Washington Street, #137–149, Downtown Providence

A small mercantile-style building razed for a never-built Sierra Suites Hotel in 2008. This building housed a few well-loved storefronts — New Japan, Cuban Revolution, and the Talk of the Town bar.

About this Property

#Reason for Demolition

The hotel proposed in 2007 led to the demolition of the structure at 137-149 Washington Street and 132 Fountain Street. The design of the hotel went back and forth a few times through the Design Review Committee. It was a bland design that would look more at home in suburban Warwick than downtown Providence, so the committee was right to push back. They got a better design in the end, but still, nothing great.

The hotel was never built.

#Businesses Located Here

  • New Japan restaurant, 145 Washington Street
  • Talk of the Town bar, 147 Washington Street
  • (The original) Cuban Revolution, 149 Washington Street

#Retrospective and Current Events

In 2007, this came as a surprise to almost everyone. Plans for a downtown hotel by the Sierra Suites chain were confirmed in 2007. The first rounds of design were a stucco structure with no street set back, no pedestrian interface, and no respect paid to other downtown buildings. The first round looked like it belonged on Airport Road in Warwick, not in the downtown of Providence. The Downcity Design Review Board pushed the developer and the architect through three or four rounds of design review before approving the application. Some might argue that they did not go far enough, but others can easily argue that the process worked, and Providence got a much better design (albeit at the cost of some historic architecture).

137–149 Washington Street was demolished from January to February of 2008. The businesses inside were lost. Cuban Revolution moved to Aborn Street, then opened a second location in Olneyville, closed on Aborn Street and eventually closed completely (in 2013). Talk of the Town moved to the end of Atwells Avenue (near Eagle Square) and eventually became Nolan’s Corner Pub. New Japan closed along with the demolition.

The McDonald’s on Fountain Street also got razed for a Fountain Street exit to the proposed hotel’s parking garage. In the proposed rendering (last images), the hotel would have its own garage entrance where Beverly Street is now — that would make two parking garage entrances in a row on that side of the street. An exit onto Fountain Street would be at the back of the property, where the old McDonald’s was. That never happened, so, now it is the parking lot for the Dean Hotel.

Meanwhile, in the years after the failed hotel development, AS220 purchased and renovated the Dreyfus Hotel and the adjoining Mercantile Block from 121 Washington Street through 135. The upper floors of both buildings are residential artist studios and workshops. The ground floor of both are stores and bars — Clark the Locksmith, The Stable, Mexico Restaurant, and the former Local 121 restaurant.

Personally I had only been to Cuban Revolution once or twice. The Cuban pulled pork sandwiches were pretty good. I had never been to New Japan. Talk of the Town was a later discovery of mine, but I was able to go there a bunch before it was shut down. I remember most its small size, the bar staff who later moved on to be seen at many other local joints, and the HUGE beautiful oak and glass and mirror wall behind the bar — it was gorgeous.