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Rumford Chemical Works (Former)

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c. 1890–1895, 1928. 1 Newman Ave. (corner of Newman and Greenwood aves.)

With plenty of open land available in East Providence in 1858, Wilson and Horsford, who had founded their chemical works in Providence, determined to move the plant across the Seekonk, into what had once been a piece of the Puritan common. The small wooden and plaster-over-rubble buildings of the original plant, some of which remain near the culminating brick factories, suggest the modesty of the original complex. It would not have been too intrusive in the domestic and farm setting; indeed, the factory would have fit its landscape all the better because Wilson bought so much land around it. On it he established a sizable farm to supply food and milk for his workers.

The principal brick factory buildings (leased after this closed as a chemical plant in 1966) are good examples of pier-and-spandrel brick industrial types for their respective periods. The three-story monocalcium phosphate plant of 1890–1895 (facing Greenwood) uses paired sash windows in wood with rough-surfaced granite sills and lintels and elaborate corbeled brick cornices. Whereas it shows stretches of wall around the paired windows, in which the piers are centered, the five-story brick packaging plant (1928) employs an unembellished frame and minimal parapets completely infilled with metal sash. Here the new industrial “type” is incompletely realized by comparison with, say, the contemporaneous Coro factory across the Seekonk ( PR39). There the reinforced concrete frame is fully exposed; here it is concealed in brick. There window rhythms are remorselessly identical; here they narrow toward the building's corners, as though to “contain” the elevations in the manner of traditional design. There the horizontality of the factory windows is more insistently asserted, with no such discrepancies as in the topmost story here, where the metal sash below is abandoned for triplets of double-hung sash in wood.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.

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