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Desurmont Worsted Yarn Mills

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1907. 50 Water St. (corner of Fairmount St.)

Here are two handsome brick pier-and-spandrel factory buildings, both in the manner which became standard for mill construction at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century. Joseph Banigan's rubber plant, named for his mother, is fronted by two severely handsome, hip-roofed Italianate towers, one with an open loggia for the company bell, the other closed around its water tower. Wings to the rear more than double the space of the front block. Unhappily, distant views are best because closer inspection reveals that all the windows have been altered.

The nearby Desurmont plant was another of Aram Pothier's French or Belgian imports. About it there is a faintly alien air. This may be wishful vision, as there is no present evidence that Gallic clients or engineers conditioned the result. But in contrast to the typical American preference for verticality seen in the elevation of the Alice Mill, in which piers rise to the eaves, here corbeled cornicing stops the piers beneath the eaves. As the segmental arching of the windows bites into the underside of the corbeling, they take on a marked horizontal rhythm, like stones skipped on a pond. Within the windows, too, the horizontal divisions of the sash are more emphasized. So it would seem that whereas the typical American treatment for brick factory construction at the time skeletalizes and verticalizes the wall, the treatment of the Desurmont holds more to the block of the building and the extent of the wall. In the Desurmont chimney also note the elegant simplicity of transition from its boxy base to its tapered cylinder.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "Desurmont Worsted Yarn Mills", [Woonsocket, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Rhode Island, William H. Jordy, with Ronald J. Onorato and William McKenzie Woodward. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, 231-231.

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