Duncan Ave at North Main Street, Then & Now

A non-descript location captured 45 years ago with an evolution that deserved to be recaptured

About this Property

#About this Then & Now

In 1976, a photography student at RISD scouted interesting locations throughout the city. Quiet, perhaps forgotten corners during a difficult decade when the industrial nature of the city started to change. Manufacturing had been declining for years and the Renaissance of downtown was still a decade away.

The building on the corner, now an Action Auto Parts, was auto-related in one of its earliest incarnations. This house in the upper right background was in wonderful shape in the 1976 photo, but looks abandoned in 2023, with junk around the property and visible through the windows. It is interesting to see the transition over an almost 50 year span but it is also plainly beautiful to see J. Boersma’s student photo at the time. The strong diagonal from the lower left, the way the colors are work together, and the quiet nature of it all.


Not much was found on these buildings, but the maps do tell a small story of how the area was built up.

  • 1899 Sanborn-Perris Insurance Map, Volume 2, Plate 141 — The block is empty save for “W. H. Thurber Marble Works” on the corner of North Main and Duncan. Full citation: Sanborn-Perris Map Co, “Insurance maps of Providence, Rhode Island V. 2” (1899). Sanborn Maps for the State of Rhode Island. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library. https://repository.library.brown.edu/studio/item/bdr:213283/
  • 1920–1921 Sanborn Insurance Map, Volume 2, Plate 78 (page 85) — A totally different wood frame building was on the corner of Duncan and North Main but is still labelled “Auto repairing.” The house to the east has not been built yet — in fact the entire block has yet to be built
  • Providence Historical Aerial Viewer — The house is in place and the neighboring commercial building is about half the size it is now, missing a newer portion that was built to the north
  • 1920–1951 Sanborn Insurance Map, Volume 2, Plate 78 (page 85) — The aerial photo is reinforced with the drawings from the insurance map. A smaller stone construction commercial structure on the North Main corner and houses up and down Duncan Avenue