Building (between 1918 and 1921)

This 100’ by 32’ building is an extension of Building 18, duplicating its design. It extends from the east wall of Building 18 to Eagle Street. Unlike Building 18, there are no street level segmental arch entrances. Two modern garage doorways have ben cut in along the alley. […] The south foundations of Buildings 11 and 18 are integral with the Woonasquatucket river wall.

Building 12, U.S. Rubber Company Boiler House (between 1918 and 1921)

An irregular plan, brick, roughly 100’ by 50’, two-story boiler house. The roof is flat and defined by ceramic coping. Windows are metal frame set in a segmental arch opening. One segmental arch entrance and two modern garage doors are located on the south elevation. A second-floor walkway sheathed in corrugated steel allows passage to the bridge spanning Eagle Street.

In 1921 this building was subdivided for three separate industrial functions. The eastern section served as the boiler house; the middle section was a pump room drawing fuel from nearby tanks; and the rear section housed refrigeration machinery.

Building 34, U.S. Rubber Company building (between 1918 and 1921)

A roughly 50’ by 70’, trapezoidal plan extension of Building 6 occupying the corner of Valley and Eagle Streets. All Eagle Street segmental arch openings have been bricked-in. The upper-story oculus windows on this elevation are also fitted with ventilation fans.

Building 24, U.S. Rubber Company Storage Building (1923)

A 5-story, flat roofed, reinforced concrete frame structure with brick spandrel walls. This interplay of brick and concrete forms a rigid square grid relieved only by off-center stair tower on the south elevation. The roofline is defined by a low parapet with half-round ceramic coping. A concrete loading dock for a rail spur is located on the north elevation. The roof is covered with rubber membrane.

Original windows are metal frame, 14-light with two 4-light hoppers. A row of original paired, 12-light, metal-frame windows is found along the first floor loading dock on the north elevation. The second floor of this elevation has early 20th-century, 12/12, wood sash, double hung windows set in re-bricked openings. […]

An elevated, enclosed bridge spans Eagle Street and connects this building to Building 10.

Building 33, U.S. Rubber Company Connector Building (between 1926 and 1937)

A four-story connector building between Buildings 5 and 8. This reinforced concrete frame structure is similar in design to Buildings 14 and 15 (1913). The concrete loading dock along the elevation of Building 5 likely dates to this period. A ground-level, corrugated steel enclosure has been built on this dock at the base of the building. Within this enclosure, original first floor segmental arch window openings are concrete block filled.

Building 35, U.S. Rubber building (1929)

A single-story, 112’ by 340’, brick, flat-roofed building designed by Lockwood Greene and built by Cruise Construction (Pawtucket). This irregularly massed building has two different roof heights along Valley Street: a 4-bay section at the east end and a 10-bay section at the west end are 25’ in height. The 20-bay section that forms the middle is 19’ in height. The floor is concrete. An elevator tower is located on the Eagle Street elevation. An elevated garage door opens onto Eagle Street. A series of single-story additions built between 1951 and 1960 are found on the east elevation. Typical windows are paired, rectangular, metal-frame, 18-light with concrete sill.

Building 37, U.S. Rubber Company building (between 1937 and 1951)

A single-story, 100’ by 75’, steel-frame, gable-roofed, utilitarian building resting on a raised concrete foundation. The roof is shingled. Concrete block infill now connects this building to the east elevation of Building 24. The building is sheathed with stamped steel panels with a simple, geometric design.

Building 85, U.S. Rubber Company building (between 1937 and 1951)

[For a description and photographs of Building 85, now construction dated at 1929, see our property listing for U.S. Rubber Company building 85.]

Acquisition of the American Locomotive Automobile Company buildings in 1918

[For descriptions and photographs of Buildings 51, 52, 53, 56, 58, 61, 62, and 87, see our property listing for the American Locomotive Automobile Company buildings.]

#In the News

Providence’s U.S. Rubber complex bouncing back as lofts

by Christine Dunn
Providence Journal | September 9, 2016 (abridged)

The former factory’s transformation is the latest project for developers resuscitating old mills across R.I.

Read the full article

This summer, work is under way to transform sections of the sprawling U.S. Rubber factory complex at Eagle and Valley streets into 302 loft-style apartments.

The development, called U.S. Rubber Lofts, is the latest Rhode Island project of Brady Sullivan Properties, of Manchester, New Hampshire, and Christopher Starr, a developer from Massachusetts. Together, the Brady Sullivan-Starr partnership has redeveloped former mill properties into apartments across Rhode Island.

West of downtown Providence, in the Valley/Olneyville neighborhoods, the first phase of the new development will include 143 apartments in 13 buildings at 11 Eagle St., according to Starr.

A neighboring building, the former Eastern Butcher Block Mill, at 25 Eagle St., will yield another 22 apartments. And another 137 apartments will be built in former American Locomotive buildings on Valley Street.

In 2014, the developers won a contract for $4 million in state historic rehabilitation tax credits, based on a $20-million project cost, and federal historic rehabilitation credits are also part of the financing package. Robert Azar, deputy director of Providence’s Department of Planning & Development, said there is no tax-stabilization agreement for the new development. […]

But Brady Sullivan, which specializes in mill redevelopment projects, recently ran into trouble with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over a property in its home base of Manchester.

In August, the EPA said it would seek a $139,171 penalty from two Brady Sullivan-controlled limited liability companies under a civil complaint alleging that federal lead paint regulations were not followed at a commercial and residential property at the Mill West site in Manchester. While removing lead paint from the walls of a building in 2015, a subcontractor, Environmental Compliance Specialists Inc., allowed lead dust to contaminate some occupied apartments in the same building, and there was insufficient notification of affected residents, according to the EPA. The agency is also seeking a penalty of $152,848 from ECSI, of Kingston, New Hampshire.

“I’m aware of the publicity” about the Mill West problems, said Warren’s town manager, Jan Reitsma, a former director of the state Department of Environmental Management. But he said the renovation of the American Tourister site has been proceeding smoothly, and the company, which meets monthly with town officials to discuss the project, has been nothing but cooperative. “I’m not aware of any problems here,” he said.

Knowing about the problems at Mill West, he said, means “you become more interested in making sure things are on the up and up.” But he added that many large real-estate developers have experienced similar problems at one time or another. “It happens to the best of them,” he said.

In 2005, another out-of-town developer, Baltimore-based Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse announced plans for a $333-million mixed-use development of the 23-acre U.S. Rubber complex. Struever’s grand plan called for 650 residences, 450,000 square feet of commercial space and a 180-room hotel. But the company faltered in the wake of the economic crisis of 2008, and a section of the site was slated for a foreclosure auction in 2011. […]

Brady Sullivan-Starr Development mill-to-apartment projects in R.I.

  1. American Wire, 413 Central Ave., Pawtucket, 139 apartments
  2. Grant Mill, 299 Carpenter St., Providence, 85 units
  3. Lofts at Pocasset Mill, 75 Pocasset St., Johnston, 92 units
  4. Slater Cotton Mill, 75 South Union St., Pawtucket, 124 units
  5. Harris Mill Lofts, 618 Main St., Coventry, 156 units
  6. Lofts at Anthony Mill, 624 Washington St., Coventry, 122 units
  7. American Tourister, Main Street, Warren, 290 units
  8. U.S. Rubber, Eagle and Valley streets, Providence, 302 units

Captured July 21, 2021 from https://www.providencejournal.com/news/20160909/providences-us-rubber-complex-bouncing-back-as-lofts

Providence’s U.S. Rubber Co. developers awarded $4M in R.I. historic tax credits

by Christine Dunn
Providence Journal | January 24, 2014 (abridged)

The development team that owns the former American Tourister factory in Warren has snagged $4 million in state historic tax credits to redevelop part of the U.S. Rubber Co. mill complex.

Read the full article

The $4 million tax-credit award to Brady Sullivan Eagle Street, LLC is the largest approved so far by the Rhode Island Division of Taxation since a lottery was held in August to distribute $34.5 million in state historic tax credits.

To date, six projects have final tax-credit commitments; the other five range in size from $76,928, for the Arnold Saunders House project at 7 Parkis Ave., Providence, to $2.5 million for the Lymansville Company mill redevelopment in North Providence.

In his new budget proposal released earlier this month, Governor Chafee laid the groundwork for an additional $52 million in historic tax credits to stimulate the economy.

The U.S. Rubber site, near the intersection of Eagle Street and Kinsley Avenue, between the former Butcher Block Mill at 25 Eagle St. and Valley Street, is in the industrial center near Eagle Square, where other historic buildings have been converted for office, retail and commercial use. It is also near the massive American Locomotive Works complex.

According to Roberta Randall, an architect with the state’s Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission, the former owner of the U.S. Rubber site, Frank Gamwell, originally applied for the tax credits. She said Gamwell had proposed 144 residences as part of his “Eagle Street Lofts” project. But with new ownership, “I’m assuming that we’ll see some changes” to the original plan, she said.

Shane Brady and Arthur Sullivan, principals of Brady Sullivan Properties, of Manchester, N.H., along with partner Christopher Starr, a Massachusetts developer, purchased the U.S. Rubber site in early January, for about $725,000, according to Starr. Brady Sullivan and Starr have developed hundreds of apartments at former mill sites in Rhode Island, including the Anthony Mill in Coventry, the Slater Cotton Mill in Pawtucket and the Pocasset Mill in Johnston, among others; and plans are currently under way to redevelop the riverfront Tourister site in Warren.

Starr said plans for the U.S. Rubber property are not set, and it will be planned in conjunction with state historical commission experts and the City of Providence. “There may be minor tweaks” to the original plans, he said, and the project will involve the redevelopment of 150,000 to 160,000 square feet of factory space.

In 2005, Baltimore-based Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse announced plans for a $333-million mixed-use development of the larger 23-acre U.S. Rubber complex: a nine-phase development with 650 residences, 450,000 square feet of commercial space and a 180-room hotel. But although part of the site was redeveloped, the grand plan was effectively abandoned as the economy faltered in 2007. A section of the site was slated for a foreclosure auction in 2011.

“The site has a complex history of ownership, use and change,” according to architectural historian Ned Connors, who wrote the National Register of Historic Places nomination for the U.S. Rubber Company site when the Struever Bros. plan was in play.

“The Joseph Banigan Rubber Company began operations in 1896 at the western end of the present complex,” Connors wrote in the nomination report. “These works were acquired by Revere Rubber Company, a division of U.S. Rubber Company, in 1910. Over time, U.S. Rubber improved the Banigan works, expanding easterly across Eagle Street to the vicinity of the American Locomotive Company (successor to the Rhode Island Locomotive Works) … . The remainder of the complex represents the U.S. Rubber Company’s addition of buildings in its eastward expansion to Hemlock Street.”

The original Banigan factory was west of Eagle Street, and U.S. Rubber was to the east, Connors said.

“It’s a convoluted corporate history,” Connors said, but he remembers being intrigued by Banigan, who was “a rather quixotic character.”

“He was part of that Irish [wave] that came up in the 19{+t}{+h} century,” he said. “They came up with nothing, absolutely nothing.” A potato famine led Banigan’s family to emigrate from Ireland to America, and he went to work at age 9.

Although he became president of U.S. Rubber after selling his company to that firm for $9 million, Banigan walked away from the corporation “when he realized all they were thinking about was profit and yield,” Connors said. “He had an anti-corporate mentality.”

“Talk about an American story,” Connors added.

Connors said residential development is key to the revitalization of the Eagle Square area. “I’m always supportive of residential stuff because I think it adds a lot of vitality in the long run,” he said. “The key thing to making a neighborhood viable is people living there.”

“This is great news for the city,” said James Bennett, director of the city’s Department of Economic Development. “A well-established developer with a demonstrated track record recognizes the opportunities that exist in Providence, and will be breathing new life into both the building and Olneyville.”

Captured July 15, 2021 from https://www.providencejournal.com/article/20140124/News/301249990

Valley project boosts arts community; former mill to provide affordable space

by Chris Barrett
Providence Business News | November 29, 2010 (abridged)

Rachel Rafaelian and Erik Bright say the Valley section of Providence holds the potential for a vibrant arts community. But the area needs a little something more to tip the scales from a niche sideshow to a major magnet for economic activity centered on the arts.

Read the full article

Rachel Rafaelian and Erik Bright say the Valley section of Providence holds the potential for a vibrant arts community. The Monohasset Mill [partially] redeveloped by Bright hosts budding creative businesses and, down the street, The Steel Yard boasts a lively arts organization. Farther east, the American Locomotive Works complex is taking on a new life as offices.

But the area needs a little something more to tip the scales from a niche sideshow to a major magnet for economic activity centered on the arts, Rafaelian and Bright say.

They think they have found that something in the former Eastern Butcher Block Corp. mill on Eagle Street. Purchased by Rafaelian in July for $530,000, the formerly vacant mill is now undergoing renovations to create space for artists at rents they can afford.

“We could have turned this into high-end residences,” Rafaelian said. “There’s too much of that already. There was a need for this.”

Rafaelian and Bright say artists, particularly young ones, cannot afford rents in Providence. And graduates fresh from of the Rhode Island School of Design or Johnson & Wales University have limited access to expensive ceramic, glass or woodworking studios where they can sharpen their skills. And culinary students looking to build catering or pastry companies face hurdles without access to pricey industrial kitchens.

Rafaelian and Bright plan to create 25 spaces and rent them to artists at $5 to $6 a square foot, plus utilities. Plans also call for wood-making and glass blowing shops that people can rent by the hour or the day. And, if financing permits, they want to install a commercial-grade kitchen that beginning caterers and culinary students can use.

Renovation work along the way includes repairing the roofs, the hardwood floors and the windows. The two are taking particular pains to preserve the mill’s historic character, drawing doors, light fixtures and flooring from old mills in the area. And to keep the historic views, workers plan to replace some 2,500 individual panes of glass in the industrial-size windows. Bright said he’s budgeted $600,000 for the project, which he expects to wrap up by early next year.

Captured July 31, 2021 from an Archive.org copy at https://web.archive.org/web/20101129133806/http://pbn.com/Valley-project-boosts-arts-community,54046 Only page 1 was archived.

  1. Rachel Rafaelian was Alex & Ani’s director of merchandise control and designer of the Vintage 66 line, and by last name alone, seems to be a relative of owner Carolyn Rafaelian. (Source: https://www.rimonthly.com/a-charmed-existence/2/) She has had an address at Monohasset Mill, North Kingston, and the Butcher Block studios. 

  2. “Valley project boosts arts community; former mill to provide affordable space,” Chris Barrett, Providence Business News, November 29, 2010. Captured from an Archive.org copy at https://web.archive.org/web/20101129133806/http://pbn.com/Valley-project-boosts-arts-community,54046 

  3. “Historic mill re-opens with incubator space,’ South Coast Today, April 22, 2011. Captured July 31, 2021, from https://www.southcoasttoday.com/article/20110422/SCBULLETIN/105010322 

  4. Listing in the middle of page 18, Providence Pheonix, February 1, 2013 issue. Captured July 31, 2021, from an archive at https://issuu.com/thebostonphoenix/docs/providence_phoenix_020113_web/18 

  5. Brady Sullivan Facebook announcement from November, 2016, captured July 31, 2021, from https://www.facebook.com/bradysullivanproperties/posts/introducing-the-newest-location-in-the-brady-sullivan-portfolio-us-rubber-lofts-/1668582900099238/