Speak for history on Monday

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Set into photograph is a sketch of the proposal to relocate 59 Williams St. cottage. (PHDC)

The Providence Historic District Commission will meet tomorrow, Monday, July 27 at 4:30 p.m., via Zoom, to decide the fate of Providence.

That does not overstate the case. If the commission approves moving the historic cottage at 159 Williams Street, on College Hill, it will have opened the door to destroying not just this historic neighborhood but any of the city’s most venerable districts. The seemingly innocuous relocation of the cottage would make room for a more modern-style development. Yes, many buildings are far more historical than the cottage, but this neighborhood was built just as the nation was winning and consolidating its freedom. If it is not sacrosanct in a city so dependent on historical character, the city will already have thrown its fate to the wind. Let developers tinker elsewhere.

In what seems to be a conciliatory gesture to neighbors who feel overlooked by the PHDC process, the commission postponed voting on this at its June 22 meeting and cleared its agenda for tomorrow (Monday, July 27) of all items except that pertaining to the cottage. Commission staff prior to June 22 recommended approving the relocation as consistent with regulations, but the full commission need not obey the staff. Not too long ago, the City Plan Commission overruled its staff’s support for the Fane tower in the I-195 corridor. City commission members have a duty to take the city’s broader well-being and future into account.

The Monday meeting cannot be attended in person but may be attended via Zoom or by phone hookup. To connect with Zoom, click on https://zoom.us/j/97057854485; You may hook up by phone by dialing 1 888 475 4499 and typing in the pin number 97057854485. To speak, sign up at the Zoom site after you’ve logged in. Just as important is for people to send their opinions to the commission’s Jason Martin. His email is jmartin@providenceri.gov. To be most effective, keep it brief and to the point.

I wrote at greater length about this development on my blog July 12 in “Subdivide history? Bad idea.” Please feel free to use any part of it with or without attribution if you want to speak at the meeting or email your opinion to the commission. Information from the PHDC staff on the cottage agenda item may be seen here.

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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