Froebel Hall

also known as Hillel House

This chalet-style 19th century Stone & Carpenter design was reivigorated in 2002 with new foundation and additional connecting buildings to expand Brown’s Hillel Center

About this Property

#Redevelopment

Reshaping the Brown Hillel Center began in 1995, when Hillel programs at Brown experienced substantial growth since its inception in 1963. To expand, hard to get and expensive to purchase East Side land needed to be acquired.

Fortuitously, the adjacent property became available and was acquired in 1996 with generous support from Alan Hassenfield, Fred Horowitz ’86, and the Jewish Federation of Rhode Island. Earl R. Flansburgh & Associates, hired to develop a needs assessment and master plan, concluded that a second, contiguous property at 100 Angell Street was needed to insure ample space for the future. Hillel was able to purchase this property in 1998, thanks to the generous support of Marty Granoff ’93 and Gary Winnick ’00.

Architects Fred Babcock of Babcock Design Group and Cornelis de Boer of Haynes/de Boer Associates were engaged in 1997 to design an integrated facility accommodating the programmatic requirements. Their design encompasses the original structures connected by a compatible modern addition. In 2001, after a long review process due to the historic status of the buildings, the plan was granted regulatory and legal approval.

The new center, open in 2003, incorporates three historic structures — two late eighteenth-century Federal-style houses and the chalet-style Froebel Hall — into an expanded facility that provides Brown Hillel with more than 25,000 square feet for assembly, student activity, and administrative spaces. The center is designed to defer to the old structures and to be congruent with the residential scale and architectural character of the surrounding neighborhood. The facility also preserves the historic identity and essential integrity of the three existing buildings, provides worship access for all denominations, introduces universal access to all function rooms, and re-establishes the garden and terraces as open spaces suitable for outdoor functions and meditation.1

Older photos show thick wooden trusses coming up and through the roof with steel rods hanging down off of them. That was to support the sagging floors from above and to leave the basement level unencumbered by additional supports. These were removed as part of the 2002 renovation once a new basement and floor supports were built.

In the 2002 renovation, Froebel Hall was lifted on wooden stacks while a new foundation was laid underneath it. Doors were reoriented to rely upon a new one-story addition on the corner of Angell and Brown with a rooftop terrace. New connecting building structures were added to the 18th-century Angell street houses and a brand new addition with a double-hip roof was added with parking spaces along Olive street.

#Current Events

The former Brown Jewish student center is now an intercollegiate Jewish student center, jointly operated for the benefit of RISD and Brown students. The official dedication name is the Glenn and Darcy Weiner Center, or Brown RISD Hillel.

#History

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

112 Angell Street — Froebel Hall, now Hillel House, Brown University, 1878. Stone & Carpenter, architects. Modern Gothic; 1 story raised above Angell Street with terraced front yard, full 1-story brick basement along Brown Street frontage; cross gable roof; clapboard; set on corner lot; long ell at rear fronted by glassed-in porch facing Brown Street. Built for Mrs. Caroline Alden as a school for training kindergarten teachers in the Froebel method, the second such school in the United States.

#In the News

Brown Hillel Group to Dedicate Restored Froebel Hall as Center

From a newspaper clipping in the John Hutchins Cady Research Scrapbooks Collection, Providence Public Library, dated February 3, 1963, by Ralph Kazarian

A Providence landmark has been restored and will be dedicated next Sunday to the purpose for which it was built 76 years ago — that of serving the area’s youth.

The building is the former Froebel Hall which, its former charm restored, is now the Hillel House of the B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundation at Brown University.

Its sagging ceilings and rotting beams replaced, the two-story frame building at Brown and Angell Streets once more will be graced with educational, social and cultural activities which made it popular.

About 500 persons are expected at the new Hillel House dedication ceremonies at 8 p.m. in Alumnae Hall at Pembroke College. A reception will follow at 9:30 in the Hillel House.

The building housed the first private kindergarten in Rhode Island. From its rooms came the first kindergarten teachers in the state, trained by Mrs. Caroline M. N. Alden, who had the structure erected in 1887.

At one time the building housed the Rhode Island College of Pharmacy. Later it was the scene of social gatherings, dance classes and lectures. More recently the building, which acquired the name of Froebel Hall after a German educator, was neglected and took on a shabby appearance.

It was in this shabby condition when the Hillel Foundation bought it from an interior decorating firm which occupied the lower floor.

To Brown University’s Hillel Foundation, the dedication next Sunday is not merely a consecration of a building. It will mark an expansion of the services and work of the foundation. It also will make a return to the same building in which the foundation here got its start in a single room of the ground floor of the same building — exactly 16 years ago.

For three years, Hillel Foundation operated in the ground-floor room. Later it moved to five-room quarters at 154 Angell St. It is from these quarters that the foundation moved to the former Froebel Hall.

The building now houses a small library of Judaic books for students of all denominations, offices, a student lounge, a 350-seat auditorium and a kitchen with dining facilities for students who observe Jewish dietary laws.

The new Hillel House is a dream come true for Rabbi Nathan N. Rosen, director of the foundation and chaplain at Brown University and Providence College. Fifteen years ago he saw the possibilities in Froebel Hall and told a real estate man that if the building ever was for sale to notify him.

It was a year ago last April that the long-memoried real estate man called him and told him the building was available.

It took a year of remodeling and renovating because the building was in such a bad sate of disrepair.

“It was well worth it, though,” Rabbi Rosen said. “There is so much sentiment involved in the minds of so many Providence people who have attended lectures and musicals in the auditorium at Froebel Hall.”

Despite the amount of repairs that had to be made, the essential charm and architecture of the building have been retained. Next spring, the Garden Club of the Roger Williams Chapter of B’nai B’rith will terrace the front yard.

“There still remains some work to be done,” Rabbi Rosen said. “We still need a lot more books for our library, for instance.” […]


Froebel Hall Among Sales

From a newspaper clipping in the John Hutchins Cady Research Scrapbooks Collection, Providence Public Library, dated June 10, 1945

One of the landmarks of the East Side, Froebel Hall, at the corner of Angell and Brown Street, was sold last week by Carl F. Hesse, realtor for Miss Helen G. Chase of Little Compton, who inaugurated the succession of dancing schools which have made the hall well known to Providence residents.

Micheal L. Healy of Providence and Erling W. Helgesen of Cumberland, proprietors of an interior decorating firm located on the first floor of the brick frame building, paid approximately $15,500 for the property, according to tax stamps on the deed.

The purchasers gave a $10,000 mortgage to the Industrial Trust Company. The hall will continue to be used as it has been in the past, Mr. Healy said.

Center for Society Folk

Originally used as a kindergarten, as its name implies, and later used as a College of Pharmacy, the nearly century-old building has been known for many years as the place where many years as the place where many Providence society folk learned their first dance steps.

After she inherited the property 33 years ago, Miss Chase first started dancing classes and later rented the hall of recitals, musicales, parties and dances attended by many a Brown, Pembroke or Bryant student. Grammar schools, too, for many year used the premises for graduation dances and, after the tinsel had been removed for graduating exercises the following day.

  1. Excerpted from an earlier source of the Brown Hillel website, now the Brown/RISD Hillel website. Presently http://www.brownrisdhillel.org/building.html