Brown shifts, saves 5 houses

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On this map, the old site of the proposed concert hall would have been left of the new site (in blue). College Green is at upper left. Thayer Street is just off bottom edge. (Brown)

Breaking news! Brown has just issued an announcement that it will shift its proposed performing arts center a block north, saving four historic buildings from demolition. The new site, between Angell and Olive streets rather than Waterman and Angell, requires no demolitions, only the relocation of the Sharpe House (1874) to a site next to the Peter Green House, relocated in 2007. Brown initially rejected the new site as too small.

Brown deserves applause for withdrawing a proposal that would have demolished four houses (including the Lucien Sharpe Carriage House, now the UEL) and relocated one, in effect destroying an entire block of history.

Brown would not have changed its mind were it not for powerful opposition from the local community, led by the Providence Preservation Society. The society, community organizations and other interested individuals and groups who rallied against the proposal did their jobs well. These included many from the Brown community itself.

The new site is smaller, but because it is not located over the tunnel, more activities can be housed beneath the center. It will sit directly across The Walk from the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts, the accordion struck by an earthquake that went up in 2011. The performing arts center will still be designed, it appears, by REX, of New York.

Now if only Brown can only get Joshua Prince-Ramus, the founder of REX, to embrace the challenge of making the building look as if it belongs on College Hill. His mentor was Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, so anything is possible.

Anything? Well, okay, probably not that. But this state’s motto is “Hope.”

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To be relocated: Sharpe House, at 130-132 Angell St. (photo by George P. Landow)

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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9 Responses to Brown shifts, saves 5 houses

  1. Steve says:

    Great news! Historic Providence intact…


    • Well, not quite, Steve. But this is better than what was originally proposed. Originally, big ugly was going to take out four or five buildings. Now those buildings are saved but we’ll still get big ugly. Providence is still leaning very eagerly in the wrong direction.


  2. Pingback: Saved! Brown University Spares 5 Buildings - Providence Daily Dose

  3. Jim Gaffney says:

    I’ve never seen Brown throw in the towel that quickly. Makes me suspicious.


  4. Take a bow, David – you let the light shine in – and it made a huge difference!


    • Well, that’s very nice of you to say, Nancy, but I think it was more the number of people who marshalled against the plan than anything I said. I just call ’em as I see ’em. And the authorities don’t listen to words, only two dollars and votes.


  5. Lewis Dana says:

    Hey, now we get to watch while Brown moves another house. Last time was lots of fun to see. (And the resulting move added to the streetscape beautifully.)


    • The video of the relocation of the Peter Green House is at the link in my post, Lew. Yes, that was fun. I hope Brown doesn’t suddenly decide it’s too expensive! Eyeballing the map, I think the Green house is just above the blue rectangle, and so the Sharpe House (dotted shape within blue) will be moved up west a couple hundred feet to the right of the Green house, which may be why they are closing Olive Street below Brown Street. Does this sound right?


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