A long-lost city park, a vanished church that, before its demise had become a brewery, another church whose pastor became embroiled in a front-page murder case were just a few items they dropped in our laps.
Each of the 16 students was assigned to study two sites in the District. In the interests of keeping the time under control, each student reported on a single building. (When, at the end of the semester, their work is finished, Prof. Neumann said information will be available on all 32 sites.
As a whole, the presentation was a trip through history, following the transition of the District as industry took over a residential area, then evolved in response to changing technology and market conditions. A few examples: the Irons & Russell Building at 95 Chestnut St. was the first factory in the District to have its own electric generating system... today's Manchester St. power station took over the Providence Gas Co.'s coal gassification site when electricity supplanted gas for illumination (last remnant of Providence Gas: Club Desire)... the Alibi Deli on Bassett St, was orginally a single story; the original building was jacked up and today's brick first floor was built under it... where the Point St. overpass crosses I-95, gracious Hayward Park surrounded a dramatic fountain and the splendid Point St. Grammar School once stood as landmarks.
The speakers used modern technology to re-create the look of the past. Archival images of vanished buildings popped into their original locations on images of the sites as they are today. Fascinating to see a classic single steeple colonial church suddenly appear in the parcel of 195 land at the corner of Clifford and Chestnut where the I-195 overpass used to be.
Brent Runyon, Providence Preservation Society Exec. Dir. , and Peter McNally, 195 Commission Exec. DIr. both commented about the importance of understanding the past as the District moves into its future with the destruction of I-195.
Organized by Olin Thompson and Sharon Steele, the event was sponsored by the Providence Preservation Society, Building Bridges and the Jewelry District Association and Brown University.
The event was covered by the Providence Journal; you can read their account HERE.