Capital Center changes in 23 years (1982 vs. 2005)

An image from 1982 with the State House surrounded by train tracks is updated in 2005, before additional new buildings rise up

About this Property

#Redevelopment

With all the new construction going on in what has been called Capital Center, AIR decided it was time to dive into the vaults to see where we were coming from, in order to better understand where we may be going.

These comparative views are of the area between Smith Street and Kennedy Plaza looking north-northwest. The 1983 aerial was presumably taken from the top of the Industrial Trust building but could have been taken by helicopter as well. The vantage point for the 2005 photo is very similar, however, which makes us think that both were taken from the Industrial Trust building.

How’d we get the 2005 photo? 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 top of the Industrial Trust building… well, almost. We got the the 28th floor, which was the highest we could go with their permission. (It wouldn’t be until 2012 until we could see the upper areas and even got into the lantern.) What we really needed to do to reproduce this shot was to get to the roof of the first landing, which we were not able to do. Well, that and use a camera with a similar lens to recreate the way a large-format 4 x 5” camera can flatten perspective so well.

#History

For these views, here is a list of iconic architecture and their 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. A new residential tower has yet to break ground but did later in 2005 and was completed by 2007
  • 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 2005-2006
  • 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

Not yet present: Waterplace Towers built 2006–2007, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Tower built 2008–2009, and Homewood Suites built 2017–2019 on the triangular parcel, visible in the far right bottom.