The Earle Building (56 Washington Street), constructed to house the offices of freight handlers, was appropriately located a couple of blocks from the freight office at Union Station; its use of a mansard roof in the 1890s shows the long persistence of this form, introduced in this country during the 1850s. Slade’s Building (38 Washington Street) exemplifies the quandary of stylistic classification of many late nineteenth-century buildings, especially those, like this, constructed without benefit of an architect (although even that didn’t always ensure success). The undulating surface dominated by a fussy, undigested amalgam of Gothic and Romanesque detail is charmingly anachronistic for the early 1880s, but the relatively high ratio of glass to wall surface anticipates the commercial buildings of the twentieth century. Slade’s Building exerts a fine street presence, and its prominent corner tower stands up pluckily to the mass across the street of City Hall’s rear elevation, relatively unarticulated compared to the facade. Both buildings underwent considerable rehabilitation in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.
– 2003 Guide to Providence Architecture