Another almighty cube, here garbed in spare Italian Renaissance detail, this represents the first Providence commission for architect Alfred Stone. This was the final home of one of the state’s most intelligent, interesting, and influential industrialists of the nineteenth century. Allen (1795-1882) was born into a family made wealthy in the eighteenth century through shipping. After graduation from Brown University, he turned to textile manufacturing and applied his interests in engineering toward practical ends. He developed “fire-proof” construction for the textile mills, which ultimately influenced insurance policies for industrial complexes, and created a series of reservoirs along the Woonasquatucket River (which flows into Providence from the northwest) to provide more reliable water flow for many water-powered mills along the course, especially during the region’s dry summer and fall months. His wide-reaching interests in science and invention connected him with other like-minded individuals, such as Alexander Graham Bell, and the first telephone call in the state was made between Allen here and Bell in Boston. Brown University acquired the building in 1938. The most recent expansion and remodeling, by Ira Rakatansky in 1980, does well programmatically but suffers from the typically clubby tartiness of that period; however, the building has fortuitously kept intact its original architectural character.
– 2003 Guide to Providence Architecture