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State Armory, Cranston St, from HABS/HAER

The College Hill Study

A PPS Legacy

In 1956, the Providence Preservation Society was founded by a group of concerned citizens in opposition to wide-scale demolition of historic structures within College Hill. In 1957, the Society partnered with the City of Providence to solicit federal funds for a study of the area.

In 1959, The College Hill Study of Historic Area Renewal was published, and became the first urban planning study in the country to use Urban Renewal Administration, Housing and Home finance Agency (now known as the Department of Housing and urban Development, or HUD) funds for the purposes of preservation. Beyond that, the study aimed “…to develop methods and techniques for a program of preservation, rehabilitation and renewal in a historic area which can serve as a guide for other areas with similar problems."

Although 2/3 of the project was funded by HUD, nearly $20,000 (equivalent to $168,762.28 today) was raised by PPS. The Study surveyed over 300 acres and 1,700 individual buildings, eventually leading to the creation of a College Hill local historic district, and, in 1970, a National Historic Landmark District.

The College Hill Study showed that there is no inherent conflict between the growth of a city and historic preservation. Two of the main goals of the project were to "develop techniques for integrating areas of historic architecture into proposed redevelopment programs" and "demonstrate visually how contemporary architecture can successfully relate to existing historic architecture." The "Renewal of College Hill" chapter showcases exactly that: restored colonial houses are interspersed with mid-century modern townhouses on wide pedestrian thoroughfares with ample greenspace.

College Hill Plan Streetscape
An imagined view of a revitalized South Main Street, 1959

The study also stressed the importance of private investment and personal initiative to redevelop blighted properties. The restored houses seen today on north Benefit Street are testament to the success of the project.

42 - 62 Benefit Street
Restored homes on Benefit Street. A PPS House Marker can be seen on 62 Benefit.

Below is a digitized copy of the second edition of the College Hill Study, published in 1967. The renderings of future development will be featured in our exhibit, “The PPS Legacy: How the College Hill Study Saved Providence,” on display during our 37th Festival of Historic Houses.


 

The College Hill Study of Historic Area Renewal, 2nd. Ed, 1967

College Hill Study - Foreword (pdf)

College Hill Study - Chapter 1 - Preservation in America (pdf)

College Hill Study - Chapter 2 - Survey Techniques - Part I (pdf)

College Hill Study - Chapter 2 - Survey Techniques - Part II (pdf)

College Hill Study - Chapter 2 - Survey Techniques - Part III (pdf)

College Hill Study - Chapter 3 - Renewal of College Hilll - Part I (pdf)

College Hill Study - Chapter 3 - Renewal of College Hilll - Part II (pdf)

College Hill Study - Chapter 3 - Renewal of College Hilll - Part III (pdf)

College Hill Study - Chapter 3 - Renewal of College Hilll - Part IV (pdf)

College Hill Study - Chapter 4 - Progress Since 1959 (pdf)