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Ratification of the 21st Amendment in 1933 repealed Prohibition in the United States. This ushered in the need for buildings such as this one on Harris Avenue just west of downtown and south of the Woonasquatucket River. Notably, it was built adjacent to a rail spur connecting this industrial and commercial area, sometimes referred to as the Promenade District, to the railroad at its doorstep.

The proximity and orientation to the railway are reflected in the chamfered southeast corner of this brick and concrete three-story warehouse with recessed front loading dock and entrance. The building, occupied by the liquor distributors until the late 1950s and most recently by club venues, has modest, streamlined ornamentation consisting of cast-stone bands and decorative brickwork.

These industrial warehouses were common in this portion of Smith Hill, previously known as the Provisions Warehouse District, but very few are left. This district was vital and vibrant throughout the 20th century and featured Providence’s most prominent food storage, processing, and distribution industries. By the 1980s, the construction of the I-95 ramp for the then-new Providence Place Mall prompted the demolition of several buildings in this area.

Standard Wholesale Liquors Co. was built next door to another beverage distributor, the Brownell & Field Company (1907)—better known as Autocrat Coffee—at 119 Harris Avenue. As with many properties along this corridor, including 115 Harris, the Brownell & Field building is part of what is today the Providence Landmark District. Its neighbor, 119 Harris, was listed on the 2010 MEP List and dolefully approved for demolition by the Historic District Commission on October 8th of that year. This was, however, a textbook but preventable case of demolition by neglect. Today the parcel serves as a parking lot for the Providence Journal.

The Standard Wholesale Liquors Co. building is vulnerable due to its location and relative isolation. PPS is hopeful that a new owner will bring a novel use to this property and provide appropriate rehabilitation to a handsome piece of commercial architecture.

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© 2024 Guide to Providence Architecture. All rights reserved. Design by J. Hogue at Highchair designhaus, with development & support by Kay Belardinelli.