Westminster Street
Looking east from Mathewson, pre-Surgeon General’s warning sailor in the foreground (that’s Tilden-Thurber over his left shoulder), 1940’s. Note that parts of the Industrial Trust building in the distance had to be penned in to the photo after being washed out by overexposure.
Journal Building
The two photos on the right are from soon after the building went up. Get close to the building today and you can still see all the sockets where the lightbulbs went. In the 1950’s the facade was covered, along with other buildings downtown, with this sort of Jetson’s look to modernize the city, the idea being, I suppose, that old buildings kept shoppers out of downtown. Built in 1907.
Tilden-Thurber originally a fine goods department store on the southeast corner of Westminster and Mathewson. In 1897, Lizzie Borden, of axe murdering fame, was accused of stealing two paintings from the store. The story goes that Mr. Tilden agreed to drop the charges if she signed a confession to murdering her parents. It’s a cliffhanger you’ll need to explore. Google your way down that rabbit hole. Built 1895.
Providence River
West bank of the Providence River looking north-ish. The only easily recognized building on the skyline is the Banigan Building, the city’s first skyscraper completed in 1896. Note the docking bays cut into the riverbank toward downtown, most of them reaching all the way to Dyer street.
Soldiers and Sailors
Three locations over 150 years. At the 1871 location, near where it sits today, the cannon balls are stacked next to the canons. At the 1913 location in the middle of what is now Kennedy Plaza, the cannon balls were stacked below the cannons. At the current 1997 location, there are no no cannon ball stacks. The monument was also taller when it was in the center of Kennedy Plaza.

Industrial Trust Building
Photo taken from just north of Union Station. I like the feeling of time travel here, which comes from a combination of familiarity and transformation. Superman is the same but without Fleet Center next door, Turk’s Head becomes part of the skyline from the north and then the unfamiliar presence of the train is almost shocking given that today the trains are virtually invisible. Built in 1928.
Westminster Congregational Church
On Mathewson, south of Washington, the church was designed by the same architects that designed The Arcade a year earlier. In 1902 the church was converted into a theatre and then later, first floor retail, but the old church is still in there, you just need to cross the street to see the gable peeking out. In the 1950’s the back portion of the building was chopped off to create parking. Built in 1829.
City Hall
Yes, I did wait for a bus. Note changes to the fourth floor on city hall. We now have more windows, but we lost the little gable with columns at the center. To the left is Hotel Dorrance, demolished in 1920 to build the Woolworth building, still with us today. Built in 1874.
The Mercantile Block
I don’t have a lot to say about The Mercantile Block other than it’s current owners, AS220, have performed an amazing job of stewardship with the property. Just past the Mercantile block you can see the Hotel Dreyfuss, built 1890, as it looked before a significant remodel 1917 when it lost the mansard roof. Built in 1901.
Union Station
This was once the end of Francis Street, which now runs alongside the mall, but once ran diagonally, as it still does next to the Masonic lodge. From the lodge, the street ran across what is today a large lawn at roughly the same angle as the current stone pathway, then on across the river at what is now Waterplace park, then under Union Station, emerging here where the current ice rink goes in each winter today. There is now an interesting pedestrian tunnel under the station. Built in 1896.
Messer Street Grounds/Willow Street School
The southwest corner of Messer and Willow, westside, was home to the Providence Grays, arguably winners of the first world series in 1884. We know the location of the stadium because the school seen in the distance is still with us today minus the towers. The postcard is wrong, it was Willow Street School. The baseball stadium was built in 1878, the school in 1875.
Cathedral Square
Starchitect IM Pei is credited with and/or blamed for the design of Cathedral Square, but the outdoor room, which I think is charming, was designed by the project’s landscape architects Zion & Breen. All you have to do is look at their Paley Park in New York to see that this is true. Built in 1969.
Westminster Street
Looking west down Westminster at Christmas time, 1940, we see Shepherd’s clock across the street. We know it’s 1940 because the movie Too Many Girls was released that year. A musical comedy starring Lucille Ball and Dezi Arnez in a supporting role. This is when they met and fell in love. They were married in November of that year.
Weybosset & Eddy
Who would have thought that the 7-Eleven on the northeast corner of Weybosset and Eddy was actually a cool building once upon a time. The biggest loss here, clearly, the windows. This was a popular post on Instagram because of the combination of recognition and transformation but also because, Autocrat coffee, which I think of as an endearment, a thing that makes people say aww. Photo 1940’s.
Police & Fire Headquarters
Just north of the library on Fountain, this building was demolished in 2007 at 67 years old because … parking lot. But a piece of it survives and was, apparently even cared for in a way. At the northwest corner of the parking lot there is a small patch of grass and this remnant, but no marker or plaque.
Weybosset Street
This guy is walking west down the south side of Weybosset. Today he would be standing in front of Snowden Hall, but then he was in front of the Crown Hotel. The street behind him is Garnett, then possibly named Potter, which, before Johnson & Wales, stretched from Friendship to Weybosset. Behind our friend you can see the Outlet store. Date unknown but 1890’s seems likely.
Hotel Perrin
I know almost nothing about Hotel Perrin, which sat at the northwest corner of Washington and Snow, so I’m going to use this photo to thank my friend, David Brusett, author of Lost Providence, which sparked my obsession, and lament that this isn’t a parking lot instead of a structure because, as David says, at least a parking lot holds the promise of a building. A parking garage is another matter. Date unknown.
Conrad Building
I have read that the architecture here is unruly. I’m inclined to agree and that’s why I like it so much. The building is located on the northwest corner of Westminster and Aborn. The next time you’re walking past on Westminster stop and stare at the details for at least five minutes. If you’ve never done this, I promise you’ll find something new. I love the windows set back under arches on the 5th floor. Built in 1885, the date of the photo is unknown but 1890’s would be a good guess.
Turk’s Head
One of our most iconic buildings. The banners hanging from the frame during construction read: “We want a live independent man in the state house as well as a bronze independent man on the dome. Vote for Theodore Francis Green for Governor.” It took another 20 years for Green to actually win the governorship. Built in 1913, it was the tallest building downtown until the Biltmore went up.
YWCA & First Universalist
Yes, I did wait for the bus. Looking east down Washington from a spot in front of the Regency Plaza Apartments. The street off to the right running alongside the YWCA was Jackson Street, which then went from Cathedral Square to Broadway, and is now Jackson walkway. Note the ivy on the church, very common at the time. Church built in 1872. YWCA built in 1906.
Atlantic Bank
A favorite building for many people. On Weybosset, just west of The Arcade, it started life as a bank and has been many things over 150 years, including a coffee company, making this among my favorite photographs because coffee is my day job. It’s also been, according to extant photos, a gift shop and a bible bookstore. Built in 1866.

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