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Designed by Boston’s Samuel J.F. Thayer, City Hall is one of the country’s best preserved municipal examples of the Second Empire Baroque, surpassed perhaps only by that in Philadelphia. Napoleon III’s civic redevelopment of Paris through the 1850s and 1860s in the style of Louis XIV not only reflected on France’s period of great power and influence but also set the fashion in this country for government buildings. Many of these buildings have been lost or gutted, and Providence City Hall almost was too, at least as envisioned by Downtown Providence 1970, the city’s official planning document adopted in 1959. After the inauguration in 1975 of Mayor Vincent A. Cianci, Jr, and thanks to him, however, City Hall underwent a long and careful restoration, under the guidance of Antoinette Downing, Frank Mauran III, and Irving B. Haynes. The building’s exterior, which looks today as it did when it was completed, concentrates the highly animated wall-surface treatment characteristic of the second empire around the principal entrance, located in a pavilion that thrusts forward beyond the wall surface and culminates in a convex mansard-roof “dome.” A large central staircase, surrounded by balconies on each upper story and illuminated from above by a large skylight, dominates the interior. The original olive-green, maroon, and tan color scheme in the central space has been recreated, although simple silver paint now replaces the original but impractical silver leaf. On the third story, the magnificent City Council Chamber has original furniture and fine Neo-Grec stenciling, carefully restored by Robert Dodge.

– 2003 Guide to Providence Architecture

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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.