Gorham Manufacturing Company Building Complex


Gorham Manufacturing Company Building Complex


How did the physical plant of the Gorham Company change over time? When and why did the Gorham manufacturing buildings get demolished?


Ria Fulton


The Gorham Manufacturing Company complex, formerly located at 333 Adelaide Avenue, dominated the physical landscape of the Elmwood section of Providence from its construction in 1890 until its demolition in 1997. Even now, in its absence, the complex exerts a powerful influence over the community, by way of the sustained environmental damage created by its operation.
The business that would eventually give rise to this complex began its life as a small jeweler’s shop founded in 1818 by Jabez Gorham, Jr. and located at 56 Benefit Street.[1] By 1831,
Gorham had expanded his business to include the manufacture of silver spoons; in partnership with Henry Webster, Gorham and Webster began operation at 12 Steeple Street in Providence.[2] At the time of Gorham and Webster’s founding, all silversmithing was done by hand, but mechanization was gradually incorporated as sales grew and technology became increasingly available. The company was incorporated in Rhode Island in 1863, and by this time, Gorham had transformed into a complex of workshops, furnaces, and forges, with renowned gold-and silver- smithing operations.[3] By 1868, a mere five years later, Gorham was grossing $1 million in sales annually.[4] Gorham’s operations continued to expand over the next several decades –new departments manufacturing statuary and memorial works in silver, gold, brass, bronze, stone, and wood, coupled with new technologies in the form of steam engines which “powered machines for rolling, shearing, punching, shaping, embossing, dyestamping; for lathes, drills, planning machines; and for the foundry,” necessitated new facilities.[5] As a result, plans were made to build “the largest and most modern plant in the world for fine silverwares.”

[see attached file for further research and bibliography]




Ria Fulton, “Gorham Manufacturing Company Building Complex,” Reservoir of Memories, accessed September 23, 2020, https://reservoirofmemories.omeka.net/items/show/39.