Masonic Temple

also known as Marriott Renaissance Hotel

This Neo—Classical Revival structure stood unfinished for 80 years before finally getting a new life as a hotel in 2004.

About this Property

#Redevelopment

After 80 years of sitting open to the elements — a little more than 50 years of which was under state-ownership — the Masonic Temple gets a new life as a hotel. A major $87 million renovation saved nothing but the impressive three Greek-Revival brick-and-sandstone exterior walls of the building. The interior was completely gutted and reconfigured as it was originally designed with double-story meeting rooms and an interior amphitheater on the top levels.

The Temple and its close neighbor, the Veterans Memorial Auditorium, were built as a single complex in the 1920s. Construction was never finished and the shells remained standing but unoccupied from 1928-1949. In 1950, the state completed construction on the Auditorium portion while the Temple remained unfinished. Over 50 years later the Temple is finally redeveloped and structurally complete.

#Current Events

The property has operated as a Marriott Renaissance Hotel since 2007 even though it has gone through three corporate owners.

#History as Timeline

Sources: National Register Nomination Form (Veterans Memorial Auditorium/Masonic Temple combined), ProvidenceArchitecure.org, Wikipedia, and a New York Times story from 2006

Late 1910s/early 1920s
The Masons began planning for construction of a new Masonic Temple to replace the existing 1897 temple at 121-123 Dorrance Street. An agreement was reached among the Mason chapters in 1923 that the building should be a memorial rather than a commercial structure. Fundraising commenced for erection of a $2,500,000 white marble building, for which a preliminary design had already been prepared.
1925
Plans were completed for a brick and limestone building with a “Grecian” architectural design that would “not conflict with the architecture of surrounding buildings” and contained “complete facilities for both lodge work and public functions.”
1926
Grand Master William L. Sweet officiated at the groundbreaking ceremony on November 13. The original 1926 design of the complex presented two complementary, six-story, flat-roof, steel-frame and masonry-clad buildings with boldly scaled classical-inspired decoration.
1928
Despite optimistic expectations, in June a shortfall of funds followed by the Great Depression caused construction to cease. The basic structures, exterior walls, roofs, most mechanical systems, and approximately 35 per cent of the auditorium interior were completed. The building shells (A.I.R.: Both the Temple and the Auditorium) will stand empty and unattended for nearly twenty years.
1942
In response to a demand for increased state office space, a special legislative committee was established in 1942 to study state acquisition of the Masonic Temple complex. Voters approved a bond issue for funding and the state purchased the buildings for $754,000 on June 1 with the intent of converting it to an office building for state workers.
1949
Construction on the auditorium and offices block began in the spring. On May 4, Governor John O. Pastore signed a bill dedicating [one of the buildings] as the “Veterans Memorial Auditorium” and providing free office space for chartered veterans organizations.
The optimistic “1949” date is carved into the facade of the Temple.
The linking building between the two structures is removed as part of the construction process on the Auditorum.
1950
Restoration of the auditorium was completed for a dedication ceremony on January 29, 1950, and the grand opening concert on January 30, with performances by the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Long range plans to finish the Temple as office space never materialized.
1970s
Edward F. Sanderson, a historian and executive director of the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission was quoted as saying of the Temple, “when I first came to work in the 1970s, you could go in there, and you could see the hand tools that were still sitting where they had been put down in 1928. It was pretty amazing.” The entire copper roof was stolen for scrap.
1994
The first year that the Providence Preservation Society published their “Ten Most Most Endangered Properties” list, the Masonic Temple was included. It went on to be included until 2003.
1996
In April, the Providence Preservation Society hosted a design charrette with partners — the State, the City, the RI Foundation, the Providence Foundation, the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, the Scenic Rhode Island Foundation, and the Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium Preservation Association. The charette examined nine reuse concepts and was attended by over 130 participants.
2001
In an August news brief, Governor Lincoln Almond announced that Algen Construction and Development had secured a $38.7 million loan from New York-based M.K.D. Capital Corp. “to develop a 216-room luxury hotel in the abandoned Masonic Temple building in downtown Providence”.
2002
By March the pending proposal was withdrawn as Algen Construction and Development was unable to close on financing for the project due to the slowdown in the nation’s economy. Governor Almond said, “We have worked hard for years to put every step in place to preserve the architectural and historic significance of this building so it could provide needed hotel rooms in our capital city. It is my hope that a new developer will come forward with a viable proposal to transform the existing structure […]”
2003
Sage Hospitality comes forward as a potential hotel developer. Various discussions ensue, including a tax stabilization agreement. Sage Hospitality’s project manager, Mr. Perrett, a native of Michigan whose family owned hotels there, has completed five rehabilitations of historic buildings into hotels, including the conversion of a Romanesque-style bank building in San Diego into a Courtyard by Marriott and the conversion of the Fulton Building in Pittsburgh.
2004
Sage Hospitality receives approval in the spring from the Capital Center Commission to began construction. Its investment partner, the Kimberly-Clark Corporation, will spend about $87 million to transform the temple over five years. The developer received a federal tax credit equivalent to 20 percent of the main costs of the rehabilitation and a state tax credit worth an additional 30 percent, along with some city assistance.
2007
In April, the Temple opens as a Marriott Renaissance hotel with 272 luxury rooms, a ballroom, a lower-level restaurant and lounge, meeting rooms and a fitness center. Weekday corporate rates started at $259 a night.
2012
The Procaccianti Group of Cranston purchases the hotel.
2015
Omni Hotels of Dallas, Texas, purchases the property.

Architectural Description

National Register Nomination Form (Veterans Memorial Auditorium/Masonic Temple combined)

Conceived to contain office and meeting spaces for the Rhode Island Freemasons, the eastern building overlooking the State House lawn is the most highly visible and fully articulated of the two buildings in the complex. The Masonic Temple is a rectangular box form, approximately the same scale as the Auditorium, with its narrow end along Brownell Street and its long side running down Francis Street. Like the Auditorium, its primary facing is buff brick veneer and its structure is riveted steel. Terra cotta fire brick underlays the face brick and limestone.

At each end (three bays) and on the east side (eleven bays), colossal sandstone Ionic columns in antis rise from a two-and-one-half-story sandstone course dashlar basement to a massive cornice. The corner piers are brick, pierced with a vertical band of slightly inset windows. Windows of nearly square proportions are set between the columns, with triglyph and patera lintels. Stone balustrades front the lowest level windows. The basement openings vary in proportion and include a round-arch opening near each end. All the window openings on the east, north, and south are boarded up (A.I.R.: this was written in 1993). The cornice treatment consists of a sandstone frieze set with panels with paterae, a dentil course below a running moulding, and a simple parapet with stone coping. A stage structure on the roof projects above the parapet. It consists of an auditorium section under a low hip, copper seamed roof with acroteria, and a taller flat-roof section containing the stage.

The interior of the building contains the steel framing and concrete flooring for eleven levels, but is otherwise unfinished. The 1926 plans indicate that it was to contain two-story lodge rooms as well as three theaters, candidate rooms, regalia rooms, sleeping rooms, lounges, lobbies, offices, supper rooms, and kitchens. The building has been essentially abandoned since 1928 and has been subject to continuous environmental damage. A condition evaluation conducted in 1984 found extensive deterioration of the roof and other elements, but reported that the structural steel and walls were essentially sound (The Maguire Group 1984).

The architects for the project were Osgood & Osgood of Grand Rapids, Michigan, a firm specializing in masonic temples and public buildings. Their work included the George Washington Masonic Temple in Alexandria, Virginia, and other large temples and courthouses. Jackson, Robertson & Adams, were the local collaborating architects. The prolific and highly regarded Providence firm was responsible for the design of many early twentieth-century institutional and government buildings in Rhode Island. At the time, they were working on designs for the nearby State Office Building, 133 Smith Street, erected in 1928.

#In the News

Derelict For 75 Years, Temple Gets A New Life

By Bruce Landis
Providence Journal | Friday, July 16, 2004

After years of false starts, failed plans and naysaying, the renovation of the historic but tattered Masonic Temple has begun. The project will apparently bring to an end the years of the building’s decay since the Masons walked away from the unfinished Temple in 1929.

Denver-based developers Sage Hospitality Resources began pouring concrete into 45-foot-deep holes drilled next to the Temple. The start of the $77-million project was inconspicuous, taking place in the parking lot immediately south of the Temple.

Reinforced with steel, a dozen of the 2-foot-thick concrete caissons will parallel three sides of the building. They will be the foundation for a steel external skeleton that will hold up the shell of the building while contractors demolish its interior and replace it with a hotel.

Perrett said the bottom three floors are solid, but that the fifth and sixth floors need support. Horizontal beams will run from the external steel framework through some of the Temple’s windows, allowing the shell of the building to be supported on both the inside and outside. Erecting the steel framework around the Temple will begin in four to six weeks and will take about three months, he said, followed by another three months of demolition.

Sage plans a 274-room luxury Marriott Renaissance hotel with a ballroom, ground-floor restaurant and lounge, meeting rooms and a fitness center. The opening will be in April or May 2006.

Perrett said Sage has been working on the project for 28 months, dealing with city and state officials, getting permits and financing, and designing the project. Sage is a large hotel-management and development company. Hensel Phelps is a national construction company. Among other jobs, said Sandy Rotunda, the Phelps project manager, it was renovating the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., when the hijacked plane smashed into it on Sept. 11, 2001.

Sage plans to construct an additional building between the Temple and Veterans Memorial Auditorium next door, for more hotel rooms and reception space and for a link between the two buildings. The developers have said that upward of $30 million in local, state and federal tax breaks are essential to make the project possible. Officials have said they are delighted at the prospect of replacing an enduring eyesore across the street from the State House with an elegant hotel, without sacrificing the building. The city also agreed to a property-tax stabilization agreement with the developers.

Sage’s major financial partner is Kimberly-Clark, the household-products giant, whose products range from Kleenex tissues and Huggies diapers to surgical gowns. Together, Sage and Kimberly-Clark put up $35 million, Sage said in March. Kimberly-Clark said it was attracted to the program by the federal tax credits it will earn. The other major leg of the financing is a $41-million loan from Fleet Bank, a subsidiary of Bank of America.

Perrett and Rotunda also said they wanted to counter criticism that the project isn’t hiring local workers. He said that the architects are from New York and the engineers are also from out of state, but that local companies will do most of the construction work.