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In 1901, shortly after the completion of Union Station and the creation of Exchange Place, the city bought the land on which this building stands and donated it to the united states government as the site for a federal building to supplement that on Weybosset Street. The city’s early involvement in the acquisition of this land may well have played a role in the creation of a building that is a fitting complement to City Hall across the way. The federal government held a competition for the design of this building, won by local architects Clarke & Howe with the assistance of École-des-Beaux-Arts-trained Julius Sweinfurth. The Federal Building matches its companion in materials and massing but presents a radically different interpretation of classicism filtered through french academic architecture: here turn-of-the-twentieth-century academicism encounters the free-wheeling Baroque of the Second Empire. The architectural dialogue between these two buildings excites this space like no other in the city, and probably is unparalleled elsewhere as well. Flanking the entrance are two fine pyramidal-composition marble sculptures by John Massey Rhind, America and Providence, typical of the embellishment of Beaux-Arts public buildings and reminiscent of the groups carved by Daniel Chester French for the New York Customs House a few years before.

– 2003 Guide to Providence Architecture

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