The Meeting Street Steps are an unusual feature in the College Hill National Historic Landmark District. These 20 granite steps were constructed in the late 18th-century to connect Meeting Street and Congdon Street and had for centuries provided a shortcut for residents, including Governor William Sprague. Local folklore maintains that Sprague would travel out of his way between his home and the old State House just to ride up and down the steps on horseback.
Prior to its 1995 inclusion on the Most Endangered Properties list, the city-owned Meeting Street Steps stood in complete disrepair. Moisture had forced the steps out of alignment; the retaining walls on either side were crumbling; and the handrail had disappeared. Neighboring residents formed the Meeting Street Steps Work Group and petitioned PPS to include the stairs on its Most Endangered Properties list. The group further consulted the husband-and-wife architectural team of Lance Bay and Angela Lorenzo Bay. The City stated that there was no money available at the time to repair the historic landscape feature.
SAVED: Beginning in 1999, in conjunction with the City and the Meeting Street Work Group, PPS helped to solicit over $100,000 in donations from nearly 350 residents. Soon thereafter, ground was broken to realign the steps, rebuild the retaining wall, install handrails, and beautify the surrounding area. Contributors included the College Hill Neighborhood Association, the North Benefit Street Association, the Rhode Island School of Design, Brown University, and East Side Marketplace, which pledged 1% of the cash register receipt totals of concerned shoppers. In addition, The Champlin Foundation, The Chace Fund, and The Lillian Cumming Streetscape Fund provided grants for the project. The project’s architect was Cornelius de Boer and its contractor was Site Tech, Inc. In 2018, the Steps were again damaged at the top and bottom, this time by drunk drivers. PPS stepped up and with consultation with architect de Boer and work by Site Specific, the steps were again restored. As of February, 2019, they are in good repair and awaiting a bronze marker to be installed later in 2019.