A Farewell to Westminster Street

June 30, 2019

The good part of Providence not being NYC or Boston? Rents.

 

Just four years ago, you could stroll the brick sidewalks of Downcity's main drag and its (mostly legit) pretensions to old-world urban charm, turn into an almost hidden door between a bank and a secondhand art-supply store, and pass a narrow elevator with blue-carpeted walls to ascend a toplit grand stair with its 19th-century carved mahogany banister still gleaming. If you could navigate the warren of too-wide corridors and abandoned light wells, you would find yourself walking through a tight entryway and "kitchen" with a steel lab sink, into a north-facing room with plaster walls, high ceilings, and a wood floor that decidedly did NOT gleam. The Beaux-Arts frills of the former ProJo building across the street felt close enough to touch, while Industrial Trust stood sentinel over its shoulder. And you could rent this romantic designer's garret for $500 a month.

 

The Gaspee Building was built as a companion piece to its neighbor to the east, the Dorrance Building (that toplit stair is actually inside the footprint of the Dorrance). Both were designed by George Waterman Cady, a one-time doctor's apprentice who from the Civil War to the turn of the century designed several important buildings in Providence, including four others still standing downtown. After completing the Gaspee in 1891, he moved his office there.

 

But in 2019, the pricey bits of cities need fewer architectural ateliers and more luxury flats. When an investor took our building off the market earlier this year, it meant the end of some of Downcity's last bohemian workspaces. Bad for us, good for Providence: the downtown that George Waterman Cady helped build was finally fulfilling its value. And he would probably agree that 125 years of architectural occupation is a pretty good run.

 

 

 

 

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