Mechanical Fabric Company

55 Cromwell Street, 40, 40R, 50, 50R Sprague Street


Mechanical Fabric Company

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As first built in 1890, the Mechanical Fabric Company plant comprised a three-story brick factory building fronting on Sprague Street (Building 1) and a one-story building that combined the functions ofboiler house and vulcanizing room (Building 2) behind it. Shortly after, the company erected the largest building of the complex (Building 3) for the manufacture of bicycle tires and rubber thread. Originally a three-story building, the company expanded the footprint of this building three bays to the west between 1904 and 1908 and added a fourth floor by 1920. The company also erected a single-story chalking/spreading/drying building (Building 4) ca. 1892. By 1897 a second floor was added to this building. The next addition to the complex (ca. 1897) was a single-story, ironclad warehouse (Building 5) that was rebuilt in brick and raised a story ca. 1918. Building 6, a single-story brick building, was built and reconfigured in three phases. The first phase (sharing a party wall with Building 5) comprised a ca. 1918 single-bay garage that was doubled in size soon after. To this enlarged garage was added a 70-ft. extension between 1921 and 1925. Despite some exterior alterations, the present complex occupies essentially the same footprint as existed in the late 1920s.

The Mechanical Fabric Company complex is significant under Criterion A on the state level for its associations with the industrialization of Providence in the period from the late 19th century through the 1920s and, in particular, with the diversification and success of the city's rubber industry in the years after Charles Goodyear's original vulcanization patents expired ca. 1865. While rubber footwear, blankets, raincoats and medical supplies had been manufactured in the state since the mid-19th century, the Mechanical Fabric Company developed important innovations in the production of rubber- and textile-based foundation for the card clothing used on carding machines for both cotton and woolen manufacture. The plant was also the site of national innovations in pneumatic bicycle tire manufacture.

Update Log 

  • August 12, 2014: Added by Dave King