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The Merchants Brewery

Pawtucket, Rhode Island


c. 1876 - 1879
Merchants
Brewery

Not much is known about this small Rhode Island brewery that once operated
in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, during the 19th century. According to the
Pawtucket and Central Falls Directory, we know that it was run by James
Hanley and John P. Cooney, two liquor and wine wholesalers from
Providence, at 87 East Avenue in 1878. Secondary sources suggest there was a
brewery at this location from 1876 to 1879. Surviving receipts corroborate its
presence in 1877. Whether it was operating prior to these dates under a
different owner is uncertain.

Chances are highly likely that the Merchants Brewery in Pawtucket was
simply a small satellite or outlet for a larger brewery started by Cooney &
Hanley in 1876 under the same name. This brewery was located at the corner
of Fountain and Jackson Streets in Providence and would later be known as
the James Hanley Brewing Company after John P. Cooney passed away in
1879.
“The Pawtucket and Central Falls Directory”
1878
(Google Books)
“The Pawtucket and Central Falls Directory”
1878
(Google Books)
“Acts and Resolves Passed at the May Session of the General Assembly of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations”
1876
(Google Books)
Receipt - Providence & Worcester Railroad Co., Received at Cooney & Hanley, Pawtucket, Rhode Island
May 1877
(Ed & Greg Theberge Collection)
Merchants
Brewery

Tracking down the Merchants Brewery has always been a bit of a dilemma.
Unlike many of the other breweries that once operated in Rhode Island, there
are no surviving illustrations of the facility that can be referenced. In order to
possibly solve the mystery, we will have to do a bit of detective work.

The first step in our journey is to find out where 87 East Avenue is located
today. Doing a 2018 Google Maps search lands us in the middle of a parking
lot down the road from Main Street. Not that this location should be
considered completely accurate, but this gives us a starting point to begin
corroborating further evidence.
87 East Avenue
2018
(Google Maps)
87 East Avenue
2018
(Google Maps)
Merchants
Brewery

The next step in finding the brewery is to use period maps. Needless to say,
finding street maps for a very definitive period of time can be an arduous task,
particularly when we are dealing with a business that was in operation for only
three or four years.

In looking for references that date between 1876 to 1879, one map that stands
out is a “Bird’s Eye View of Pawtucket & Central Falls, R.I. 1877”. It is
currently available for viewing at the Library of Congress. While this map does
not specifically illustrate the Merchants Brewery, nor does it list street
numbers, it does depict the appearance of many of the city’s buildings in great
detail and it labels specific buildings in its directory that can be cross
referenced.
“Bird’s Eye View of Pawtucket & Central Falls, R.I. 1877”
1877
(Library of Congress)
East Avenue, Pawtucket, Rhode Island, 1877
“Bird’s Eye View of Pawtucket & Central Falls, R.I. 1877” 1877
(Library of Congress)
East Avenue, Pawtucket, Rhode Island, 1877
“Bird’s Eye View of Pawtucket & Central Falls, R.I. 1877” 1877
(Library of Congress)
Merchants
Brewery

As to be expected, much has changed in Pawtucket since 1877. This is quite


evident when comparing the 1877 “Bird’s Eye” map of the city with a Google
Map search in 2018.

Church Street, for example, once took a jog at Park Place and extended down
to the Pawtucket (now Seekonk) River after passing through East Avenue.
Since 1877, this street has been shortened and now ends at Park Place. The
remainder has been converted into real estate.

While streets like Church have changed over the years, other streets, like Main
and Park Place, have essentially remained in the same location. Using these
streets as reference points, we can approximate the general location of 87 East
Avenue on the “Bird’s Eye” map of 1877.
Church Street, Pawtucket, Rhode Island, 1877
“Bird’s Eye View of Pawtucket & Central Falls, R.I. 1877” 1877
(Library of Congress)
Church Street (Dots) in 1877 Compared to 2018
2018
(Google Maps)
Approximate Location of 87 East Avenue, Pawtucket, Rhode Island, 1877 Compared to Google Map Search 2018
“Bird’s Eye View of Pawtucket & Central Falls, R.I. 1877” 1877
(Library of Congress)
Ap
pr
ox
im
at
eL
oc
at
ion
of
87
Ea
st
Av
e.

Approximate Location of 87 East Avenue, Pawtucket, Rhode Island, 1877 Compared to Google Map Search 2018
“Bird’s Eye View of Pawtucket & Central Falls, R.I. 1877” 1877
(Library of Congress)
Merchants
Brewery

Analysis of the 1877 “Bird’s Eye” map of Pawtucket reveals the presence of
highlighted buildings referenced to a directory. Here we can see a
manufacturing building labeled “36” in the vicinity of 87 East Avenue.
According to the map’s directory, this was the “Robert D. Mason & Co.,
Bleachers and Dyers of Threads and Yarns”. Cross referencing the Pawtucket
and Central Falls Directory of 1878 locates this establishment at 75 East
Avenue. Further up East Avenue is a building labeled “8”. According to the
map’s directory this was the “American Haircloth Padding Company Taylor
& Payne Prop’rs” . The Pawtucket and Central Falls Directory of 1878 locates
this establishment at 20 East Avenue.

Given this information, it is reasonable to believe that, despite the lack of street
numbers on the “Bird’s Eye” map, the Merchants Brewery was located just
south of Robert D. Mason & Co., on the same side of the road, and quite
possibly at the corner of East Avenue and Church Street.
Map Directory
“Bird’s Eye View of Pawtucket & Central Falls, R.I. 1877” 1877
(Library of Congress)
“The Pawtucket and Central Falls Directory”
1878
(Google Books)
“3
6”
Ro
be
rt
D.
M
as
on
at
7

“8
5E


as

20
t

Ea
Av

st
e
.

Av
. e

DIRECTORY Numbers for 75 East Avenue (“36”) and 20 East Avenue “8”), Pawtucket, Rhode Island, 1877
“Bird’s Eye View of Pawtucket & Central Falls, R.I. 1877” 1877
(Library of Congress)
Is
th
is
th
eB
re
w
er
ya
t8
7E
as
tA
ve
.?

DIRECTORY Numbers for 75 East Avenue (“36”) and 20 East Avenue “8”), Pawtucket, Rhode Island, 1877
“Bird’s Eye View of Pawtucket & Central Falls, R.I. 1877” 1877
(Library of Congress)
Merchants
Brewery

To further investigate where 87 East Avenue in Pawtucket was located in 1878,


we can evaluate maps that date slightly prior to, or slightly later than, this date.

Located within the Brown University Library are a series of insurance maps
made by the Sanborn Map & Publishing company that were done for various
cities and towns located throughout Rhode Island during the late 19th and
early 20th centuries.

Evaluation of an 1884 map of Pawtucket in their collection reveals that 87 East


Avenue was located in a wood building at the corner of Greene (formerly
Church) Street and East Avenue. The map lists the occupant of this address as
a wheelwright & carriage painter. Robert D. Mason was still running his dye
works next door and what appears to be a small fountain can be seen on East
Avenue at the intersection of Church and Pleasant Streets.
Insurance Map of Pawtucket, Rhode Island
Sanborn Map Company November, 1884
(Brown University)
East Avenue
Insurance Map of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Sanborn Map Company November, 1884
(Brown University)
East Avenue
Insurance Map of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Sanborn Map Company November, 1884
(Brown University)
87
East Ave.
(1884)

87 East Avenue
Insurance Map of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Sanborn Map Company November, 1884
(Brown University)
87
East Ave.
(1884)

87 East Avenue (Red) & Robert D. Mason Dye Works (Green) in 1877 (Left) and 1884 (Right)
“Bird’s Eye View of Pawtucket & Central Falls, R.I. 1877” 1877 / Insurance Map of Pawtucket, Rhode Island 1884
(Library of Congress / Brown University)
Merchants
Brewery

According to a 1902 map residing in the library at Brown University, 87 East


Avenue was renumbered 93 East Avenue by the turn of the century. As in
1884, the occupant of this building was a carriage shop and paint shop. Robert
D. Mason either went out of business or moved. A hotel was built in his
former location.

Further down the road, at the corner of East Avenue and Main Street, the
Providence County Savings Bank, Slater National Bank and 1st National
Bank building was undergoing major changes. By 1905 it would become the
Slater Trust Building, one of the grandest examples of architecture in all of
Rhode Island.

Sadly, all of these buildings have been lost to the ravages of time.
Insurance Map of Pawtucket, Including Central Falls and Valley Falls, Rhode Island, 1902
Sanborn Map Company 1902
(Brown University)
93
East Ave.
(1902)

Water
Fountain

93 East Avenue “Carriage Shop / Paint Shop”


Insurance Map of Pawtucket, Including Central Falls and Valley Falls, Rhode Island, Sanborn Map Company 1902
(Brown University)
The
Photographs

Around the turn of the 20th century, an unidentified photographer stood at the
intersection of East Avenue and Church Street in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
Aiming his camera down East Avenue towards Main Street, he captured an
image of everyday life in America that, over a century later, would become
crucial in the identification of a little known brewery that operated at this
location from 1876 to 1879.

In this image, the Providence County Savings Bank / Slater National Bank /
1st National Bank building, located on the corner of East Avenue and Main
Street, can be seen in the distance. Behind it, the steeple of the First Baptist
Church on High Street pierces the skyline. A watering fountain for horses
stands in the foreground.

Most of these landmarks can be seen on the 1877 “Bird’s Eye” View of
Pawtucket and Central Falls as well as the 1884 and 1902 Insurance Maps of
Pawtucket in the collection of Brown University.
The Corner of Church Street and East Avenue, Pawtucket, Rhode Island
H.M. Rounds, Carriage Maker and Jobber, Located at 1 Church Street c. 1900
(Public Domain)
Providence County Savings Bank / Slater National Bank / 1st National Bank Building

1st Baptist
Church

East Ave.
Church St. Pleasant St.

The Corner of Church Street and East Avenue, Pawtucket, Rhode Island
H.M. Rounds, Carriage Maker and Jobber, Located at 1 Church Street c. 1900
(Public Domain)
1st Baptist Church
High Street

Providence County Savings Bank


Slater National Bank
1st National Bank Building

87 East Ave.

DIRECTORY Numbers for 75 East Avenue (“36”) and 20 East Avenue “8”), Pawtucket, Rhode Island, 1877
“Bird’s Eye View of Pawtucket & Central Falls, R.I. 1877” 1877
(Library of Congress)
1st
Baptist Church

Providence County
Savings Bank /
Slater National
Bank / 1st National
Bank Building

Wheelwright Shop
Carriage Painter Water
Fountain

East Avenue
Insurance Map of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Sanborn Map Company November, 1884
(Brown University)
The
Photographs

To the left side of the image stands a three story wood building which houses a
small retail business in its basement that faces East Avenue. Located at the
corner of Church Street, it is adorned with a large wooden sign that advertises
“H.M. Rounds, Carriage Manufacturer” as well as a metal corner sign for
“Narragansett Brewing Co.s Lager Beer”. A large wooden awning is
suspended from the building by cables. It is mounted with a large sign that
reads “What Cheer Lager Beer” in addition to other wording which cannot be
clearly deciphered. A gentleman wearing dark trousers, waistcoat and apron
can be seen bending over to pick something up under the awning. Given his
attire, he is likely the shop’s proprietor.

This building is nearly identical in appearance to the building located on the


corner of East Avenue and Church Street in the 1877 “Bird’s Eye” View of
Pawtucket. Although the photographic image is cut off at the roof, both
images show a building that has three stories with four windows across, an
awning, and a basement storefront with two windows and a center door.
The Corner of Church Street and East Avenue, Pawtucket, Rhode Island
H.M. Rounds, Carriage Maker and Jobber, Located at 1 Church Street c. 1895
(Public Domain)
The Corner of Church Street and East Avenue, Pawtucket, Rhode Island
H.M. Rounds, Carriage Maker and Jobber, Located at 1 Church Street c. 1900
(Library of Congress / Public Domain)
The
Photographs

The 1878 text “History of the State of Rhode Island with Illustrations” by the
Hong, Wade & Co. of Philadelphia sheds some light on when H.M. Rounds
began his business:

“Prominent among the present carriage and wagon manufacturers, are the following:  H.
M. Rounds, located on the corner of East Avenue and Church Street; he commenced
business in 1854. Thomas Chandler, at 16 Slater Avenue.”

In 1878, when the Merchants Brewery was listed at 87 East Avenue, H.M.
Rounds advertised his trade as a Carriage Manufacturer and Jobber located at
“1 Church Street, cor. East Avenue” in the Pawtucket and Central Falls
Directory. These two different addresses appear to be a logical solution to
having two businesses operating in the same building.
Advertisement: The Pawtucket and Central Falls Directory
1878
(Google Books)
The
Photographs

As the 1884 and 1902 maps of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, both show the corner
of East Avenue and Church Street being occupied by a wheelwright shop /
carriage shop / paint shop, it is fairly logical to conclude that this was no other
than H.M. Rounds who was at this location given the start of his business in
1854 and his presence at this location after these maps were published.

Whether or not there is any relationship to a former brewery space becoming a


saloon or liquor store years later is uncertain. If there was, it would be unusual
that there is no advertising for the James Hanley Brewing Company.

Another photograph that was taken in 1904 reveals that the East Avenue shop
that once housed the Merchants Brewery now housed Keith’s Theatre.
Whether it was limited to the street level shop or additional floors is uncertain.
While the Church Street side of the building still functioned as a carriage shop
that shoed horses, the sign for H.M. Rounds has been removed.
The Corner of Church Street and East Avenue, Pawtucket, Rhode Island
1904
(Public Domain / Courtesy David Crowell)
The Corner of Church Street and East Avenue, Pawtucket, Rhode Island
1904
(Public Domain / Courtesy David Crowell)
The Corner of Church Street and East Avenue, Pawtucket, Rhode Island
1904
(Public Domain / Courtesy David Crowell)
The Corner of Church Street and East Avenue, Pawtucket, Rhode Island
1904
(Public Domain / Courtesy David Crowell)
The Corner of Church Street and East Avenue, Pawtucket, Rhode Island
1904
(Public Domain / Courtesy David Crowell)
The
Photographs

A photograph dated to about 1962 reveals that the building at the corner of
East Avenue an Church Street was still standing. When this block of buildings
was demolished is uncertain,
East Avenue, Pawtucket, Rhode Island
c. 1962
(Public Domain / Courtesy David Crowell)
East Avenue, Pawtucket, Rhode Island
c. 1962
(Public Domain / Courtesy David Crowell)
The
Photographs

Regardless of multiple questions that may never be answered, the images


presented in this document are the first time that anything remotely related to
the Merchants Brewery have been presented. Given the size of the building it
was likely located in, it must have been an extremely small operation. As we
have no record of barrel production, it was likely minimal at best, or simply an
outlet for the parent brewery in Providence.