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AIR Historical :: Possner Castle, Cranston
01 02 03 04 05 06 Photo 2, winter 1901. Photo 3 postcard, 1905. (from the collection of Brenda B.Possner Bolster)
Possner Castle, Cranston

 

Prepared by Kathleen Dunley, DefunctNewEngland:
Built in 1901 for Herman G. Possner and designed by Thomas J. Gould, the castle sat at 1332 Narragansett Boulevard in the Edgewood section of Cranston for 89 years before being demolished on June 27, 1990.

Herman G. Possner was the president of the Sure-Lock Paper Clip Company and served as the first Commodore for the Edgewood Yacht Club and as one of the “founding six” of the Narragansett Brewing Company. Possner built the castle for his family home and its unique architecture featured mock crenellations topped by a pavilion style roof. According to an oral account provided by the late Doris Quinn of Providence, there was a fire that destroyed part of the roof. The resulting architectural changes are apparent by comparing the scan of the 1910 postcard with the later pictures take in the mid-1980’s.

The ownership was transferred in 1920 to Dutee Flint, then known as “the largest Ford dealer in the country.” Flint built a radio broadcasting tower and developed Rhode Island’s first radio station which became WPRO in 1931 after ownership was transferred to Cherry and Webb. Before its demolition, the castle was home to the Masonic “Harmony Lodge No. 9.” (“Historic District,” par.1)

According to a Providence Journal article by Peter Howard, the castle had been vacant since November 1988, when Stephen Shechtman, Joshua Teverow and John Thibodeau bought the property for $750,000 in the hopes of converting it to either housing (an idea later abandoned due to the poor housing market at the time) or a television studio. Despite the Edgewood Association’s protest to save the castle, the city’s Zoning Board of Review denied the necessary zoning variance on April 26, 1990 due to neighbors’ objections. On June 25, 1990, the developers received their demolition permit from the city. According to Schectman, “This was a last resort for us; this was not what we wanted to do. I don’t feel I’m the person responsible for tearing down the Castle. Economically, it was the only recourse.” (Howard, D1).

The Edgewood Yacht club purchased a tract of waterfront property to use as a parking lot, while the castle’s site was subdivided into housing lots. All that remains of the castle are the stone structures that once flanked the entrance, a stairway leading from the housing lots to the Edgewood Yacht Club’s lot, and a stone pillar at the rear of the property (on the Shaw Avenue side) that might have been a foundation for the radio tower.

Works Cited:
Historic District Commission: Who We Are.” Cranston Historic District Comission.
Howard, Peter E. “Wrecker breaks the Castle’s walls, neighbors’ hearts.” Providence Journal Jun. 27, 1990: D-01.

Brian Nov 30 2012 After the castle was demolished, the land was subdivided into 5 lots. We bought one of the lots (1320 Narragansett, the one right at the corner with Shaw) and built the house that stands there. We engaged John Thibodeau (one of the developers) as the general contractor.

By the time we got there, the only things that were left from the castle were the copper beech tree (there were some other, newer trees, but we are guessing that Olmstead picked out the beech), the massive stone gates and the hedge. We designed the house around the beech tree.

There is also a massive concrete piling right at the corner of the Shaw Avenue and Narragansett Bay escarpments (which is not actually part of the lot that I purchased). I was told that that was one of the footing for Dutee Flint’s transmission tower – it was certainly big enough.

We put a lot of effort into respecting and honoring the location and the neighborhood when we built that house – I hope that it showed.

Finally, when we used to point out the tree and the hedge and talk about Frederick Law Olmstead, we usually pointed out that he was the landscape architect for both NYC’s Central Park and Montreal’s Mont Royal Park as well.

Kathleen Dunley I just picked up a copy of a pamphlet book by Hazel Wade Kennedy titled A Bird’s Eye View of Edgewood. It mentioned that the Castle’s grounds were designed by none other than Frederick Law Olmsted, perhaps best known for his work at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and the landscape surrounding the US Capitol Building.

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