Aqua Life Aquarium building

A commercial space and apartment house best known for its colorful aquatic mural on a busy corner in Fox Point

About this Property

#Reason for Demolition

We missed documenting this building ourselves, but luckily, there were a few photos to be found. This iconic store was a visual landmark as well as a local landmark in the aquatic pet and hobbyist community. The owner, George Goulart Jr., was proprietor and self-proclaimed “Fish Doctor.” An enthusiast who bred endangered species in his own house’s basement aquariums, his presence on that corner lasted almost 50 years.

The house was razed in 2019 to make way for a new apartment building, also with ground floor retail. This development was one of the first along Wickenden Street to change the historic character with a modern, boxy replacement, but it will not be the last.

#Current Events

A new building was constructed on this site starting in 2020.


We’d love to post your photos! Do you have a photo of this place? Please send to our email address (or get in touch if it is too large to send via email) Please include your name and a date if possible, so we can properly credit the submission.

From the College Hill Historic District nomination form, Edward F. Sanderson & Keith N. Morgan, January 1976

Part of the Manuscript descriptions of all properties in this survey:

385–389. Commercial-Residential Building (by 1895): 3 1/2 story, shingled frame, end-gable-roof building, three bays wide with a storefront with cast iron columns, cornice and recessed center entry, flanked by a side entry with an ornamental transom. 2-story addition containing similar storefront on west. Cornice with paired brackets; 2 1/2 story gable-roof bay on east flank. Vernacular Italianate


#In the News

Neighbors, Preservationists Oppose Demolition of Aqua-Life Building and Emphasize Historic Character

by Amy Mendillo
East Side Monthlyy | December 2, 2019 (abridged)

As Fox Point neighbors may know, local developer and landlord Bahman Jalili appeared before the Providence City Plan Commission in late October to request approvals for a new development project on Wickenden Street. Jalili has since demolished the century-old, muraled apartment building on the corner of Wickenden and Hope streets, site of the former Aqua-Life Aquarium, and plans to replace it with a modern, 15-unit structure with a flat roof and a commercial space on the first floor.

Several Fox Point neighbors testified at the hearing, both to oppose the demolition of the structure and to stress the importance of preserving the historic character of Wickenden Street. FPNA (Fox Point Neighborhood Association) president Nick Cicchitelli expressed concerns about population density on that street, possible troubles with parking, and most emphatically, the visual appeal of a proposed new structure. “This is one of the most prominent and iconic corners in Fox Point,” he said. While Cicchitelli acknowledged that the existing building is not protected by historic preservation laws, he expressed reluctance about demolishing it. “It is of paramount importance,” he continued, “that a replacement structure respect the historic charm of the neighborhood.” Neighbor Dennis Wood, echoing these sentiments, evoked the words of local architect Dave Brussat, saying, “In saving the past, you are investing in the future.” Rachel Robinson, of the Providence Preservation Society, expressed misgivings about “the gradual erosion” of the historic character of Wickenden Street. Likewise, Fox Point neighbor Candace Powning extolled the appeal of this commercial-residential strip. “If we demolish the old buildings,” she stated, “we lose this interesting neighborhood.”

After some deliberation, the Commission voted to grant approvals to the developer — thereby allowing the team to proceed to the next phase — explaining to attendees that he had met all of the requirements laid out in the city’s zoning ordinance. The Commission also recommended that the developer meet with neighbors in order to hear our concerns and begin a dialogue.

While FPNA recognizes that this building proposal meets the requirements of our current zoning ordinance — which does not prohibit demolition of old buildings — we cherish the character of our neighborhood. We were pleased to meet with Mr. Jalili and his principal architect at our FPNA Fall Meeting in mid-November and we hope the group will incorporate some feedback in terms of design.

“Neighbors, Preservationists Oppose Demolition of Aqua-Life Building and Emphasize Historic Character.” Reposted from Providence Monthly. Captured 03 November 2023 from

George Goulart Jr., still remembers when he was a young chil

by John Hill
Providence Journal | August 3, 2018 (abridged)

George Goulart Jr., still remembers when he was a young child, coming home from a trip to Lincoln Woods with a jar full of pollywogs.

“I killed them all in a week,” he said. “I didn’t know anything about it.”

Six decades later, as the owner of his Aqua-Life Aquarium store at the corner of Wickenden and Hope streets, with 110 tanks, keeping thousands of fish from around the world alive, he’s learned a lot.

From floor to ceiling, the tanks take up entire walls and aisles. Any shelf space that doesn’t hold a fish tank is filled with various support items - pumps, filters, gravel, chemicals, foods - that are needed to keep fish thriving. […]

The Wickenden Street store, its front flamboyantly painted with an underwater scene of a coral reef teeming with fish and plants, is a Fox Point landmark.

Goulart has been there since 1980, when he sold his stamp and coin collections to start a side business in a 215-square-foot nook next door. In 1986, he quit his toolmaking job, added the space next door, and moved into the aquarium business full time.

Goulart said things may change, however. Rising property and inventory taxes and permit fees, as well as a tight supply of parking spaces, have got him looking to move. He said he has put the building on the market, and if things go according to plan, he could have his new location chosen by the end of the year. […]

His basement at home, he said, is a another version of the store.

He’s spent decades breeding fish there, in some cases, species that haven’t been seen in the wild for years. They aren’t for public sale, he said, but can be shared among other breeders who are trying to preserve those species.

The store draws customers from an approximately 300-mile radius, including some from New Brunswick, Canada, and Pennsylvania. He also sells online, acquiring fish from South America or Asia and shipping them to buyers in the United States.

“I only keep the rare and odd stuff that Amazon doesn’t have,” he said. […]

Hill, John. “George Goulart Jr., still remembers when he was a young child.” Providence Journal (RI), sec. RI News, 3 Aug. 2018, p. A7. NewsBank: America’s News, Accessed 3 Nov. 2023.

R.I. newcomer saw a problem — and found artful solution

by Sandor Bodo
Providence Journal | October 5, 2017

At the corner of Wickenden and Hope streets in Providence, an aquatic-themed painting adorns a building with colorful tropical fish, elaborate corals and other underwater flora and fauna. The mural has been a local icon since 2003, when it was painted by a couple of Rhode Island School of Design graduates.

Over the years, time has taken its toll on the painting — as has graffiti.

Ashley Keene drives up to Wickenden Street daily from Saunderstown to put in a good day’s work: She is volunteering her time and skills to repair and refresh the mural painted on the exterior of the Aqua-Life Aquarium building at the top of the hill on the busy street. Keene, 22, recently moved from Virginia to Rhode Island with her family. While exploring her new surroundings, she became enamored of the mural, and was moved to restore it to its original condition.

In pitching the idea to the owner of Aqua-Life Aquarium, she had to be persistent. George Goulart Jr. - aka “the Fish Doctor” - is the business owner. He recently lost his wife of many years. He was also discouraged by a seemingly endless battle with graffiti taggers. But finally he relented and embraced Keene’s offer.

With cans of house paint, most of it left over from the original painting of the mural, Keene approaches the work with diligence and resolve. She is much more experienced in painting on paper than on building siding and glass. Some areas need detail restoration while some large areas need to be painted over. In such areas, Keene creates scenes that are new but are in character with the rest of the painting.

Pedestrians occasionally stop to express appreciation and encouragement.

And so, for about a month now, and perhaps with several weeks to go, Ashley Keene drives up from Saunderstown to renew this corner of our state.

Bodo, Sandor. “Providence Newcomer saw a problem - and found artful solution.” Providence Journal (RI), sec. RI News, 6 Oct. 2017, p. A4. NewsBank: America’s News, Accessed 3 Nov. 2023.

His patients are in the swim ‘Fish Doctor’ George Goulart makes house calls his business

by Bob Kerr
Providence Journal | April 24, 1991 (abridged)

Like any doctor who really cares, George Goulart makes house calls. He’’ll come in an emergency or for a regular checkup.

“I do more than just service,” he says. “I also educate them, talk about life and breeding cycles, discuss different things they want to do with their tanks.”

Yes, George is the doctor who goes in the tank. He’s The Fish Doctor, a self-conferred title proclaimed on his license plate and confirmed in visits to many a troubled aquarium.

“I’ve been making house calls since 1976,” says Goulart. “At the time, nobody was doing it. I don’t have the money to compete with the big stores, and in this way I fill a void.” […]

“We ask people what they want,” says Goulart. “Some want a nice community tank and we can do that. Some want a rough, tough fish, and we can do that, too.”

There are bottom-dwelling, mid-streaming and air-breathing fish, and it is possible for them to live in the same tank at different levels. If the tank is deep enough, the fish will claim their own territory.

“Most fish will separate themselves,” says Goulart. “But if they’re cramped, in too small a space, then you have problems.” […]

There are 115 possible factors to consider in the proper care of fish. The Fish Doctor knows them all. At a pediatrician’s office where he maintains a fish tank, he regularly has to clean the handprints of curious little fish fans from the glass. At other tanks on his rounds, he might have to change the water due to the buildup of waste and an unhealthy ratio between bad nitrites and good nitrates. […]

KERR, BOB. “His patients are in the swim ‘Fish Doctor’ George Goulart makes house calls his business.” Providence Journal (RI), ALL ed., sec. LIFEBEAT, 24 Apr. 1991, pp. G-05. NewsBank: America’s News, Accessed 3 Nov. 2023.