Rising from the ashes

Pump House Music Works reopens after accident

PHOTO CREDIT: Griffin Lamoureux | Contributing Photographer 

This May, a fire broke out in the Pump House, a live music venue, community space and off-campus institution for many University of Rhode Island student performers.

While the recovery process has been difficult, owner Dan Collins said that he and his team will continue to work diligently as usual.

Collins’ vision is inspired by his passion for guitar-making. He first started the Shady Lea Guitar Company, his guitar-woodworking venture. When it was time to expand the business, Collins bought the building that would become the Pump House. The building was originally built in 1887, when it served as a water pump for North Kingston, hence the name.

Since the start of the Pump House, Collins said that his mission was to make the business have a strong commitment to music and community, and embraced Wakefield as well as URI.

The fire broke out in a room where Collins’ handmade guitars and other equipment were kept. The situation was handled and no one was hurt, but there was extensive damage to the property in the room.

“The most devastating part of the fire was the loss of personal property and the loss of my business,” Collins said. “From a manufacturing perspective, they were just guitars, but there’s no putting a price on something you’ve made yourself.”

In the months since, things were difficult for the establishment and its people. The incident had stalled business for the summer. 

Plans for repairs have since been made, though Collins said that nothing can be done yet. 

“What happens when you have a fire, it can take up to a year for everything to work out insurance-wise,” Collins said. “Insurance doesn’t cover a lot. There’s no make up for lost wages [and] destroyed guitars. Everything in that room is just evidence.  I can’t touch anything and there isn’t much I can do about it, which can be frustrating.”

The Pump House often features URI students, and some of those who had performed at the venue were shocked to hear of the fire.

One such student performer, senior George Richter, said that hearing about the incident was scary.

“I remember being on the phone with one of my best friends, she lives right down the street, and she was like ‘I smell smoke, I hear fire engines,’” Richter said. “We were talking to each other as it went down.” 

Richter has frequented the Pump House since he was 16. The venue has long been a source of encouragement for him, and he said they provided him a necessary helping hand.

“It was among the first venues I’ve ever played at, it was kind of that consistent ‘home game’ type of venue since high school,” Richter said. “When I first joined a band, we didn’t concern ourselves with booking gigs because the Pump House would hand us a slot every couple months or so.”

Richter further voiced his concerns for the Pump House’s well being, noting that the fire had occurred just as the venue was returning to normalcy following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both Collins and Richter remain hopeful, despite this turbulent year for the Pump House. “Resilience” is one way to describe the community’s reaction to these trying times. 

“Our commitment to music is not going to change at all, when you come to the Pump House, you will always see live music. We’ve always been working at trying to make things happen. There was a community GoFundMe with $20,000 in donations. We had no idea how much we were affecting the community,” Collins said.

The Pump House is still open seven days a week and running gigs, including open mic nights held on the last Sunday of every month. According to Collins, that’s just part of the Pump House’s ethos of “keep on keeping on.”