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Fire at House of Scrimshaw

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Posted (edited)

Overnight a general alarm fire destroyed the House of Scrimshaw building on Thames Street just south of Washington Square.

Location:

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Photo from the Daily News:

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Daily News article

As disturbing as the loss of the building and damage to the streetscape are, what really bothers me are the similarities to a fire that seriously damaged this vacant building just a few blocks away almost exactly a month ago. Both fires began in similar locations at the rear of wooden buildings at about the same time of night.

Edited by Gusterfell

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Posted

damaged this vacant building just a few blocks away almost exactly a month ago.

Isn't that one of the Twomey buildings that got cited a couple of days ago?

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Posted

It is. The citations came about after the fire drew attention to the sorry state of the buildings.

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Posted

I took some pictures on my way home this afternoon:

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Not long after I took these, they boarded up the first floor. Presumably they'll give the owners a chance to salvage what merchandise they can before knocking it down. The owners are saying they plan to rebuild.

I hadn't known this, but apparently this building housed a shoe store from the early 1800s until 1986. It was the oldest operating shoe store in the nation at that time.

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Posted

Crap, my boyfriend is going to be upset, he loved that place.

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Posted

As disturbing as the loss of the building and damage to the streetscape are, what really bothers me are the similarities to a fire that seriously damaged this vacant building just a few blocks away almost exactly a month ago. Both fires began in similar locations at the rear of wooden buildings at about the same time of night.

Well, officials are now saying that this looks like arson, and that it may well be connected with the fire I mentioned above and other recent fires in the city.

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Posted

Do they think it's arson for insurance fraud or that there may be an arsonist on the loose in Newport (which is a very scary thought)?

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Posted (edited)

Unfortunately they do think we've got a serial arsonist on our hands. Newport is very fortunate that it hasn't seen a "great fire" like so many other cities of densely-developed wood buildings. There's no reason it couldn't happen with this going on.

Edited by Gusterfell

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Posted (edited)

Not long after I took these, they boarded up the first floor. Presumably they'll give the owners a chance to salvage what merchandise they can before knocking it down. The owners are saying they plan to rebuild.

I hadn't known this, but apparently this building housed a shoe store from the early 1800s until 1986. It was the oldest operating shoe store in the nation at that time.

My grandmother was the last person to operate a shoe store in that building. I wish I could remember what it was called. My grandmother wanted to retire and that pretty much ended the store. I don't recall if I ever saw the second floor.

Edited by Dragonmetal

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Posted

The site yesterday evening:

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Posted

I've been meaning to update on this. A year after the fire, rebuilding got underway a couple weeks ago, as you can see :P :

First, a rendering. Looks to be an unoffensive, traditional building in keeping with others on Thames St. The brick portion rises to about the height of the old House of Scrimshaw, while the set back penthouse will rise a story taller. Already steel for this is plainly visible from Washington Square, unlike the original building. As far as I know, this is still owned by the same people. I had assumed that they wanted to reopen their old business, so I'm a little surprised at the ground floor treatment. While the rendering does label the right-hand entrance as a retail entrance, the ground floor features a small bull's-eye window, rather than the plate-glass display window conducive to such an operation:

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Progress so far. I had been afraid that the replacement would be something inappropriately suburban or utilitarian, and part of me hoped for something daring and unique. Instead I expect that this building should fit into the streetscape pleasantly, if unspectacularly.

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On a slightly off-topic note, notice that the upper floor of Chico's has received a traditional face-lift since the pictures I took last spring. I'm not sure when exactly this was done (Honestly, I just noticed today), but there has been a recent trend of such renovations to modern buildings on and near upper Thames. Brick Market Place across the street was repainted in colonial-inspired colors not long ago, and the 70's vintage Long Wharf Mall is currently having "ye olde" dormers installed.

Gotta love the "House of Scrimshaw 2008" graffiti. Also the lawn chairs on the penthouse balcony:

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The view from the alley behind the project:

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Posted

I had been afraid that the replacement would be something inappropriately suburban or utilitarian, and part of me hoped for something daring and unique. Instead I expect that this building should fit into the streetscape pleasantly, if unspectacularly.

On a slightly off-topic note, notice that the upper floor of Chico's has received a traditional face-lift since the pictures I took last spring. I'm not sure when exactly this was done (Honestly, I just noticed today), but there has been a recent trend of such renovations to modern buildings on and near upper Thames. Brick Market Place across the street was repainted in colonial-inspired colors not long ago, and the 70's vintage Long Wharf Mall is currently having "ye olde" dormers installed.

Thanks for the photos. The way this is shaping up is nice - good urban infill development, unlike what happened to the Old Salvation Army site on Broadway. What a shame that was to that street's street wall.

Chico's got its makeover after its upper floor was damaged by the House of Scrimshaw fire.

PS: Would you mind taking photos of the Long Wharf changes? :thumbsup:

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Posted (edited)

Chico's got its makeover after its upper floor was damaged by the House of Scrimshaw fire.

That makes sense. that I didn't notice until now shows how often I've been up to that end of Thames lately. :blush:

PS: Would you mind taking photos of the Long Wharf changes? :thumbsup:

Ask and you shall receive! I snapped this one while I was down there yesterday. I'll get some more detailed shots before too long:

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They've put this new treatment on the upper floor all the way around the building. With all the construction paraphernalia it's hard to tell if any changes have been made to the ground floor, or if any are planned.

Edited by Gusterfell

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Posted

They've put this new treatment on the upper floor all the way around the building. With all the construction paraphernalia it's hard to tell if any changes have been made to the ground floor, or if any are planned.

Thanks for the photos - a rehab of that building (and the one across the pedestrian way, ahem) has been long overdue. Now if the city would actually maintain Long Wharf Mall itself and keep it from crumbling apart...

Rumor has it that two new stores are opening up in that building on Long Wharf - Coldwater Creek in the old Pier 1 location, and J. Crew in the old (and I think, rather small) Spardello's location, if I have it right. The Daily News alluded to it in today's paper, but the city says that neither Coldwater Creek nor J. Crew have registered with the city, as all new stores must. So it looks like Long Wharf North will have some significant changes coming up...

I know it wasn't addressed in the Taylor and Partners report from 2004, but I wonder if anyone has considered turning Upper Thames into a pedestrian-only (or pedestrian-priority/no through traffic) street during the busiest summer days and routing the traffic down Marlborough (or eventually, through Long Wharf?) to America's Cup instead. Seems as if that would make it a very pleasant shopping street, a la Bannister's Wharf, which is itself a pedestrian-priority street. I know saying "pedestrian mall" makes everyone think of Long Wharf Mall and shriek in pain, but Bannister's provides a great model that might work well on Upper Thames on the busiest days. Besides, it might make the traffic a bit smoother by removing the need for that stoplight in front of the Harbor Hotel where Upper Thames traffic merges onto America's Cup southbound.

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Posted

I know it wasn't addressed in the Taylor and Partners report from 2004, but I wonder if anyone has considered turning Upper Thames into a pedestrian-only (or pedestrian-priority/no through traffic) street during the busiest summer days and routing the traffic down Marlborough (or eventually, through Long Wharf?) to America's Cup instead. Seems as if that would make it a very pleasant shopping street, a la Bannister's Wharf, which is itself a pedestrian-priority street. I know saying "pedestrian mall" makes everyone think of Long Wharf Mall and shriek in pain, but Bannister's provides a great model that might work well on Upper Thames on the busiest days. Besides, it might make the traffic a bit smoother by removing the need for that stoplight in front of the Harbor Hotel where Upper Thames traffic merges onto America's Cup southbound.

You could argue that much of Thames could be closed off in the busy summer days in order for pedestrian convenience. It would just be harder to re-route traffic south of America's Cup.

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Posted

The rendering for the house of Scrimshaw looks interesting, but I wonder why there is not more glass on the ground floor, why that wall with the little porthole in the middle? It labels a retail entrance, aren't retailers all about windows to display merchandise? And does Newport not have any zoning regarding windows on the ground level of retail buildings? Is there already a tenant lined up who doesn't want windows?

What is currently in the upper floor of the Long Wharf Buildings? Anything? Looks like those would make good residential or office spaces. Of course I could think of a lot more places I'd rather live in Newport than Long Wharf Mall, but I could think of a lot of places in America that I'd rather not live in (oh, Chapel View).

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Posted

I know it wasn't addressed in the Taylor and Partners report from 2004, but I wonder if anyone has considered turning Upper Thames into a pedestrian-only (or pedestrian-priority/no through traffic) street during the busiest summer days

That maybe could help that village west of Thames (what is that place called, with all the empty tacky shops?). I know when I am in Newport (and I am a tourist when I am there), I head to Southern Thames first, then make my way north, and stay on the east (more interesting) side of the street. I usually make the effort to head over to that tacky mall (not Long Wharf, the other one), but always find it virtually abandoned. If the street were closed, pedestrians would be able to meander from side to side, and the shops on the west side might get more traffic. It doesn't seem like it should make that much of a difference, but when everyone is jammed on the eastern sidewalk looking into the eastern shops, no one pays any mind to the western shops, they are "over there."

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Posted

The rendering for the house of Scrimshaw looks interesting, but I wonder why there is not more glass on the ground floor, why that wall with the little porthole in the middle? It labels a retail entrance, aren't retailers all about windows to display merchandise? And does Newport not have any zoning regarding windows on the ground level of retail buildings? Is there already a tenant lined up who doesn't want windows?

What is currently in the upper floor of the Long Wharf Buildings? Anything? Looks like those would make good residential or office spaces. Of course I could think of a lot more places I'd rather live in Newport than Long Wharf Mall, but I could think of a lot of places in America that I'd rather not live in (oh, Chapel View).

I walked into a "lobby" at the Long Wharf when down in Newport last weekend, there was a sign with a list of tenants on the second floor. A few offices, I don't remember anything specific though.

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Posted

I walked into a "lobby" at the Long Wharf when down in Newport last weekend, there was a sign with a list of tenants on the second floor. A few offices, I don't remember anything specific though.

It's offices- dentists, lawyers, that kind of stuff. I went to the dentist there my whole childhood, my parents still do.

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Posted

That maybe could help that village west of Thames (what is that place called, with all the empty tacky shops?). I know when I am in Newport (and I am a tourist when I am there), I head to Southern Thames first, then make my way north

For information, Thames south of the post office/Memorial Blvd. is Lower Thames, north of that is Upper Thames. The shops on the west side of the street are Brick Market. They were quite the tourist place to be in the '80s, but seem to have gotten more and more people-free ever since. I never go there in tourist season, so I could be wrong about that in the summer.

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The shops on the west side of the street are Brick Market. They were quite the tourist place to be in the '80s, but seem to have gotten more and more people-free ever since. I never go there in tourist season, so I could be wrong about that in the summer.

Even a few years ago it was slightly hopping, last time I was down there (last tourist season) it was tumbleweeds. Too bad, it is not a terrible area.

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Posted (edited)

This building is finished. I still think the ground floor treatment is weird for a retail storefront:

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As I suspected, this building doesn't really stand out in either a positive or negative way among its neighbors. it's a nice, inoffensive addition to the streetscape. This could have been much worse.

Edited by Gusterfell

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Posted

Could have used more windows. Strange. Oh well.

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Posted

I still think the ground floor treatment is weird for a retail storefront:

Yeah, it's called a window, get to know it. How strange.

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Posted

The facade on the uppermost floor is just ugly, but that street-level facade is tragic.

If you can't get urban retail storefront right on Thames St., you can't get it right anywhere. Oh well, could've been worse, as you said. Thanks for the pics!

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