RISD’s first permanent home reinforced both the presence of Providence’s artistic community here at the foot of College Hill and the establishment of an institutional corridor through the heart of College Hill. RISD was established in 1877 by a group of Providence women, led by Helen Adelia Rowe Metcalf (1830-1895), with funds remaining from the Rhode Island exhibit at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia the previous year. RISD occupied rented quarters Downtown before building this early Venetian Renaissance-inspired brick building designed by Hoppin, Read & Hoppin. This sober building was likely inspired by New York’s National Academy of Design (1863-65), designed by Peter Bonnett Wight, because the program of both buildings incorporated blind upper stories for studios evenly lit by skylights. In 1897, an addition in the rear provided gallery space for the Museum – space now incorporated into the Benefit Street building (The RISD Museum), though its access from this building has been removed. From this building, RISD came to occupy this entire block and beyond.
– 2003 Guide to Providence Architecture