The History of Pearl Street Lofts

From the 1981 Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission (RIHPHC) Industrial Sites Report:

“Established in 1842 by N.A. Fenner, the New England Butt Company manufactured cast-iron butt hinges. By 1880, however, the introduction of cheaper, stamped-metal butts rendered cast-iron butts obsolete, and the company turned to the manufacture of braiding machinery.

“The oldest building in this complex is the much altered 2-story, monitor roofed, frame building in the center of the block on Perkins Street, built between 1849 and 1857. The main building, constructed in 1865 from plans by Spencer R. Read, is a handsome, gable roofed, brick structure with corbelled brick cornices, brick window caps, and arched door surrounds. This building, fronting on Pearl Street, was originally used for machining and assembling. A long, brick two-story wing built at the same time behind the main building was later raised to three stories. Although this building has window caps identical to the main building, it may incorporate an older structure. In 1951 a large, flat one-story glass and brick structure replaced the foundry on Perkins and Rice Streets.

“By 1901 the New England Butt Company employed 200 skilled workers in the manufacture of braiding machines for silk, worsted, and cotton braid as well as telephone, electric light and crinoline wire. The Wanskuck Corporation bought the New England Butt Company in 1955 and until 1983 the factory continued to produce braiding machinery and cabling machinery at this site.”

Most recently, the building was home to Harold’s Furniture store just before becoming Pearl Street Lofts in 2002-2004. The architect on the project was DBVW Architects in Providence, with the Armory Revival Company as the lead developer. Out of 55 units, 36 are rentable, 19 are condominiums, and 5 are affordable rental units by federal and state standards.


“Frank and Lillian Gilbreth Bring Order to Providence: The Introduction of Scientific Management at the New England Butt Company, 1912-13,” — by Jane Lancaster
RIHS’s RI History,1997 VOL.55

Added to the National Register of Historic Places on January 7, 1980

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