For Part Five of my Providence series, I am discussing a study and publication that was developed in the late 1950s. Through a book dealer in Providence, I was able to purchase a copy of the 1959 publication "College Hill: A Demonstration Study of Historic Urban Renewal." This study and publication was funded by a combination of federal, city and private foundation sources.
College Hill is located just east of Providence's downtown business district. It is the home of both Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design. The publication contains a photographic inventory of the area's significant hsitoric structures and lays out concepts for integrating modernist architecture with existing historic structures. This plan was never acted upon, but its significance was to set in motion the restoration of hundreds of old homes and commercial buildings many of which dated back to the 1700s and 1800s.
Looking at the concept of the modernist low-rise and high-rise structures one is reminded of changing tastes over the last fifty years in urban renewal concepts. It was to Providence's benefit that there was never the funding available to carry out the modernist approach and the essential historic fabric of College Hill remained intact with just the incursion of some modern buildings here and there in the two college campuses.
Overall for Providence the lack of funds to raze older buildings and replace them with newer structures is what helped to make Providence the "Renaissance City" that became a popular tourist destination starting in the early '90s.
Benefit Street, recognized nationally for its mile long collection of historic homes and institutional structures.
An aerial view showing the area of College Hill. The Brown University campus is located in the central area of the photo. (Courtesy of Google Earth)
The cover of the 1959 study of College Hill.
Below are random pages showing sample historic inventories and proposals for urban renewal by mixing modernist architecture of that period with the older historic structures. The plan called for some older structures to be razed in parts of the study area.
Detail illustration showing new architecture overlooking the city.
Detail showing a mix of '50s style low-rise housung with older residential structures.
Additional concepts for low-rise and historic homes.
A modernist tower proposed for a street lined with historic homes.
Additional views of historic homes and newly created low-rise housing.