With its terra-cotta, pier-and-spandrel framing tripartite windows, this appears at first to be yet another Chicago-school commercial building from the early years of the twentieth century. But the flashy marquee hints at more to come on the interior. Fulfillment begins immediately in the richly detailed vestibule, ratchets up in the lobby with its grand staircases at either end, and reaches a crescendo in the auditorium itself. Architects C.W. & George Rapp were the country’s leading designers of movie palaces in their day, and this is a fine example of their work, exceptionally well preserved. It was built to present both live and filmed performances, with greater emphasis on the latter. Unlike most Downtown theaters, which began to close in the 1960s as suburban locations became more desirable, Loew’s limped into the mid 1970s, even undergoing a refurbishing in 1975. But threats of demolition by 1977 led to the theatre’s rescue by a consortium of local businesses, foundations, and city and state agencies. It reopened with great fanfare in October 1978, presenting a large review starring Ethel Merman. Since reopening, the center has established itself as a non-profit and maintained its commitment to live, large-scale productions, including concerts and touring Broadway shows, now easily accommodated by the roomier backstage area.
– 2003 Guide to Providence Architecture
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