Atlantic / Blue Coal Storage Towers

A.I.R.’s cruelest, most negligent and most nefarious demolitions:

  1. Cranston Street Trolley Barn: Paolino Properties
  2. Providence Fruit and Produce Warehouse: The Procaccianti Group
  3. The circular Gulf Station: Paolino Properties
  4. The former Police and Fire Station: The Procaccianti Group
  5. Blue Coal towers: unknown
  6. Eagle Square: Feldco

reason for demolition

Apparently, the city said “yes” to a demolition permit request before checking the historic designation (it was on the National Register of Historic places)

Today in Europe these types of sites are preserved and celebrated for what they are – monuments, gigantic outdoor urban sculptures. Here we seem to be eager to demolish them because we think they are “ugly.” (OK, the land they are on IS worth something). In the last few years Providence has lost the Allens Avenue gasholder frames, the India Point Swing Bridge, almost all of its Provisions Warehouse National Register district… the list goes on.


The Atlantic Coal Company “Blue Coal” storage silos were built in the World War I era for coal storage. They were cylindrical, reinforced concrete storage bins fed by a vertical bucket conveyor that elevated the coal to the top of the structure, and a horizontal conveyor running across the top that fed the individual bins. The coal was delivered by the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad and distributed by horse-drawn carts, and later, by trucks.

Until the advent of natural gas and oil for home heating, New England’s primary domestic fuel was anthracite coal; a hard, smokeless, clean-burning coal that was only mined from three coalfields in eastern Pennsylvania. Many anthracite-hauling railroads had their own coal marketing and distribution companies.

The name “Blue Coal” was the promotional trademark of the DL&W Coal Sales Company, a subsidiary of the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad company. The company actually sprayed a light blue coating on random pieces of coal to identify their product. The Atlantic Coal Company was the Providence distributor of this product, as well as bituminous coal for blacksmithing and coke for foundry furnaces.

Charles Taylor Mar 1 2015 I’ve been listening to some old Shadow Radio shows, with Orson Welles narrating, and was curious about the Blue Coal Commercials, so I looked up the company. Interesting history, with some possible connections to the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa, among other things. I’ve spent some time on Federal Hill – a good friend of mine used to live there, and I know Providence fairly well, but I don’t remember the Atlantic Coal Co. towers. Don’t know how I missed them, because I was there often in the sixties and the seventies. Does State Line Scrap still exist?

Allen Nelson Apr 25 2014 When they were knocking the silos down, I was installing stuff in the school bus yard nearby. The buses had cassette player that could be played through outside speakers. So I serenaded the doomed towers with an old "Shadow" episode, complete with Blue Coal commercials. Seemed the least I could do.

dan guenette Dec 8 2012 I used to love the blue collar feel I got going to work every day looking at the towers wondering if there were still coal in them and realizing I could have been a coal miner and I should not to complain about life going to a great job. It was very cool and a vintage landmark. I took over my grandparents and found a mint outdoor porcelain working thermometer bearing the Atlantic/ Blue Coal logo and a phone number reading... WEST-5700 you probably had to crank the phone back then… I’m not sure what it’s worth if anyone has expertise in that field please email me.

Thomas Duckett Oct 1 2012 I recently purchased a 1960 Mack Truck from a farm in CT. I contacted Mack Truck Museum and was able to get a little history on the truck. This truck was built for the Atlantic Coal Company in Providence. The truck is running and road worthy. If anyone has some pictures of the company’s trucks I would love to see them...

David Apr 22 2012 My family used to own Atlantic Coal and I would love if someone had old photos of the silos and coal yard that they may be willing to sell, etc. It would be wonderful to have a piece of my family’s past

Kristen Jun 5 2011 My family used to own Atlantic Coal and I would love if someone had old photos of the silos and coal yard that they may be willing to sell, etc. It would be wonderful to have a piece of my family’s past

claude masse Jan 5 2011 Move on. These Titans of some Pa. industrialist do the citizens of this evolving metropolis no good. Providence is one of this sh*%$box country’s best chances of a rebirth. Don’t let some “grain elevators” cloud your imagination. One day you will approach the city on well thought out roads and realize what an “I” sore they were.

Vic Martins Jul 12 2009 As a young boy, I lived a short distance from the coal towers. I would walk past the towers on my way to the Onleyville Boys Club back in the mid to late 60s. In the winter, my friends and I would sled down the hill next to the towers.

Mark Sawtelle April 21 2008 We lived in my wife’s family 3-decker in Olneyville during the early 1980’s, and I poked around many of the local industrial sites. My strong recollection of the Atlantic / Blue Coal towers – which loomed with wonderful eerie monumentality over that corner – was that they were leaning at a frightening angle, presumably from settling. The photos here seem to bear this out.

vicki I have an old wood thermometer that advertises “blue coal” made by Dorfmann Bros and I’m trying to identify the source of the ‘blue coal’ . The advertisin source is D. F_ADD (can’t make out what follows the “f”) and the address is 623 Scio St. I am assuming this is in Rochester NY. The slogan says: “Americas Finest Anthracite”. Can anyone help me with this? Thanks

Dolly from Cranston I was researching Narragansett Brewery and came upon this wonderful website! I cannot believe that they tore down the Atlantic Coal Company “Blue Coal” storage silos. I didn’t know they had done this, and if I had not seen this website I would probably not have noticed. How strange it is too see a photo and all the memories come pouring back. It’s a pity it took knocking them down for me to really notice how impressive they really were.

bob renell Having grown up in rhode island in the 60’s and 70’s and now living in the mid west, its sad to see money, and greed, destroying the things that built the blue collar towns that supported the state for so many years. What next, the raised railroad bridge?? Why not, they destroyed phillipsdale landing.

Adam Waring I own a 1960 Volkswagen pickup truck that was an Atlantc Coal fleet truck of some sort. It is truck number 56. I am looking for information on their fleet of rucks ad looking for photos possibly including my truck.

Gerry Geisler “blue coal” was not a Reading Railroad trademark. It was the trade mark of the DL&W Coal Sales Company, a subsidiary of the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad company. Mining of the coal was spun off to the Glen Alden Coal Company after the anti trust proceedings forced the railroads to rid themselves of the mining operations, but DL&W Coal Sales continued on for a while. The Reading trademark was “Famous Reading Anthracite”, a name that survived the railroad that created it.

Chris This structure was visible in a few scenes from Michael Corrente’s 1994 film “Federal Hill”.

A Radio Fan Blue Coal was a sponsor of the radio “The Shadow.”

diane greco Thanks so much for making this information available! We used to see this building from the car all the time, coming around the curve that links Rt. 6 to Rt. 10. It always looked so mysterious and strange rising up out of the landscape next to the freeway. I’ve never seen anything like it, actually, and I’m very sorry it’s been torn down. When I was little, mother once told me the coal “burned blue,” hence the name – I’m not sure that’s accurate but I bet lots of folks from Olneyville or Silver Lake would say the same thing.

The information about each building grows as visitors let us know about their experiences. Did you or a member of your family work here? Did you grow up near it as a child? Let us know. All entries will be moderated and may be posted in an edited form. We will use your name unless you tell us otherwise. We will not make your email public.

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