An odd piece of almost-eighteenth-century neoclassicism by the unlikeliest choice of architects, William R. Walker. James Eddy (1806-1888), a highly successful art dealer whose large house stood on the grounds just west of the building, was a freethinking man who commissioned this building to “consecrate a temple to God, to Truth, and to all that dignifies and ennobles Humanity.” It is modeled, at Eddy’s request, after the ancient Roman temple known as the Maison Carrée at Nimes, France, a building much admired by fellow-pantheist Thomas Jefferson, who used it as the model for the 1785 State Capitol in Richmond, Virginia. Walker also designed Eddy’s nearby house, but this building is unlike any of his other work or anything else built in the mid-1870s (in the middle of the country’s most severe nineteenth-century depression), here or anywhere. But a nice job by an architect whose designs never otherwise found inspiration in classical sources. Its appeal stems from its quirkiness, its quality, and its continuing the tradition of religious rebellion that led Roger Williams to found what became Rhode Island.
– 2003 Guide to Providence Architecture
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