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Al Bruno’s Smithfield Remembered – The Smithfield Exchange Bank

By Laurence J. Sasso, Jr.

This is the tenth article in an occasional series about Smithfield locations that have either been forgotten by time or are no longer remembered for what they once represented. The locations are selected from a list compiled by former Smithfield Building Official Al Bruno. Now 86, Mr. Bruno was originally featured in the January, 2017 edition of The Smithfield Times, and the first installment of this series ran in February.

Built in 1856, the Smithfield Exchange Bank, founded in 1822, originally was housed in a rear ell of the 18th century Resolved Waterman Tavern next door. The ell is currently being restored by the Smithfield Preservation Society with an emphasis on the role it played as home to the bank, which served to lend money to its directors, supporting local agriculture and business.

The 1856 structure, located at 595 Putnam Pike in old Greenville center, has been described in Historic and Architectural Resources of Smithfield, Rhode Island as “a handsome 2-story, cubical mass brick building with a corbel cornice and a low-pitched hip roof.”

As a comparison of the two photos will show, the Georgian Revival semi-circular vestibule at the front door was added in the early 20th century.

For many years the Greenville Volunteer Fire Company made its home in the basement of the bank, a one bay access/egress being located along the right side of the building (when looking from Putnam Pike). This explains the presence of the fire apparatus in the old photo.

Through the years the building housed The Greenville Trust Company and then became a branch of Citizens Bank. In more recent times in was home to businesses. For a time there was residential apartment space on the second floor. Today, the property is used for commercial purposes.

Hailing from the Esmond section of town, Al Bruno doesn’t recall much of the building’s use during his lifetime, but he observes that his father got a home mortgage at the bank.

“Imagine that, an immigrant from Italy and he got a mortgage for our house there,” he comments.

(Old photo courtesy of the Historical Society of Smithfield. Current photo by Albert Tavakalov/The Smithfield Times. References include Historic and Architectural Resources of Smithfield, Rhode Island compiled and published by the Rhode Island Historical Preservation Commission in 1992.)