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The Rhode Island State House and its grounds, constructed between 1891 and 1901, were greatly inspired by the City Beautiful movement, an extraordinary national turning point in city planning and design largely influenced by the work of Architect Daniel Burnham and Landscape Architect Frederick Law Olmsted. The Rhode Island State House, the design of McKim, Mead & White, unmistakably takes its cues from the “White City”, the ideals of which were first expressed in the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago, and masterminded chiefly by Burnham and Olmsted.

The State Capitol, the physical symbol of Rhode Island’s ‘lively experiment,’ was purposefully positioned to be the focal point of a spacious and verdant landscape, itself designed to be inseparable from the classical architecture of the building. The intentionally-conceived setting, with specimen trees and encompassing greensward, was a pastoral oasis meant to enrich lives in our egalitarian society. This cohesive landscape contrasted sharply with the surrounding urban congestion and was created as the province of all.

Following expansion in 2013 of the parking lot into the State House lawn and the proposal for new surface parking on recently acquired land on Francis Street, PPS included the State House Lawn on the 2013 Most Endangered Properties list. We believe that these parking initiatives are in conflict with Capital Center regulations that have successfully guided development in the area.  Significantly, there are also substantial preservation concerns at stake with these activities.

Recently, our state government has shown great dedication in promoting the heritage of Rhode Island through the creation of the Charter Museum and Visitors’ Center.  Additionally, investment in rehabilitating the Amtrak Station is a positive step for the future of Capital Center. With the listing of the State House Lawn, the Board and membership of PPS called on the State to continue this positive momentum by exploring long-term parking options that do not sacrifice our common history and denigrate this most spectacular national symbol of the convergence of iconic architecture with its surrounding landscape.

As of February, 2019, the state was evaluating a proposal for an intermodal transit hub to the north of Providence Station. PPS continues to monitor proposals that will impact the historic lawn.

© 2019 Guide to Providence Architecture. All rights reserved.
Design by J. Hogue at Highchair designhaus, with development & support by Kay Belardinelli.