Providence (June 5, 2012) — Mayor Angel Taveras, Richard Godfrey, Executive Director of Rhode Island Housing, and partners today unveiled Rhode Island Housing’s new whimsical downtown window display along Washington Street. The stylized mural depicts Rhode Island from its urban centers to its seaside communities.
“Providence’s dynamic and creative capital is bolstered by the artistic celebrations in DownCity. Rhode Island Housing has provided workers, residents and visitors a wonderful display featuring many iconic Providence characteristics,” said Mayor Taveras. “I appreciate the partnership that we have with Rhode Island Housing and value their work to help strengthen communities across Rhode Island.”
The display enlivens a city block of DownCity with a motif of Rhode Island that contains 10 familiar State icons (such as a Rhode Island Red, the Independent Man and a quahog) hidden throughout the mural in the same vein as the book series Where’s Waldo? The other seven hidden icons are: An Anchor, the Block Island Ferry, a Carousel Horse, La Pigna (Federal Hill), Giraffes (Roger Williams Park Zoo), the Hope Banner and a Tennis Racket (Tennis Hall of Fame).
Since purchasing and restoring the Slade, Garr and Earle buildings in the last two decades, Rhode Island Housing has remained committed to a well-maintained and attractive streetscape. Additionally, the agency since 1995 has directly financed or assisted with the financing of the restoration of DownCity buildings such as the Dreyfus Hotel, the Mercantile Block, Smith Building and Peerless Building.
“Rhode Island Housing is committed to the revitalization of this great city in so many ways,” said Richard Godfrey, Executive Director of Rhode Island Housing. “We help people buy homes and invest in the rebuilding of its neighborhoods. We are proud that our headquarters injects vitality into DownCity. Our stylized block-long mural depicting Rhode Island from its urban centers to its seaside communities enlivens this historic city block and encourages visitors to enjoy our city and State as they search for the icons.”
The new window display reflects on Rhode Island Housing’s work to create vibrant communities with good homes in all parts of the State. These are themes Rhode Island Housing has highlighted in many of the agency’s new informational materials.
“Cornish Associates applauds Rhode Island Housing, a valued partner, who has been a committed member of the DownCity community and has contributed to our philosophy of creating a diverse, walkable and sustainable downtown,” said Steve Durkee, a Senior Associate with Cornish Associates. “This provides another reason for all Rhode Islanders to enjoy and visit DownCity and experience all of its successes.”
In addition to ensuring affordable homes to all the people who live and work in Rhode Island, the agency’s continued commitment to DownCity includes assisting in the finance and restoration of some eight buildings as well as the revitalization of three historic buildings as its headquarters. In the mid 1990s, the agency restored the Slade Building, along Washington Street, and its sister, the Garr Building on Eddy Street. In the early 2000s, the agency restored the Earle Building on Washington Street.
“Rhode Island Housing and the Foundation have worked together to help ensure a vibrant downtown,” said Daniel Baudouin, Executive Director of the Providence Foundation. “This extra contribution to a city block is an example of the agency going above and beyond and taking a leadership role in downtown revitalization efforts.”
The Slade Building, built in 1881, is a High Victorian Gothic structure, which housed Westcott, Slade and Balcom, paint purveyors. According to the Downtown Historic District’s National Register Nomination, the Slade Building is the oldest surviving office building on Washington Street. Its construction coincided with the emergence of DownCity as the state’s premier retail building.
The Garr Building on Eddy Street was originally called the Aldrich Estate Building and built in 1908. The name changed soon after to the Garr Building for the tailor and fabric store that occupied the building. During the restoration of the building by Rhode Island Housing in the 1990s, cranes removed the signature double helix spiral stairs to be refurbished off site.
Architectural historian Wm McKenzie Woodward wrote in the PPS/AIAri Guide to Providence Architecture that William H. Earle built the Earle Building in 1895. The building had stores on the street level and office space on the upper floors. The Providence Preservation Society in 1997 honored the Slade Garr Building with a preservation award for commercial rehabilitation. In 2002, PPS saluted the restoration and reuse of the Earle Building.