Legal on Blackstone Blvd.

The 1915 Tuscan-style house of Leonard and Paula Granoff. (

The 1915 Tuscan-style house of Leonard and Paula Granoff. (

A typical Blackstone Boulevard home. (

A typical Blackstone neighborhood home. (

Some modernist houses on Blackstone are better than others. (

Some modernist houses in the ‘hood are better than others. (*)

Then there is the mid-century modern

Then there is the mid-century modern. (

Even the Blackstone neighborhood of Providence can be relied on to prove that no place in the city is absolutely stereotypical. I didn’t realize the extent to which this was so until yesterday, when I went, ahem!, “jogging” up and down its sumptuous residential streets. No, there are no slums on Blackstone Boulevard, but the neighborhood of mansions and other opulent abodes in an array of traditional styles, from Neoclassical to Gothic to Victorian, Shingle and beyond, is speckled and besplotched by poor residential architecture. No small bit of it is mid-century modern, notably in the blocks to the north, west and, especially, southwest of the walled Granoff estate along the boulevard immediately north of Rochambeau Avenue.

Notably because the Granoffs are trying to sell their land to a developer who would recoup his investment by subdividing the property at 440-460 Blackstone into up to 12 parcels for single-family residential. One would like to think that the Granoffs would sell only to a developer whose plans would raise rather than lower the local property values. The lots as laid out abide by city code, so there seems to be no legal lever by which the local community can bargain with the family. Their large 1915 Tuscan-style house would be preserved. But they would move out, and nobody knows what a developer will put on the rest of the land once it is no longer under the protective wing of Leonard and Paula Granoff (her family, the Kofflers, founded the American Tourister luggage empire in Warren, R.I., in 1933).

A lively meeting was held on Oct. 27 at the Rochambeau library, and another meeting will be held this Monday, Nov. 10 at 6:30 p.m. in the Central Congregational Church on Angell Street to prepare for a special City Plan Commission meeting at the planning department on Tuesday, Nov. 18.

The community, which has formed the Blackstone Neighborhood Organization to act on its behalf, wants to move the process forward arm in arm with the good Granoffs, whose better angels sit on one shoulder whispering into one ear of their longstanding legacy of stewardship. But the community is also watching the Granoffs’ other shoulder, where a small gremlin whispers into the other Granovian ear that sunny Florida beckons, along with other advice in all probability quite a bit less salubrious. That, at least for now, seems to be what the Granoffs are listening to. After the library meeting the community conveyed its concerns to the Granoffs, but received little in the way of a comforting reply.

Who knows how this tug of war will go. But the fate of the stone wall bordering the Granoff estate along Blackstone and Rochambeau may tell which way the wind is blowing.

The community, which has failed to rally in the past as developers and landowners have degraded the value of the Blackstone neighborhood over the decades, can only hope that the better angels of the Granoff nature will prevail. But angels and gremlins have eyes and ears themselves. A turnout at the Nov. 10 and Nov. 18 meetings as strong as at the recent Rochambeau meeting cannot fail to have a salutory influence.

*Trulia, noting my attributed illustration from its real-estate network, has asked me to offer readers a link to their site, which I do with willingness and appreciation. The site is as follows:,5927,Blackstone/


About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy,, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
This entry was posted in Architecture, Development, Preservation, Providence, Urbanism and planning and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Legal on Blackstone Blvd.

  1. says:

    Great site for public housing! The Libs would love it.

    Sent from my Sprint phone.


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