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Designed by architects at the Office of the Commission of Public Buildings, Nathan Bishop School is an ample three-story, brick and limestone, Georgian Revival building with a flat roof and stripped classical detailing. Nathan Bishop was built as a junior high school in 1929, just as the northern part of the East Side underwent its most intense development.

The school, which was closed in 2006, suffered from deferred maintenance and in the Facilities Master Plan for the Providence Public Schools, educational planner DeJONG recommended that it undergo a major renovation. However, an active group of parents and neighbors formed and preferred to see the current building demolished and a new school built in its place. An architect was been hired by the city to create options for renovation, rebuilding, or both.

SAVED: Following inclusion in 2007 of the school on the Most Endangered Properties list, the City of Providence hired architects to determine if demolition was the only option, or if it was feasible to assume that this historic building could be converted into a modern 21st Century middle school. The demolition would have led to considerable construction waste and place a strain on limited landfill capacity. Even if the capital costs were comparable, the ecological footprint of new construction is considerably higher than renovation. Sustainable design strategies, along with other modern amenities, were integrated into the design while simultaneously respecting the existing building’s character and turn-of-the-century detailing. Ultimately the historic renovation project came in at $26 million — less than original estimates and less than what it would have cost to construct a new school on the same site. In 2009, the Nathan Bishop Middle School opened as a High-Performance Historic “Green” School Building. As the first renovated historic school in Rhode Island to be “certified” a high performance green school using the Northeast Collaborative for High Performance Schools (NE CHPS) criteria, it has won numerous accolades. In October 2009 it received the prestigious “Rhody Award for Historic Preservation” from the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission.

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© 2023 Guide to Providence Architecture. All rights reserved. Design by J. Hogue at Highchair designhaus, with development & support by Kay Belardinelli.