Greater City Providence

Brown Daily Herald: Engineering building plan calls for demolition of historic houses


333 Brook Street, one of the buildings slated for demolition, see a slideshow of images on the Brown Daily Herald website. Image from Google Street View.

In order to make space for the University’s new engineering building — construction of which is set to begin in December 2015­, four houses included in the city’s historic district have been slated for demolition.

The buildings, located at 37 and 29 Manning Street and 341 and 333 Brook Street, were constructed in the early 1900s and were later acquired by the University and converted into business and academic spaces, said Mike McCormick, assistant vice president of planning, design and construction. McCormick and a group of University administrators collaborated with the Public Archaeology Lab to learn about these buildings’ histories in preparation for the planning and design of the new engineering building.

But the Providence Preservation Society “opposes the demolition of the four houses” due to their “historical” and “architectural value,” said Brent Runyon, executive director of PPS. The buildings also contribute to “the development of College Hill as a neighborhood,” he added.

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  • We should all try to find another location for an engineering building as the loss of the buildings for some typical modern monstrosity would uglify the historic east side.
    Its a shame the Providence Journal dismissed David Brussat whose column defending beauty and classic architecture at called widespread attention to such threats to beauty in our lives.

  • I heard there’s some perfectly good land for sale downtown that doesn’t have any historic houses on it.

  • I’ve been waiting for this news and I’d be especially sad to see that brick one go.

    I realize the Uni. wants to have a visual connection of pedestrian corridors connecting buildings and quadrangles.

    However, couldn’t they just build on the already open space directly in front of the current main entrance to the existing building – to the left of those proposed to be demolished?

  • The irony. An engineering facility. And you’d think there would be a better engineering solution to this problem …

  • Again I ask – What is the plan for this engineering building?
    Style, height, etc. Is there a rendering?

  • The surface parking lot on the corner of George and Hope is supposed to be developed as part of another (but I believe concurrent) project. A math building I think.

  • I guess I just have a personal problem with these paragraphs from the article:

    While the buildings do qualify as “historic,” this designation does not hold much significance, McCormick said. In the 1970s, any building that was 50 years or older was nominated as a historic structure “without much judgement of the true value of them,” he said.

    Since the 1970s, the meaning of what makes buildings “historic” has been changing. Now, “there needs to be other historic significance to them other than they are just old in the neighborhood and kind of nice,” McCormick said.

    So basically if they weren’t the birthplace of a Senator or President, then old buildings are ripe to be knocked down whenever anybody conceptualizer a more intensive use for their site. Never mind neighborhood character or the contributions said old buildings might make to same. Never mind that its wide array of historic architecture is one of the preeminent qualities in Providence’s portfolio of attractions. Never mind that there is an abundance of space available all over the city for new construction.

    No, none of that matters. Brown wants its building, and they want it exactly where they want it, so a couple of nice-sounding things get said, and then it’s history be damned.

    Maybe I’m the only one, but I think Brown, if they absolutely must have their new building on this very spot, can ante up to move the preexisting buildings AND then repair the city streets they claim will be damaged in the process. And it’ll give all those bright engineering minds something to work on. Win win win.

  • One thing I really question is the demolition of the three homes directly on Manning Walk. From how I read the plan they’re only razing them to build a larger green space, which does not respond to the existing structures they are keeping and will make the new space seem unbalanced and asymmetrical. Why not simply maintain them and fit the new building behind them? One home would still go but it’d be better then all of them.

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