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60 Manning Street, photo by Stephanie Ewens

Yet Another Parking Lot: Police and Fire Headquarters

197 Fountain St. 

Photo Courtesy of Art in Ruins
This time I’ll start with how the story ends, because there are no surprises here. Today the former Police and Fire Headquarters is a parking lot. This parking lot can be found directly behind the Providence Public Library, another gaping hole downtown. Now, as usual, I’m counting on you to help fill me in on what happened here (remember, I’m new in town). But this is what I’ve pieced together:

Police photo 2
Photo Courtesy of Google Maps :-)
The building was completed in 1940, and placed Providence’s fire and police departments under one roof. It was one of the city’s rare examples of art deco architecture. From what I can tell, it was a handsome building. Pictures taken prior to being demolished show it boarded up and falling apart. But the bones of the building looked good. Streamlined columns punctuated the façade and stylized decorative motifs decorated the tops of windows and doors. Even in its worst days it had potential.

Photo Courtesy of Art in Ruins
Well apparently that sentiment was not shared by everyone, and some deemed the building a safety hazard five years after being abandoned by the police and fire departments for their new home at 325 Washington St. in 2002. Three years later the building was sold and deteriorated under new ownership. Not properly secured, it was left open to vermin, drug dealers and the homeless. This neglect enabled the owners to apply for a demolition permit on the grounds that the building posed a threat to public safety.


So the building came down, and yet another “temporary” parking lot emerged. At the time of demolition in 2007 there were plans for the lot to be redeveloped into an extension of the convention center (rendering below, provided by Greater City Providence). The building was never realized however, and the temporary parking lot is looking pretty permanent.

Rendering Courtesy of Greater City Providence

MYSTERY QUESTION: I’m curious as to what happened to the Police Headquarters building that preceded this one, completed in 1902, a grand looking beaux arts building also on Fountain St (exact address, I do not know). Does anyone know what happened to this structure? Was it also torn down for parking or for something else?

1902bldg OTHER RESOURCES: As usual, Art In Ruins has a wealth of information on this building, and some great pictures too. And here are some good demolition shots from Greater City Providence. One more bonus from the Providence Public Library: check out this awesome collection of photos from the exhibit, “Protecting Providence: Three Centuries of Policing in Rhode Island’s Capital City.”

JOIN THE CONVERSATION! What do you know about the former Police and Fire Headquarters? 

Originally posted on April 18, 2015