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This beleaguered triangular parcel represents a turning point in the history and development of Providence’s industrial heritage. The parcel was severally developed from the mid-nineteenth through the early twentieth centuries, then gradually abandoned by industrial activity. Its historical and visual significance lay on the exquisite way it defined streetfronts and riverfront. The alternating three- and four-story red-brick buildings, with open spaces among them (some, inevitably, the product of previous demolition), occur at a geographically significant confluence of river, roads, and neighborhoods. When an out-of-state developer proposed the acquisition and complete demolition of the parcel for “big-box” retail development, resident loft-dwellers joined forces with the preservation community to save the whole complex. The uneasy coalition never completely agreed on bargaining positions, and the compromise to save four out of seven buildings was not, at the time, completely satisfying. But out of this seeming miasma emerged the country’s first thematic historic-district protection of industrial and commercial buildings across the city. The bureaucratic outcome, ironically, is better than the physical, for the juxtaposition of suburban retail outlets with urban industrial buildings and the banal emphasis on acres of parking in front of the whole mess ultimately defiles the city, though the current local ordinance ensures, one devoutly hopes, that such travesties will not again be inflicted.

– 2003 Guide to Providence Architecture

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© 2023 Guide to Providence Architecture. All rights reserved. Design by J. Hogue at Highchair designhaus, with development & support by Kay Belardinelli.