PROVIDENCE – The Providence Preservation Society will purchase the 1769 Brick School House from the city of Providence thanks to a $341,500 grant from The Champlin Foundations, the preservation society announced Tuesday.
The building, located at 24 Meeting St. in Providence, is one of only a handful of remaining 18th century buildings in the city.
“With the neighboring 1772 John Carter House (known as Shakespeare’s Head) and the 1762 Old State House, the Brick School House comprises a rare visible memory of what was the civic center of colonial Providence,” said a Providence Preservation Society release.
The preservation society considers the building’s acquisition a key part of its historic restoration plan. Working with a team including Ed Wojcik, Architect Ltd., Peter Borgemeister, Architect, and landscape architects Searle and Searle, the preservation society has begun what it calls an “adaptive re-use plan” for the property as a Center for Preservation Education and a new home for the society’s preservation library and archive.
The preservation society has leased the building from the city of Providence since 1960 and has already invested nearly $250,000 in earlier capital improvements in the property. Earlier this year, PPS received a $14,400 matching grant from the 1772 Foundation to supposed the restoration of the school house’s roof.
“Throughout 50 years of occupancy and stewardship, PPS has worked to retain the character of the historically significant Brick School House,” Executive Director James Brayton Hall said in a statement.
“By receiving the funds to purchase the building from The Champlin Foundations, we can make this historic structure a safe, accessible and available resource for the city of Providence,” Hall said, adding: “We are extremely grateful to The Champlin Foundations for this very significant show of confidence in the relevance of our mission, and our organizational capacity.”
The Brick School House is one of the very first public schools in America and 28 years later, in 1797, it became the first school in Rhode Island to educate African-American children. According to the preservation society, the building also holds historical relevance to the state’s disabled community, since the building was the first school in the country for tubercular children and the original home of the Meeting Street School for children with cerebral palsy.