Endangered Properties In Jewelry District

The Jewelry District Association and the Providence Preservation Society are both coming out against a proposed apartment building downtown on Chestnut Street. Architecture critic Will Morgan writes:

The student apartment block proposed for 155 Chestnut Street in the Jewelry District was a bad idea at first, and little–not even lopping the height from twelve stories to nine–has made it any better. It is an inappropriate and over-scaled turkey. Like the Fane Tower, it is the sort of project that epitomizes the city’s failure to understand and capitalize upon its history and to respond sensitively to its many existing urban assets.

Amen to that. (There is a mock-up of the proposal at Morgan’s article.) The Providence Preservation Society has put this cluster of buildings on this year’s Most Endangered Properties List.

PPS does not oppose the design of this modular construction high-rise in the Jewelry District. In fact, it would be a welcome addition and exciting infill. We do find the proposed location, requiring demolition and shoehorning between two rare surviving residential buildings to be wholly inappropriate when the Jewelry District and the neighboring I-195 Redevelopment District are full of available—and vacant—parcels.

The three properties threatened by the proposed development are the 1886 Weeks House at 29 Elbow Street; the 1825 Lewis House at 137 Chestnut Street (which a newish sign identifies as the Mayor Thomas Doyle House); and slated for demolition is the 1941 Pilgrim Manufacturing Co. Building at 155 Chestnut Street (seen here).

From the Jewelry District Association:

The JDA has been vocal in its opposition to the 12-story [now 9-story] structure that would impact these buildings. As the PPS points out, the proposed tower would both demolish a useable commercial space and dwarf the nineteenth-century houses.

The JDA appreciates the need to “build up,” but this simply isn’t the best place for it. As the PPS notes, there are numerous surface parking lots surrounding the site that are ripe for smaller developments. Additionally, there are a number of large sites in the neighborhood where the proposed building could be situated with minimal modifications.


Below is the Arthur B. and Laura Weeks House (1886) at 29 Elbow Street. Like the Mayor Doyle House, it would not be demolished, but certainly overwhelmed. The scale of the streetscape would be obliterated. PPS describes the property:

The Weeks House, comprising a restrained and classically detailed body and mansard roof, is notable as the only original and continually used private residence in the district.

3 thoughts on “Endangered Properties In Jewelry District”

  1. Roland Peltier

    Rethink the demolition of properties that have stood the test of time; their histories are gone once torn down or isolated in a sea of high or medium rises. The mill conversions are an example and testament to Rhode Island”s strong industrial history and a magnet for those with an interest in a spectacularly unique living space, Otherwise unavailable in many other areas of the country; it is an inherited gift.

  2. Taquito Monstrito

    While my general opinion is that the PPS takes preservation to somewhat fetishistic extremes, in this case they’re absolutely right that we should be starting with the insane amount of surface level parking in the Jewelry/Hospital district. Why we need to be blighted with their ugliness is entirely unclear to me.

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