Providence Preservation Society Industrial Sites and Commercial Buildings Survey 2001-2002


Background Research
Local and state repositories containing materials pertinent to the project were searched to identify existing documentary resources. The survey team reviewed available secondary sources to develop an understanding of important themes, trends, and events that shaped Providence’s industrial heritage and gather information about the types of resources likely to be encountered in the field. The 1981 Providence Industrial Sites Survey served as a primary source of information for the survey update. Copies of historic maps were collected and reviewed to provide information about development patterns and aid in locating and identifying buildings for survey. Other sources of preliminary information included Sanborn Fire Insurance Atlases, located at the City Archives, and local directories, located at the PPS Resource Library, the Providence Public Library, and the City Archives. At a minimum, each property was researched through a thorough analysis of late nineteenth and early twentieth century atlases, Sanborn Insurance Atlases, and city directories.

Additional information collected included historic photographs and views from the Rhode Island Historical Society (RIHS) and assessor’s field cards and tax records for properties included in the survey.

Reconnaissance Survey
The survey team used information obtained from the Providence Department of Planning and Development to locate historic resources. This information included a list of historic industrial and commercial resources and preliminary Geographical Information Systems (GIS) mapping showing property location. These items were used in the identification of industrial resources in the field.

During this phase, the survey team created a database to input both field and research data. Information entered into this database was used to prepare the final survey documentation.

Intensive Field Work
The survey team met with staff of the RIHPHC to review the field data sheet to be used in the field for survey. Following the agreed upon data sheet, the survey team began field survey, which extended from October 2001 through December 2001. The basic level of information gathered during the intensive survey included locating each property on a base map (current city plat maps), recording an address and estimated or exact date of construction, and at least one black and white photograph. Additional information collected included style and type of construction, number of stories, building materials, roof configuration, number and type of additions, outbuildings, window and door placement and configuration, and setting. The information collected corresponds to pertinent structural data required for the completion of RIHPHC building data sheets.

Following the Intensive Field Work, black-and-white photographs and contact sheets were developed and labeled with name, address of each property, date of photograph, and roll and frame number. These photographs, as well as completed field survey sheets, and preliminary background information were presented to RIHPHC staff over the course of three meetings. The field survey team worked with RIHPHC staff to review each property for its potential inclusion on the State Register of Historic Places. A list of properties that did not appear to meet the eligibility requirements for state listing was prepared by the survey team and submitted to RIHPHC staff. A total of 16 (sixteen) properties were included on this list.

Following this review, the survey team and representatives from the RIHPHC met with City Planning staff and staff of the Mayor’s Office to review the proposed properties to be included in the Landmark District. The survey team continued to work with City Planning staff to provide information on individual properties to insure the successful passing of the City Ordinance. The Industrial and Commercial Buildings District (ICBD) (see appendix) is under the purview of the Providence Historic District Commission (PHDC), which has guidelines that come in to effect only if there is a proposed demolition, a major alteration, or work on over ten percent of the structure or exterior elevations.

Intensive Research
This intensive research includes site-specific research into the history of individual properties. The research focused on obtaining important information to establish the historic significance of selected properties. Among the sources consulted for historical information were published local sources, Providence Board of Trade Journal articles, historical maps, city directories, Providence Journal articles, and local informants. The information from the fieldwork and research was incorporated into the survey data sheet prepared for each property.

Additional data collected on each property included estimates of gross and rentable space, identification as to whether specific sites are located within other existing local and National Register historic districts, greenways projects, etc. Information from the report and survey will be coordinated through the City’s GIS coordinator for inclusion in the City’s information management system.

Final Work Products:

All survey products were prepared according to RIHPHC standards for surveys and meet the requirements of both the National Park Service and the RIHPHC. The final phase of the survey process involved preparing the final forms for each resource and producing the survey report. Two copies of the final survey report will be submitted to the RIHPHC for their review and inclusion in the inventory files. Included within the report are the following:

• original RIHPHC data sheets with black-and-white photographs for each property;
• a set of current City plat maps with each property identified;
• a summary list of inventoried resources, including property name, street address, and plat and lot designations;
• and one set of negatives for the photographs in the report.

In addition, brief individual reports on all properties were prepared and included within the report. This additional information is presented in a narrative format followed by copies of photographs and city assessor’s maps.

The survey research was input by PPS into an Access (relational database) database which can be updated to reflect any future changes to the building(s) and will aid in the preparation of final GIS mapping. The database also includes a key to photographs, name(s) of current property owner(s), and locational information on each property (address, map/lot).

The report also includes information on the various incentives available for redevelopment, including the recently adopted commercial tax credit. This information has been provided by the Department of Planning & Development.

The information contained in this report will be used to guide future planning and decision making. Specific data will be available to developers considering investment opportunities in Providence: certified rehabilitation of these historic industrial sites, which are eligible for state and federal tax credits, possible loans, and other economic incentives. The research will help developers work with city, state, and federal government offices to develop, evaluate and approve preservation-sensitive rehabilitation work.

A draft of the final report was submitted to the RIHPHC for their review in December 2002. Comments received from RIHPHC staff were incorporated into this final report. (Comments received from RIHPHC staff are included in the Appendices section of this report.) PPS is currently working with the City and RIHPHC to disseminate the information contained in this document to mill owners, developers, preservation advocates and others. PPS hopes to provide the information prepared for the survey to as wide an audience as possible.

The online Industrial Sites and Commercial Buildings Survey is a partnership between the Providence Preservation Society and The Providence Plan