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United Traction Company Trolley Barn

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1900. 833 Cranston St. (opposite Depot St.)

Dilapidation does not obscure the impressiveness of this massive brick barn erected for one of the Rhode Island Company's electric trolley lines. Around 1900 industrial buildings associated with emerging electrical technology tended to receive special architectural attention. Such was also the case with the Narragansett Electric Company's slightly later Manchester Street generating plant ( PR042). There, Neo-Renaissance detail notwithstanding, the treatment anticipated a more modern approach to the industrial structure. Here the image is more archaic—powerfully so, and especially in the spreading central gable with its tiered arching and its rugged cap in rough granite. This feature is slightly stepped from a blunt pinnacle down to corner blocks which the brick wall below receives in the subtle swelling of its upper corners.

The Rhode Island Company's ownership of both the trolley line and the electric company indicates the convenient monopoly it enjoyed. Marsden J. Perry headed both United Traction and the Union Trust Bank in Providence, accounting in part for the fortune that could buy the prestige of the John Brown House and fill it with a magnificent collection of colonial American and eighteenth-century British furniture.

When trolley service declined in the late 1930s, the barn became a warehouse for the Narragansett Brewery, located across the street until its demolition in 1999. One only hopes that the fate of this vast, abandoned barn could be more secure.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.

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