An impressive and impressively sited building just below the crest of College Hill, this was the first, and for more than fifty years, only building at what was originally Rhode Island College. The school was established as a Baptist college in Warren, Rhode Island, in 1767 and came to Providence because the Baptists living here offered greater financial support than those in rival Newport. The school’s advent precipitated the construction of the large First Baptist Church only a few years later. The building’s design, typical for higher-learning institutions at the time, could also have been found contemporaneously at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton; the latter’s Old Nassau Hall (alas, with this, the only remaining example) was the model Joseph Brown used for this. For many years it stood alone atop the hill, its isolated hilltop location reflecting the attitude of scholarly removal from the world that it overlooked. The building was stuccoed in the mid-nineteenth century, the better to blend with its new neighbor Manning Hall. It was restored to its present appearance in 1939-40 by Boston architects Perry, Shaw and Hepburn, architects for the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg, heavily funded, as was this, by the largesse of John D. Rockefeller, Jr, Brown Class of 1897. The interior, appealing though it is, nevertheless represents mid-twentieth-century notions of “ye Colonial,” filtered through Tidewater Virginia.
– 2003 Guide to Providence Architecture