The Providence industrialist Ashbel T. Wall had established the A.T. Wall Company in rented quarters on Sabin Street in 1888 for the production of gold-plated wire. In 1901, the company employed sixty workers, and by 1908, it had outgrown its rented quarters. In 1908, Wall commissioned the firm Bowerman Brothers of Boston to design a manufacturing building at 162 Clifford Street, which was erected by the Thomas F. Cullinan Building Company. There the A.T. Wall Company continued to manufacture rolled gold plate and wire, with a variety of designs for manufacturing jewelers and metal workers. After the success of the A.T. Wall building, the Bowerman Brothers had a splendid career in Providence, designing a large number of industrial buildings in the 1930s.
This industrial building is a four-story reinforced concrete structure, with a flat roof, and large windows. For the year of its design, 1908, the building is quite a revolutionary piece of modern architecture. It is one of the earliest known example of a reinforced concrete construction employing the mushroom-column-and-flat-slab technique. This mode of construction, developed by engineer C.A.P. Turner in 1905-6, and patented in the same year 1908, allowed for a freer floor plan in opposition to the traditional beam and column construction. Exposed reinforcing rods on the roof and northern elevation provided for the facilitation of building enlargement.
Upon its completion, the building, originally designed for multiple occupancies, housed other manufacturing companies, including the current tenants and owners: Clark and Combs, who took over the building when the A.T. Wall Company moved their plant to Warwick, R.I. in the early 1970s. Today, the jewelry district, spliced by Interstate Highway 95 and 195 constructions, is entirely dominated by commercial and industrial use. Amidst the majority of brick manufacturing plants and offices, the concrete building on Clifford Street still stands out as a modern construction, bridging Providence’s industrial history with the present.