Community Spotlight: Providence Preservation Society

The Providence Preservation Society (PPS) was established in 1956 to respond to the proposed demolition of a number of 18th- and early 19th-century houses on College Hill. Unlike many historic preservation organizations which were formed to preserve a particular building, PPS has always been an advocate for neighborhood revitalization. From that small neighborhood group, PPS has grown into a multifaceted citywide preservation and planning organization. Meet the director of preservation, Rachel Robinson!

1. Tell us a little about Providence Preservation Society and your connection to it?

From its inception, PPS has been a national leader in historic preservation. While we advocate for and educate about Providence's historic built environment, we also concern ourselves with contemporary planning and design. We want to make sure that new construction enhances the city's unique character. It's important for cities to have a full-time advocate in the nonprofit sector who can keep an eye on projects and preservation matters, and I am pleased to serve as PPS' director of preservation.

2. What makes Providence so special to you?

As one of America's oldest cities, Providence has a dynamic mix in terms of historic architecture. We've got mills, Federal dwellings, an abundance of Victorian houses and commercial buildings, and, of course, the Superman Building! All of these provide useful and exciting adaptive reuse opportunities to fit our 21st century needs.

3. If you mapped out a tour for visiting friends, where would you take them in Providence?

I would have to start at PPS' two buildings on Meeting Street in College Hill: the Old Brick School House (1769) and Shakespeare's Head (1772)-- anyone can visit the garden behind the red building. We'd go on a walk of my neighborhood near the Armory on the West End, and then I would take them to Elmwood to see some of the magnificent late 19th c. and early 20th c. residences. A walk down Blackstone Boulevard is a feast for the eyes with a variety of early 20th c. dwellings and with a mix of early modern buildings. Lots to see!

4. What are some of the best kept secrets in Providence as far as buildings/places?

There are some architectural oddities hiding in plain sight, such as two lightning splitters on the East Side-- a uniquely Rhode Island building type- as well as several octagon houses in South Providence. We like to share these and others in our social media.

5. How can folks find PPS (website, social media)?

Our website is Even I'm surprised how much is on there. You can read the ground-breaking College Hill Study of 1959, explore walking tours across the city in our online Guide to Providence Architecture, and find photos and property histories from Historic Marker houses in our Gowdey Library. (There are over 1500 markers across Providence!).