“Lost Prov” at Rochambeau

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The original Rochambeau Library, at left, and its addition, right. (Rhode Island Library Report)

This evening at 7, at the Rochambeau Library, readers are invited to look and listen as the author of Lost Providence explains why the library serves as a fitting example of a phenomenon the book so ardently regrets.

No, the library is not lost. It remains standing. But it has suffered the same fate inflicted upon its former boss, the Central Branch of the Providence Public Library. The PPL’s main branch was defaced in 1954 by an insensitive addition, which also blocks the view of the original, completed in 1900, from the east on Washington Street.

The Rochambeau was defaced in 2003 by an insensitive addition, which blocks beauty from both north and south, respectively, views of the library’s elegant original Georgian facade, erected in 1930, and from the other direction views of the library’s equally elegant neighbor, the Fourth Baptist Church, built in 1910.

But even in this corner it must be admitted that the addition created more space for reading in the library. Moreover, I met my wife at its dedication in November 2003. I wrote a column for the Providence Journal about that event, “Praise for Rochambeau, not burial” (see link below) in which I tried to suppress my disinclination to like the new glass box as best I could.

After the glass box was added, the Rochambeau and the PPL’s other branches broke off from the Central Branch and created a new Providence Community Library. The split saddened many people and hopefully the two will reunite someday. For now, although the glass box supposedly had nothing to do with the schism, it may be hoped that attendees at this evening’s lecture might better understand why a glass box was the wrong design for the Rochambeau addition.


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, dbrussat@gmail.com, 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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2 Responses to “Lost Prov” at Rochambeau

  1. Yeah, D.A., ya think? I was running for husband of Victoria, daughter of Rochambeau donor – and yes, I did win that election!


  2. Mr. Downturn says:

    As the one who changed a comma into a semi-colon in your 2003 column I’m glad that you are finally saying what you really think. I guess you were running for something back then. Glad to see you won the election.
    –Mr. Downturn


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