Greater City Providence

Rumor: RISD to demolish Farnum Hall

Image from Google StreetView

This post is marked as a rumor because I have not been able to independently verify it yet, but it is not a surprising development.

ArtInRuins posted the info on their Facebook page the other day.

Farnum Hall is located on Congdon Street not too far from Prospect Park.

RISD Facilities closed the building a couple years ago due to its condition. My understanding is, aside from the fact that it was used as a dorm and then art studios which was pretty hard on the interior, the building is actually suffering foundation issues. Word around campus was that it is slowly sliding down the hill.

Image from Google StreetView

It is a very handsome yellow brick courtyard style buidling, a type that is actually rather rare in Providence, and undoubtedly worthy of saving. I do fear however that the foundation issues may be insurmountable.

RISD was hit hard by the recession and has a backlog of maintenance projects for existing buildings, so it seems unlikely that they would build anything on this site for quite some time. The major issue if (likely when) this building comes down will be the pressure from faculty and staff on the RISD campus for more on-campus parking. The building already has parking on two sides and the presure to turn the entire cleared lot over to parking will be overwhelming.

RISD is also land poor, almost all of its existing property has buildings or parking on it. The students lack on-campus spaces for outdoor recreation and that has been a perennial issue brought up by student government. So here’s hoping the students can get the basketball courts and other outside amenities they’ve been seeking and that those needs trumps the parking needs.

Disclosure, I used to work at RISD

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • I am an Arch RISD Student now and I have been in conversation with Facilities and Public Safety about this building. Theres is an ever pressing matter to handle the building because it is “sliding down the hill.” Its foundations are horrible and you can see cracks in the brick to back up this fact. Eventually something will happen causing the building to sag and possibly damage the surrounding areas. Which means more money. It will now cost more to try and renovate it then to take it down as well. So to my knowledge, they will demo it. What it will become is still up in the air. I do not know when they will demolish it.

  • PBN reports on RISD’s desire to demolish Farnum Hall.

    “Our ultimate vision and intent is to provide an outside classroom/park for our students within that space,” [RISD spokeswoman Jaime] Marland wrote in an e-mail. “The proposal is still in the review process with the Providence Historic District Commission, and so there’s no timing or decision on any demolition as of yet.”

    The Providence Historic District Commission will review the request a their Monday meeting (Agenda [.pdf]).

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