USJB building added to National Register of Historic Places

USJB building added to National Register of Historic Places

The L’Union Saint Jean-Baptiste d’Amerique has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

WOONSOCKET – A building erected as the headquarters of a French-Canadian brotherhood association has received federal recognition for its contributions to the history of ethnic heritage, social history, and architecture.

Jeffrey D. Emidy, acting executive director of the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission, announced that the National Park Service has added the L’Union Saint Jean-Baptiste d’Amerique to the National Register of Historic Places. The National Register is the Federal Government’s official list of properties throughout the United States whose historical and architectural significance makes them worthy of preservation.

The L’Union Saint Jean-Baptiste d’Amerique (USJB) building, constructed in 1926, is a roughly L-shaped, four-story, brick building. The USJB’s Classical Revival-style design features block massing, symmetry of elements and facade, and extensive use of classically inspired pilasters and other ornamental details, including swags, Greek keys, and dentils. Located at 1 Social St. in a commercial area of downtown Woonsocket, the USJB building contributes to a streetscape of multi-story commercial and civic buildings that date from the late 19th to mid-to-late 20th centuries.

Woonsocket-based architect Walter F. Fontaine was well-known for his ecclesiastical, educational, commercial, and residential buildings in other “Little Canadas” across New England, as well as buildings that served the French-Canadian population in Woonsocket, including L’Église du Precieux Sang Church, St. Anne’s Church, and Holy Family Church. Many of the USJB’s original interior features remain intact including plaster walls, marble wainscoting, wood sash windows, and wood doors. As the location of the USJB’s executive offices, the fourth floor is the most architecturally elaborate level of the building and features paneling and decorative trim in oak and a paneled plaster ceiling with a large, stained-glass oculus in the lobby.

The building is also significant for its association with French-Canadian immigrants and Americans of French-Canadian descent as the home office of the USJB from 1927 to 1994. Chartered in Rhode Island on May 7, 1900, the USJB was one of only two nationwide French-Canadian fraternal benefit organizations in the United States.