Dirt Palace Meets Wedding Cake House

All photos courtesy of Clark Schoettle and the Providence Revolving Fund.

* Updated 6/12/2017 to include current project overview and plans. See Related Links below.

In its 150th year, the long-neglected "Wedding Cake House" at 514 Broadway looks to new life as an artist-in-residence hub that would include a bed and breakfast with an aim to attract arts tourists, researchers, and historians.

The three story Italianate mansion at 514 Broadway holds a deep history, not only in its built walls but in its inhabitants: John Kendrick, a loom harness manufacturer; George Prentice, a buttonhook manufacturer; and, most famously, Anna and Laura Tirocchi, couture dressmakers who lived and worked out of this magnificent home along with their team of seamstress employees.

In spite of its rich embodied history and cultural connections to Providence's heritage textile and fashion/design industries, the Kendrick-Prentice-Tirocchi House has stood vacant for decades, deteriorating almost to the point of ruin without a stewarding owner or viable plan for restoration or reuse. 

But 2017 – the Wedding Cake House's 150th birthday – may be the start of a brighter future for this important but forlorn property. 

Earlier this year, the Providence Redevelopment Authority approved the sale of 514 Broadway to the Dirt Palace, a feminist arts collaborative established in 2000 that owns 14 Olneyville Square, a space that supports artists-in-residence as well as other arts programming. The group closed on the property two weeks ago.

An overview of the project offers a plan for the Wedding Cake House that would preserve much of its interior layout, providing temporary live/work studio spaces for artists-in-residence along with "short term rentals marketed to arts supporters and patrons visiting the area to explore the regional culture and history" that would also serve to generate income.

The effort to save the Kendrick-Prentice-Tirocchi House has been long-standing, with the building having been featured on Providence Preservation Society's Most Endangered Properties List in 2010, 2012 and 2015. In 2015, WBNA joined with Providence Preservation Society to raise funds for the Providence Revolving Fund to stabilize the building's tower and to perform structural repairs needed to stave off further deterioration until a new owner could be found.

Providence Revolving Fund (PRF) has been a constant in the multi-year effort to rescue this treasure. Without its support the house would likely have been lost due to serious and ongoing structural issues including a leaky roof, a leaning tower, rotten sill and other problems that come about from "demolition by neglect." 

In addition, PRF worked to support the building's future by securing close to $200,000 in state historic tax credits that are transferable to the Wedding Cake House's new owners.

We look forward to learning more about the Dirt Palace's plans for this much-loved community asset. Please join us this Tuesday, June 13, at 6pm, for our Community Development Committee Meeting where Dirt Palace artists Xander Marro and Pippi Zornoza will present their most current plans for 514 Broadway. This meeting is open to the public and welcomes all.

Related Links & History

Blog: Dirt Palace at the Wedding Cake House
Updated: Dirt Palace at the Wedding Cake House overview by Dirt Palace Public Projects
Updated: Dirt Palace at the Wedding Cake House plans
PPS 2015 Most Endangered Properties List (with historical description of 514 Broadway)
A & L Tirocchi Dressmakers Project: An online resource by RISD Museum and the Brown University Scholarly Technology Group
Preserve Prentice PVD community campaign (now closed)

Related Media

New owners will offer bed and breakfast at Wedding Cake House, Providence Journal
Efforts under way to save Providence's 'Wedding Cake House,' Providence Journal