This is the first building in Providence that gives a strong sense of the community’s emerging political and economic importance within the colony. Rhode Island maintained a rotating legislature and court system from the early eighteenth through the mid-nineteenth centuries, with a Colony House in each of its five counties. Newport’s 1739 Colony House was the model for successors. After Providence’s first Colony House burned down in 1759, colony leaders chose to acquire the block-deep site between Main Street and recently constructed Benefit Street to locate the Colony House in a commanding position overlooking the site’s long Parade. The Parade was the site of many ceremonial processions, perhaps most memorably the return from France of American revolutionary fighter the Marquis de Lafayette in 1826, on the Declaration of Independence’s fiftieth anniversary, when young ladies dressed in white lined the pathway and strewed flowers in his path. The building was originally a smaller, less elaborate version of the building in Newport, but in its role as the principal (and ultimately only) State House from 1873 until 1901, it has undergone considerable expansion and remodeling. The stair-and-bell tower on the west elevation was added in the mid-nineteenth century by local architect Thomas A. Tefft, who carefully echoed the detailing of the original building. Tefft’s colleague James C. Bucklin likewise respected the original 1867 addition on the east, which now serves as the principal entrance. Inside, public spaces show early twentieth-century remodeling, when this was converted from State House to Superior Court; paint colors in these spaces have been restored to those of the period. The only largely original room in the building is the Secretary of State’s office at the second floor’s southwest corner, with paneled walls painted that popular grey-green seen in the First Baptist Church. Rhode Island was the first of the American colonies to renounce allegiance to the British crown, and that event occurred in this building on 5 May 1776. Since 1975, the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission has occupied the building and overseen its ongoing restoration and maintenance.
– 2003 Guide to Providence Architecture