City Council recently rang in a victory for historic preservation by approving a new local historic district, containing a slate of properties afforded new protections. Affirming the critical importance of protecting historic properties from demolition and inappropriate exterior alterations, the Council approved a new historic district overlay, encompassing nearly 90 properties on the east side of College Hill — roughly between Hope, Angell, Governor and Young Orchard. You can read the City Council’s press release here.
The push for the inclusion of these properties within the new historic district was a grassroots, neighbor-driven effort spanning years of study, conversations with property owners, and solicitation of support. The City Council heeded neighbors’ calls to preserve the character, texture and history of the district.
The campaign to expand protections into this new district was spearheaded by PPS on behalf of the neighbors and was championed by Ward 1 Councilman John Goncalves; the petition was also co-sponsored by Ward 2 Councilwoman Helen Anthony. Once Mayor Jorge Elorza signs the ordinance, the local historic district designation for these 87 properties (see page 4 of linked agenda) will head to the Historic District Commission to be received and named. You can view our album of survey images of properties within the new district here.
Local historic district protection is one of the most important preservation tools available. Without it, buildings can be demolished without review and alterations made and new construction added without consideration of or sensitivity to the historic neighborhood and buildings. This designation is a win for both the present-day stewards of historic properties and future generations.
This eastern section of College Hill includes a variety of historically and architecturally significant residential buildings. Most houses date from the late 19th and early 20th century and include designs by notable local architects such as Gould & Angell; Stone, Carpenter & Willson; and early modernists Geddes & Kelly. For decades this district has had National Register Historic District designation, which is largely honorary.
The original study area included 24 Brown University owned properties, most of which were west of Hope Street; however Brown did not want to be included in the local historic district. PPS worked diligently to reach a compromise with Brown to include one parcel — the substantial Orwig Music Library and Fulton Rehearsal Hall property between Young Orchard Avenue and Benevolent Street — in the historic district. The principal building on the property, originally the Sprague-Ladd House, was built by Byron Sprague in 1850 as an Italianate residence and later remodeled in the French Baroque style by Carrère & Hastings. The stable block at the rear of the property is thought to be the work of Brown alumnus, mid-19th century architect Thomas Tefft.
PPS is grateful to Councilman John Goncalves for his leadership on behalf of his constituents in shepherding this zoning change through the City Council. We also want to extend particular thanks to the study committee members, who are all property owners in the district. We could not have achieved this preservation protection without their commitment and tireless effort. Finally, our gratitude to the neighbors who jump started this effort many years ago and supported PPS to see it to fruition.
We invite you to explore many of the buildings included in the new local historic district through our online resources, the Gowdey Library of House Histories and the Guide to Providence Architecture.
For more information on Providence’s local historic districts or to access the HDC’s Standards and Guidelines, visit https://www.providenceri.gov/planning/providence-historic-district-commission-phdc/