Downtown Bonanza Bus Terminal

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A fascinating little piece of Providence architecture history... this funky circular set of structures was surely a love-it-or-hate-it building. Similar in style to the Brutalist Fogarty building and the Circular Gulf Station of the same time period, the Bonanza Bus Terminal and its style was the glassy modern box of its day. 60s architecture was a lot about cast curvilinear concrete and long spanning arches. To blend in, at least the bus terminal was covered in red brick.

Photo 5 shows page 109 from the Downtown Providence 1970 Master Plan drafted in 1961. The plans called for a new bus terminal at this location, but did not yet forecast the architectural style that the station would take. Interestingly, the Master Plan also suggested that a Civic Center be built (which was in 1975), the railroad tracks to be moved (which happened by 1986) and Union Station be demolished (which thankfully did not happen), that the old City Hall be demolished in favor of a new one (which Buddy Cianci famously blocked), that Westminster Street be closed to cars and become a Pedestrian Mall (which happened in the late 60s, failed, and was returned to vehicles by 1986), elderly housing be constructed (Dexter House, 1960) and the reinterpretation of “Weybossett Hill”, which led to the closing of streets and creation of Cathedral Square in front of Grace Church by I.M. Pei.

Photos were few and hard to come by (how many people take pictures of bus stations) so if you have some in your own collection please consider donating. As stations go, though, this one seemed fairly memorable, so send in those stories of walking by or waiting for a bus in this curvy little place.


From the 1980 RIHPHC Downtown Providence Survey: 1- and 2- story brick building with flat roofs; exterior articulated by semicircular end walls repeated throughout the buildings of the complex. Built as a recommendation of the 1959 Master Plan, Downtown Providence 1970, the bus terminal is one of the most handsome complexes erected as part of the urban renewal in the 1960s: it is particularly well suited to its site and lends urbane note to the streetscape. Located near the railroad station and the intra-city bus terminal at Kennedy Plaza, the bus terminal provides a significant transportation link in Downtown Providence.

George B. Feb 13 2018 In the 70s and my early teens, I took the bus from that terminal to Boston every Saturday to study music. The seven-thirty AM up and the six or seven o'clock back. On the way up, it was Suffolk law students who worked during the week and were studying on Saturdays; there was no law school in RI then. On the way back, all kinds of characters. Likewise in the terminal. There was an especially dark and seedy bar there you could smell throughout. On occasion, I'd see some friend's dad furtively buying something at the newstand. I infer today it perhaps offered a selection of magazines not easily found elsewhere. My friends would meet me (always late) and we would then carouse about the magically decrepit world of downtown Providence on a 70s Saturday night.

chris pereira Jul 25 2017 Around 1972,I remember waiting for my bus on Bonanza to South County,(which then was like a foreign country to me), and there were seats with small tv’s u could watch for a quarter while waiting.

Jon Howard Oct 13 2016 I used to commute from North Kingston to this terminal every work day back in the late 70’s. I often whiled away my wait for the ride home at the bar inside the circular space — I think that door from Fountain Street went straight into the bar. Was it called the Hole in the Wall, or am I making that up? I remember Mod decor — foil wallpaper with color blobs.

Jeffrey Allcock Apr 7 2016 Had this building survived into the present day, it might spark some almost perverse affection, but at the time I’d venture to say it was not considered, by anyone who used it, to be at all attractive. Bus stations rarely are.

eljiffy Sept 16 2015 Hated it.

JB Jun 1 2014 To quote from the article above " Cathedral Square in front of Grace Church" WHAT ?? "Cathedral Square" is in front of the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, NOT Grace Church. Grace Church is actually located about four blocks EAST of Cathedral Square.

Colin Donahue Jan 6 2014 Just a point of information, the pedestrian mall on Westminster between Dorrance and Snow streets did not reopen to traffic by 1986. I went to HS from 84~88 & it was definitely still closed to vehicles the whole time.

Art O Dec 9 2013 Growing up in Federal Hill in the 70s we use to walk to the bus terminal to play pinball. I remember they had these plastic chairs with little televisions attached where you could put a quarter in to watch tv.

Beverly Gorden Schneider Aug 19 2013 In early November of 1967 I got on a bus at this terminal to head to my first job in Washington, DC — I had to change buses in NY and ended up in a similar terminal in the heart of downtown Washington, DC’s red light district! If my parents only knew. :-) From there, it was a cab ride to the Meredian Hill Girls Hotel where I stayed until I got my own apartment. I moved from RI to Washington to work for Senator Claiborne Pell — and I ended up staying in Washington DC and environs for forty years! Happily back in RI now. RI will always be home.

JT Jan 11 2013 This complex replaced a much smaller bus station on the other side of Fountain Street and won several awards for innovative design and convenience. It was a much better facility than the one that replaced it.

Bob D. Feb 18 2009 As teenagers, we used drive to Bonanza from EP just to play pinball on the 2 or 3 machines they had in there.

The information about each building grows as visitors let us know about their experiences. Did you or a member of your family work here? Did you grow up near it as a child? Let us know. All entries will be moderated and may be posted in an edited form. We will use your name unless you tell us otherwise. We will not make your email public.

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