Two Startling Entries Make the Most Endangered Properties List
The Providence Preservation Society singles out the city's public schools and infrastructure system for years of neglect and deferred maintenance.
The Providence Preservation Society today unveiled its 2023 Most Endangered Properties list, which contains several publicly owned structures, including the entire Providence Public School District and the city’s infrastructure.
“Historic preservation is not simply about the maintenance and restoration of old architecture,” says Brent Runyon, executive director of the PPS. “It’s about ensuring that these buildings that have been placed into the public trust remain viable for the common good.”
This year’s focus on public buildings highlights the toll that neglect and deferred maintenance has taken on these structures, according to PPS.
The list includes all 4.2 million square feet of building space in the Providence Public School District. The average age of a city school building is 75 years, with many more than 100 years old.
“The crisis in education in Providence is quite literally structural,” Runyon says. “The best investment this city can make is revitalizing its schools. These buildings are both the laboratories of Providence’s future and repositories of its past.”
The city’s infrastructure system made the list after last year’s Labor Day flooding after a long summer of drought. Even small storms are causing flooding on a regular basis, according to PPS, and long-term renovations and changes are needed to avoid future catastrophe.
Here are the rest of the buildings on the Most Endangered Properties list:
- The Industrial Trust (aka Superman) Building, 111 Westminster St. (1928)
The city’s crown jewel of a skyscraper is a recurring entry on the Most Endangered Properties list after sitting vacant for almost a decade. But PPS is hopeful this is the last year on the list, since a $220 million redevelopment plan could bring 285 residential units, an event space, and community/nonprofit space to the building.
- Asa Messer Elementary School, 158 Messer St. (circa 1890)
The building is used mostly for light storage and is still owned by the school district.
- Providence Gas Company Purifier House, 200 Allens Ave. (1899-1900)
This structure has a long history on the Providence waterfront. PPS is hopeful the building can be reclaimed for community use.
- Humboldt Fire Station, 155 Humboldt Ave. (1906)
The decommissioned fire station is underutilized, PPS says. With other public uses, like emergency medical services, needing headquarters across the city, this building could come in handy.
- The Rhode Island Department of Transportation Headquarters and Garage, 30 Arline St. (1927)
This art-deco building needs some serious rehabilitations, PPS says.
- 115 Harris Ave. (1920s)
This building is one of the only surviving warehouse structures in the former Promenade District and the only remaining portion of the Brownell and Field Company warehouse building. Plans for residential space may be in the works.
- Urban League of Rhode Island site, 246 Prairie Ave. (circa the 1970s)
The Urban League Building was on last year’s list, but this year the site itself made the cut. The city is responsible for revitalization efforts, PPS says, and needs to follow-through with preserving the site’s historic significance.
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