The former Condom Hut as a locksmith's showcase, December 2003.

Drive-thru population control.

Cardi Shopping Center, Park Avenue, Knightsville, Cranston

In honor of the Rhode Island practice of giving directions based on landmarks that "usta be there," we turn the spotlight on Condom Hut.

Originally a Fotomat, this small building came to national attention in July 1992, when it was painted hot pink, and condoms were distributed from its drive-up window. The business was the brainchild of Emanuella DelVecchio, a former Pan Am flight attendant who got the idea while watching a 20/20 segment on AIDS.

The new business soon drew its share of customers—glow-in-the-dark condoms sold out within the first few days—but it also drew a number of self-righteous moro... er, uh, concerned parents and neighbors. Several residents and business owners called City Hall to complain; the booth was vandalized and protesters marched up and down outside the little hut carrying signs condemning the distribution of the evil prophylactics. And of course we can all see their point. After all, teenagers might get ahold of them and be tempted to have sex. And not get pregnant. And not catch diseases.

In retrospect, the Knightsville section of Cranston may not have been the best choice of location to open this type of business. Knightsville is populated almost entirely by immigrants from Itri, Italy, and their families, and they hold tightly to their traditions. In some ways life in Knightsville mirrors that of an Itri that used to be, while Itri itself has moved ahead. Part of that life is a deep-seated Catholic faith. Is it any wonder condoms weren't welcome?

When and why Condom Hut went out of business is unknown, as are the whereabouts of Ms. DelVecchio. Condom Hut was mentioned as recently as January 1996 in an article on birth control in American Demographics magazine, but the building's most recent use was as a Del's Frozen Lemonade stand—dispensing safe, uncontroversial Del's Frozen Lemonade to adults and children indiscriminately. Now vacant and available for rent, the building is once again painted pink.

Despite Condom Hut's disappearance from the birth control landscape, the sale of the offending latex devices continues unchecked in drugstores, supermarkets, and convenience stores all over the nation.

Update, Fall 2003: The former Condom Hut is once again seeing useful service, this time as a showcase for a local locksmith. The last couple of times we went by we didn't notice anyone protesting the sale of locks to minors, nor did we see any evidence of vandalism. The signs warning of twenty-four-hour video surveillance are obviously doing their job.

Update, August 2008: Empty again. Painted brown and with newspaper obscuring the windows, the former Condom Hut awaits its next incarnation.

Update, Summer 2015: Demolished! Only a fresher patch of asphalt shows where it once was.

Information

Cost: free

Time required: a glance'll do ya

Hours: dawn to dusk

Finding it: from Route 95 take exit 16 to Route 10 north; from Route 10 take the next exit to Reservoir Avenue; turn right onto Reservoir and drive south to Park Avenue; turn right on Park and drive west; the former Condom Hut is located in the Cardi Shopping Center on the left-hand side at the intersection of Park and Cranston Street.

What’s nearby

Distances between points are actual distances, without regard to lakes or temperamental ogres. Your travel distance will be longer.

This article last edited November 16, 2016

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