The next Blackstone battle?

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The headline refers to the failed effort, in 2014, to divide up the Granoff estate. The property behind it, 25 Balton Rd., has the same dark cloud gathering over it. Many people are familiar with the Bodell mansion from having driven (or walked) down Cole Avenue, between the Granoff estate (now owned by a Dallas developer, apparently) and the gigantic hedge of bushes through a gap in which may be seen the several fancy garage doors of a magnificent old house. Finished in 1929 to the design of architect William T. Aldrich, who designed the original RISD Museum of Art on Benefit Street, the Georgian Revival mansion was once known around town for its colorful gardens. Frederick Bodell was a stockbroker and a naturalist.

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Of the invaluable emails sent to the Blackstone neighborhood by David Kolsky the latest shows that on Tuesday afternoon, the City Plan Commission will discuss a plan to subdivide the four acres much as the Granoffs had hoped to subdivide their larger parcel of land. The house, according to my source, is to be retained but at least four much smaller houses are to be erected. In the aerial photo at left, the Bodell house is to the left, with swimming pool (which, one imagines, would be history).

My information here is very sketchy but my source fears that, while the Blackstone neighbors beat back the subdivision attempt by the Granoffs, its new owner could have another go at it, a task that would be easier if the Bodell property next door is successfully subdivided.

It might not really matter all that much except that given recent history, a developer might be expected to build more houses that don’t fit into this neighborhood’s historic character. The neighbors have taken decades to be aroused to the threat, as bad modernist houses arise to besmirch Blackstone’s picturesque charms. Now that they are alerted, they are aware that politics, not law, is often the deciding factor in zoning cases. It is not the law but the interpretation of the law that counts, and that is often political.

(Notwithstanding all this, the latest addition to the housing stock along Blackstone Boulevard is a lovely one on the boulevard just south of its intersection with Rochambeau Avenue. Its front columns have just been painted. How much lovelier it is that the two houses that arose several years ago just south of the boulevard’s intersection with Laurel!)

The meeting is at 4 on the first floor of the Department of Planning and Development, across Empire from the beautiful building on Westminster that it used to be in, and in the Brutalist structure it now inhabits at 444 Westminster, on the way up the path to the Cathedral of Sts. Peter & Paul.

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.
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1 Response to The next Blackstone battle?

  1. Pingback: Bodell subdivision on Tuesday | Architecture Here and There

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