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At the time of its 1994 Most Endangered Properties listing, St. Maria’s Home for Working Girls had suffered more than twenty years of neglect and disrepair. Originally built by Joseph Banigan for the Catholic Church in 1893, the once beautiful building had become a veritable eyesore on Governor Street.

Despite its poor condition, 3½ -story, hipped-roof, H-shaped building maintained much of its original charm. Rounded bay windows and a columned front porch adorned the brick structure and incorporated architectural details of the Queen Anne, French late Gothic and Colonial Revival styles. Designed by architects Martin & Hall, the building was constructed on the site of Governor Fenner’s eighteenth century home.

SAVED: Following its MEP listing, the OMNI Development Corporation, under the leadership of Executive Director Joe Caffey, purchased the St. Maria building. To oversee the rehabilitation, OMNI assembled a team that included Vision III Architects, H.V. Collins Construction, FJS Associates and the Providence Revolving Fund. This collaboration produced a design which created fifty-seven units of elderly housing while remaining sympathetic to the building’s historic character. The final results restored the former chapel, including its stained glass, which now serves as the community room.

OMNI relied largely on federal grants to fund the project. Under its Section 202 program, the Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded OMNI $4.3 million. In recognition of the strength of the design, HUD, under the pressure of limited funds, selected the project out of sixteen property proposals statewide as the only grant recipient that year. OMNI has completed redevelopment project converting historic homes to affordable housing in Northern Elmwood and Upper South Providence. PPS honored OMNI for its work and continued commitment to preservation at the Annual PPS Awards Ceremony in 1997.

    James Crowley MD says:

    My Grandmother Ellen Crowley lived here from 1904-1906. She was part of a program organized by the Catholic Church to bring “working girls” from Ireland for two years to work as domestic servants for the wealthy residents of the East Side of Providence. As part of the program my GM learned to read and write English. She returned in 1906 with a sewing machine.

    Gerry Forde says:

    My Grand- Aunt, Jane Brennan, an emigrant from Roscommon, Ireland, is listed as a Boarder here in the 1910 Census. Her occupation is listed as a Tailoress in a Shop. I have failed to locate her entry date into the US, but in 1901 she claimed her sister Bridget Brennan on entry to the US, and her brother Peter Brennan in 1908. She later migrated to California with her sister Bridget. She died there in 1965.
    I wonder if there are any lists available with names and dates of persons in residence in St. Maria’s ?

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