Built around 1890, the stately three-story, brick Asa Messer Elementary School is a fine Queen Anne style building featuring a cross-gable roof, elaborate corbelling, arches over the windows, arched doors, and tall, paneled chimneys. It was designed by William R. Walker & Son, the prolific architectural firm active from the 1870s into the 1920s and responsible for most of the prominent Rhode Island public buildings from that period, including the nearby Cranston Street Armory, and its importance as part of that collection makes it of statewide importance.
Beyond its significant architectural quality, this school is an important, historic resource within an historic neighborhood. Located within walking distance of its students, Asa Messer continues in the same functional relationship with its surroundings that it has enjoyed for well over a century and endures as vital visual landmark in the community. Like all too many of Providence’s public schools, it has suffered through years of deferred maintenance, but it is a solid structure capable of restoration and renovation.
The Facilities Master Plan for the Providence Public Schools, prepared by education planners DeJong, Inc., in 2006, suggested that this magnificent building be replaced with a new school. In recent years, Providence’s public schools have been threatened with closure and neglect. Recently, the School Board voted to close Asa Messer Elementary School and Annex. For several years, the School served as home for Trinity Academy for Performing Arts (TAPA) but they moved out in 2018 when a hole developed in the roof. As of February, 2019, its future is uncertain.
It was included on the 2007, 2008 and 2011 Most Endangered Properties Lists. As of February, 2019, the building is once again vacant. Plans for it are unknown.