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Davol Square (Davol Rubber Company)
Davol, a major manufacturer of medical rubber and plastic goods, abandoned its Providence operation in 1977. Its brick factory buildings are less interesting in themselves than for their 1980s conversion into a shopping mall, which unhappily closed in 1991. This was the city's first example of the many progeny across the country of San Francisco's Ghirardelli Square (1962), a pioneer conversion of a factory to boutique shopping in combination with office use. The most original aspect of Davol Square (although there are precedents) is the overhead glazing of an alley between three- and four-story factory buildings to create the core shopping arcade for the complex. The functional yet festive exposure of much of the structural and mechanical addenda was necessary to make the conversion. Although it was a well-conceived project, it did not sustain its initial commercial success. Hence its reconversion as a permanent display center for the wholesale jewelry trade (not open to the public, except for peripheral shops).
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