One of the most unique buildings in Downtown Providence is the Providence Arcade (sometimes referred to as the Westminster Arcade), built in 1828. Thought to be the first enclosed shopping mall in the United States, the Greek Revival structure runs the full length between Westminster and Weybosset Streets. Designed by Russell Warren, who was one of the premier architects at the time, the two street-facing sides of the building consist of Greek temple fronts, with six massive Ionic columns. The columns on the Westminster Street side are topped by a triangular pediment; the Weybosset Street side has a block-and-panel railing above a simple entablature.
The interior consists of a main avenue on the ground floor, above which the second and third floor lanes are protected by richly decorated cast iron railings capped in mahogany. Emphasis in all of the building’s construction was on the use of fireproof materials; granite, brick, and cast iron are all used, and the roof was made of tin. A gabled skylight extends the length of the space to provide ample natural light for the multi-level interior spaces.
As with many traditional shopping centers (no matter how well designed), the complex saw financial difficulties and diminishing patrons. The Arcade closed a number of times in the 20th century, most recently in 2008 to reconfigure the third floor spaces as micro-apartments, an innovative way to bring mixed-use principals to a historic mall.