Capital Center changes over 42 years (1982 vs. 2024)

A photo from 1982 is updated in 2005, before additional new buildings rise up, and then again in 2024

About this Property


The new development around the State House since 1982 is just remarkable, with much of it occurring between 2005 and 2010. The area is called Capital Center and is comprised of about 19 parcels and its development is governed by the Capital Center Commission.

These comparative views are of the area between Smith Street and Kennedy Plaza looking north-northwest. The 1983 aerial was presumably taken from the 26th floor (or higher) of the Industrial Trust building. The vantage point for the 2005 and 2024 photos are as similar as we could get. The difference in perspective might be height but can also be attributed to the camera lens in use. Mr. Barrett likely used 4 x 5 land camera, and a “standard” lens is 150mm. Our 35mm DSLR camera won’t capture the landscape in quite the same way.

How’d we get the new photos? A few phone calls, some favors from a friend of a friend of a friend (in RI everyone knows someone else), and eventually we got to go to the 26th floor of the Industrial Trust building. In 2012, we were able to see the upper areas, the gondola, and even the inside of the lantern..

Being able to return almost 10 years later to capture the third photo was a real treat — thank you again to all those who made it possible, and who invited us to document these changes.


For each view, we have listed the iconic architecture and the build or demolition dates:

1982 view, left to right:

  • Union Station (no. 2) in the foreground, built 1896-98
  • Behind Union Station is a massive raised expanse of railroad tracks. Buses were available under the tracks, and the trestles created a wall between the State House and downtown Providence. They started to be removed shortly after this photo was taken
  • Behind the highway in the center left is the Provisions Warehouse District and the large, notable structure is the Merchant’s Cold Storage building, built 1894 and demolished 1998
  • To the right of Merchant’s is the Brown and Sharpe factory complex, soon to become “The Foundry”, earliest building from 1872
  • In the upper center is the State Normal School, precursor to Rhode Island College, built 1898 and demolished for the Providence Place Mall in the late 1990s
  • The Masonic Temple can be seen to the right and above the State Normal School, built 1926
  • The RI State House dominates the right of the photo in gleaming white marble, built 1891-1901 and designed by McKim, Mead & White
  • The dome-like structure with arched supports and a white roof in the upper right is the “Project Turnkey” Automated Post Office, built in 1960 and designed by Maguire & Associates

2005 view, left to right:

  • A little sliver of the Biltmore can be seen on the far left, built 1922
  • The Westin Hotel (now called the Omni Hotel) is the tall tower on the center left, blocking the view of the highway overpasses, built in 1994
  • The yellow brick, seven story building behind Union Station (and architected to look very similar) is the Courtyard Marriott Hotel, built in 2000
  • The Providence Place Mall, built 1994–1999, dominates the left and center of the photo behind the still extant Union Station
  • Just above the left top corner of the Mall is The 903, a block of residences built in 2002-2003
  • Ground-breaking is about to commence in the center of the photo on the G-Tech Headquarters, built later in 2005
  • The circular bit of water in the center is the newly uncovered Woonasquatucket River and Waterplace Park, reviving the former Providence Cove. Waterplace Park was designed loosely in 1981, formalized by 1984, but not fully realized until 1994
  • Diagonally above the Waterplace Park amphitheater as your eye moves to the State House is the Gateway Building, built 1988-1990
  • Barely visible, to the right of the Gateway Building and behind Avalon at Center Place is the Amtrack Station, built 1982–1986
  • Commanding the right center is Avalon at Center Place, a U-shaped residential building, built 1989–1992

2024 view, left to right:

  • The Biltmore, now “The Graduate”
  • The new Westin Hotel residential tower broke ground after our photo from 2005 and was completed by 2007. It is the largest tower in the photo
  • Along the front is, of course, Union Station (no. 2), built 1896-98
  • The Courtyard Marriott Hotel, built 2000
  • The Providence Place Mall, built 1994–1999
  • The bluish, mostly glass building in the center left is the former G-Tech Headquarters, built 2005-2006, now the IGT Center
  • Waterplace Park is the central, circular water feature
  • To the right of Waterplace park are the Waterplace Towers, built 2006–2007, with the Blue Cross Blue Shield Tower, built 2008–2009, in between
  • Barely visible behind these towers is the State House, built 1891–1901. Notice that the Independent Man is not atop the dome — he was removed in late 2023 for repairs and was not yet back on top when these photos were taken
  • In the bottom right is the Homewood Suites Hotel, built on a difficult triangular parcel between 2017 and 2019
  • In the center far right is One Park Row West, built 2005–2009
  • Right above that is phase 2 of the park row project, Station Row Apartments, built 2016–2018

Can we get back to take photos in 2035? We hope so. We’ll just have to get to know the folks who live in the apartments by then.