When it was included on the Most Endangered Properties List in 2010, the Brownell & Field Company building (1907-08), located at 119 Harris Avenue, represented one of the few remaining historic structures of its kind due to the demolition of other warehouses and industrial complexes in Smith Hill. This historic building was the original home of Rhode Island’s famed Autocrat coffee company and was included in the city’s Industrial and Commercial Buildings District (ICBD).
The Brownell & Field Co. building represented a typology that faced development challenges during the Great Recession. It was part of the Provisions Warehouse Historic District. Brownell & Field and two adjacent buildings, Standard Wholesale Liquors Co. (1937) at 115 Harris Avenue and Turner Centre System Building (1923-26) at 135 Harris Avenue, were the only buildings remaining in that district.
The building was a three-story, flat-roof, lozenge-shaped, brick industrial building with close proximity to the railroad tracks. The building’s trapezoidal plan is a response both to the rail lines that directly served the building, with access for loading and unloading along the north wall adjacent to the tracks, and to the vehicular traffic that had access to loading bays on the west elevation. Source
On September 20, 2010, the Historic District Commission (HDC) voted to approve the demolition of the Brownell & Field Co. building. Although this is clearly a case of demolition by neglect, as pointed out by members of the HDC, the hands of the Commission were tied in this matter as owner neglect is not reason enough to deny an application for demolition. This matter points out a clear flaw in the HDC guidelines and standards, which members of the Commission have vowed to bring up with the new Mayoral Administration.
LOST: As of February, 2019, there are no new provisions to protect against demolition-by-neglect.
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