Sights ~ The Milk Can ~ North Smithfield

The Milk Can
920 Eddie Dowling Highway
North Smithfield, Rhode Island

We were heading toward Woonsocket when we saw The Milk Can again. Now, I've been meaning to photograph this landmark since we moved here, but either we were too rushed or the weather was bad or...something.

But there it was, on a beautiful Saturday. Opportunity knocked, and I answered.

As it turned out, it was a better opportunity than I'd even hoped. I've thought it was a shame that this cute building had been left to decay.

The Milk Can under repair

When I stopped to take photos, I discovered Steve, the owner, hard at work to fix the place up. We chatted awhile, and he told me that he's planning to refurbish the place, and to open it up to sell ice cream (local ice cream) in the spring of 2013, which was the original purpose of the building.

The Milk Can
You can see that Steve's also working on the wiring in the apron.

The Milk Can
The Milk Can was originally owned by Charles Plante. I can't tell exactly when it was built, but it was originally on the Louisquisett Pike, which was opened to motor traffic in 1928-29. The apron and kitchen ell were added in the 1950s, and a patio area was added in the 1960s.

The structure was moved from its original location in the late 1980's or early 1990's. It has remained unopen. Steve told me that his grandfather had owned the building, and worked on rehabbing it in his spare time, but passed away before he was able to finish the project. Steve plans to finish his grandfather's work.

From The Milk Can's and Art In Ruins' pages:
"The Milk Can is significant for its exemplification of aspects of early twentieth century commercial and transportation history. It is a charateristic example of a distinctive and fast-disappearing phase of the first period of automobile-oriented commerce. The Milk Can represents the earliest period of snack food merchandising. Located on a major highway, it was designed to act as a “sign,” and immediate, eye-catching attraction to auto travelers on the Louisquisset Pike. The heyday of such mimetic architecture was in the 1920s and 1930s, and examples are now rare. 
The Milk Can's flamboyant form is a good expression of the retailing imperitives of its decade. Unlike the highway-oriented chain fast-food outlets of today, whose proprietors can rely upon nation-wide promotion and advertising to gain the recognition and attention of travelers, the Milk Can’s owner, who built in an era of individual entrepreneurship, required a structure which could demand the motorist’s notice, immediately focus his attention, and act as an advertisement for itself."
I look forward to watching the progress, and to trying some local ice cream next year.


  1. I'm glad to see that this building is getting some TLC! I've driven past it many times, and I was sad to see it getting worse and worse. I don't go by it as often now as I used to, now that I have moved to Gloucester, MA, but I still go by from time to time.

    1. Us too! We're excited to see it open next spring.

  2. What a lovely building and it is so perfect for local ice cream sales! Thank you for sharing this wonderful story and I wish Steve all the luck in the world. Hugs, Mina


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