Shepard Building // 1880+

Not many buildings show the rapid prosperity seen in American cities in the late 19th century and the shifting of retail as well as the Shepard Company Building in Downtown Providence. The core of this building was constructed in the 1880 as a modest three-story Italianate style commercial structure for the Shepard Company, a dry goods store. Founder John Shepard insisted that his store was not simply one large business, but instead a collection of quaint shops, β€œeach more complete in itself than the small separate stores,” with each division offering a premier shopping experience, an early example of a department store. Beginning in 1896, the company embarked on a rapid building expansion, designed by local architects Martin & Hall, which was largely completed by 1903, encompassing the entire city block. The two ends front the main streets of Washington and Westminster, each with stunning corner entrances. A 1923 fire caused damage to the building which was quickly restored. Though once successful, the Shepard Company went bankrupt in 1974, after decades of shifting retail and population density toward the outer suburbs. The building is now occupied by the University of Rhode Island’s Providence campus, and the institution does a phenomenal job maintaining and preserving this gem!

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