Deep pockets bring good old things to life.

The Providence Institution for Savings (popularly known as Old Stone bank), performed a great service for Rhode Islanders, while furthering its own commercial interests, by publishing a significant number of pamphlets containing stories of Rhode Island history. Some, but not all, of these stories were collected in a series of hardcover books (issued in 1929, 1933, 1939, and 1944), which are still much sought after by enthusiasts of local history.

Following is the standard text that appeared in the back of each Rhode Island historical pamphlet issued by the Providence Institution for Savings. Written by (but not credited to) historian John Williams Haley, these pamphlets served the dual purpose of educating average Rhode Islanders on their state's history, and advertising a popular local bank. While the pamphlets were based on Haley's WJAR radio show, "The Rhode Island Historian," which ran from 1927 to about 1953, we have not yet determined the extent of the period during which these pamphlets were published. The latest one we've seen is from June 1933; the earliest—September 1930. It would appear that the pamphlets were published on a weekly basis during each school year.

Additional Copies of this Booklet sent
upon request

ADDRESS
"THE OLD STONE BANK"
86 South Main Street
Providence

THE PROVIDENCE INSTITUTION FOR SAVINGS, familiarly known as "The Old Stone Bank," is in its own right a historic institution of Rhode Island. Founded in 1819 as one of the first mutual savings banks in the country, it has since contributed vitally to the development and life of this community.

Proud of its own historical significance, "The Old Stone Bank" has adopted this method of educational advertising to bring to light much that is of value and significance in the colorful annals of Rhode Island and national history.

The sketches and vignettes of old-time Rhode Island and Rhode Islanders that are broadcast weekly and then printed in this form are selected from local historical records which are full of the picturesque, romantic, and adventurous. In the hope that these glimpses into the lives, customs, and environment of our progenitors may be both revealing and inspirational to young and old, this booklet is presented with the compliments of

THE OLD STONE BANK


Providence Institution for Savings
Established 1819

A Mutual Savings Bank
where interest is allowed
from day of Deposit to
day of Withdrawal

MAIN OFFICE
86 South Main Street

OLNEYVILLE BRANCH
1917-21 Westminster Street
Olneyville Square

EMPIRE-ABORN Branch
Between Westminster and Washington Sts.

Open all business days and Tuesday evenings
5 to 8:30. Olneyville Branch open
Saturday evenings also.

"The Old Stone Bank"

HALEY & SYKES CO., PROVIDENCE

Return to Old Stone Bank History of Rhode Island index.

Editor's Notes

The Providence Institution for Savings officially changed its name to Old Stone Bank in 1967. At its peak, Old Stone had 14 branches all over the state. However, things began to go south for the bank in the 1980s, when it entered into an ill-fated deal with the federal government to reorganize the failed Rhode Island Federal Savings Bank. The government didn't hold up its end of the deal and, in 1993, in the midst of the banking crisis, Old Stone was forced to close its doors for good. The corporation's assets were absorbed by Citizens Bank in 1994, while its records went to the Rhode Island Historical Society. Its furnishings and supplies were sold at public auction in August 1995.

Also in August 1995 Brown University announced plans to purchase Old Stone's buildings at 86 North Main Street from the Resolution Trust Company. Their intention was to remodel the structures for use as the new home of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, at a total cost of $12 million. The sale of the property went through, but the cost of renovation proved so daunting that plans were soon shelved. Efforts to bring the Haffenreffer to Providence eventually boiled down to a more modest exhibit space in Brown's Manning Gallery, which opened in May 2005. In April 2009 Brown sold the Old Stone Bank property to a company called Gold Dome Properties LLC for $2.14 million.

Gold Dome Properties turned out to be owned by Barrett Bready, M.D., a Providence "biotechology entrepreneur" who, aside from apparently having some cash to fling around, is also a trustee of the Providence Preservation Society. Bready has said he intends to restore the building and return it to some sort of public use, although what that use might be is still open. One possibility is to turn the bank into a performance or event space. As an example, the doors were opened to the public for the first time in more than fifteen years when, on October 24, 2009, the PPS held the finale of their Fall Fundraising event under the gold dome.

For a time Old Stone Corporation continued to exist as a shell company, tying up loose ends and pursuing lawsuits. In November 2004 Judge Robert H. Hodges of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled that the United States Government must pay Old Stone Corporation $192.5 million in damages for breach of contract. The award was subsequently cut to $74.5 million on appeal, enough money to pay off Old Stone's lawyers and holders of the bank's preferred stock (at about $52 to $55 a share), but leaving holders of common stock out in the cold. Checks were finally mailed in July 2007, officially closing the books on Old Stone Bank.

Opened in 1927, the building at 1917-21 Westminster Street continues to serve the community as a Citizens Bank branch.

The Empire-Aborn branch on Empire Street, opened in 1929, was renovated into a performance space for AS220 in 2006.

Haley & Sykes Company, printers and advertisers, was established in 1926 by John Williams Haley and some guy named Sykes. Their business was located at 26 Custom House Street in Providence. Haley served as president until 1933, when he joined Narragansett Brewing.

Return to Old Stone Bank History of Rhode Island index.

This article last edited October 28, 2009

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