When I walked by Brown University’s athletic center, I assumed it was an older building, but was so plesantly surprised to learn that the building was actually completed in 2012! The 84,000-square foot aquatics and fitness center is a $46-million addition to the existing athletic facilities built on and near the site of the former Smith Swim Center. Designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects and constructed by Shawmut Design and Construction, the project includes the Katherine Moran Coleman Aquatics Center, the Nelson Fitness Center, the David J. Zucconi Varsity Strength and Conditioning Center. Architecturally, the buildings seamlessly blend into their surroundings thanks to timeless traditional design and high-quality materials. The stunning cupola was actually the original cupola from Marvel Gymnasium, a Brown University gymnasium demolished in 2002, it was added atop the Nelson Fitness Center preserving some history of old Brown. American colleges and universities need more of this high-quality design, kudos RAMSA Architects.
St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church // 1911
One of the grandest and high-style buildings in Sprague’s Baltic Village is the St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church. As Irish, French- Canadians and Poles settled in the village of Baltic, they formed a substantial Catholic community. This congregation was founded by 1860 and a modest church building was erected at that time. As the town’s Catholic population grew, the Archdiocese decided to fund a new church building. This Romanesque Revival style building was constructed in 1911 and it must have made a big statement when it was completed. The building is one of the most unique church designs that I have seen in Connecticut.
Sprague Former Town Hall and Fire Station // 1911
At the turn of the 20th century, the town of Sprague (including Baltic Village), had 1,300 residents. Just ten years later, in 1910, the population doubled, largely due to Frederick Sayles‘ purchase of the Sprague Mill and re-investment in the village’s housing and buildings. The need for new town offices and a fire station was evident, and this building in the village was constructed in 1911 to serve both needs. The old Town Hall and Fire Station is a late example of Romanesque Revival style architecture with the arched windows at the second floor and in the dormer. The space was outgrown again and the town offices relocated to a Modern building down the street after WWII.
George H. Gilbert Company Offices // 1885
South of the Ware River in Ware’s Industrial Village, you will find this absolutely charming former manufacturing office on the side of the road. The building was constructed in 1885 for the George H. Gilbert Co., a textile manufacturer, as the company offices. The building’s architect could not be readily located, but the building appears to have been the work of a skilled designer. When the Gilbert Company relocated north to a new industrial village of Gilbertville, the Joseph T. Wood Shoe Company moved in. The building now appears to be owned by the present occupant of the mill building nextdoor, American Athletic Shoe Company. The former Gilbert Co. Office is one of the more high-style buildings in the town of Ware and exhibits the best in Queen Anne and Romanesque Revival architecture.
Ogunquit Public Library // 1897
One of Maine’s most charming libraries is right in the coastal village of Ogunquit, and like many of the greatest, it was built as a memorial to someone. George Mecum Conarroe was born Nov. 9, 1831. His father, George Washington Conarroe, was an accomplished Philadelphia portrait artist who provided his family with every advantage mostly from an inherited family fortune. The Conarroes and their cousins, the Trotters, who summered at Cape Arundel, had been associated in a very successful steel venture for several previous generations. George M. Conarroe apprenticed in a Philadelphia law firm and was admitted to the Bar in 1853. He ran a successful probate law practice and his prudent real estate development investments enhanced his formidable fortune. Nannie Dunlap, daughter of another leading Philadelphia lawyer married George M. Conarroe in 1868, they were inseparable. He built a summer estate in York Cliffs, a burgeoning Summer colony just south of Ogunquit (then a part of Wells). George died in 1896, and Nannie fought to keep her late husband’s legacy living in the coastal area he loved so much. She hired Philadelphia architect Charles M. Burns to design a new summer chapel in York and this beautiful village library in Ogunquit. The library was constructed of fieldstone taken from the site and is a lovely example of the Romanesque Revival and Queen Anne architectural styles in Maine.
St. Anthony’s Church Campus // 1951
In the 1920s Italian-speaking residents in Everett, Massachusetts appealed to Archbishop of Boston, William O’Connell for an Italian parish. Everett had seen a large influx of Italian immigrants who settled in town and the surrounding communities for work. The Archdiocese saw the demand, and rented the former Broadway Theater to be used as a church for the short term. In 1951, land was acquired a few blocks away for a new church, school and rectory. The church was designed to resemble historic Romanesque-style churches seen in Italy, with the school and renovated rectory following the Modern tradition. The brick and limestone church appears to have been built more in the historical tradition, with hand-carved stone trim and a beautiful rose window. It’s amazing that this church was built in the 1950s!
Vermont National Bank // 1884
One of the few brick buildings in Newfane’s Village Center is this charming old bank, right on Main Street. The building was constructed in 1884 as the Vermont National Bank and is a vernacular example of the Romanesque Revival architectural style with the arched openings and brickwork. Vermont architect George A. Hines designed the modest building, which was built for $6,650. The bricks for the building were brought into town by ox cart. Those for the front facade cost 5 cents apiece; those for the sidewalls 3 cents; and those for the back wall 2 cents, showing how the best materials go on the highly visible facades.
First Congregational Church, Ridgefield // 1888
The First Congregational Church was first established in Ridgefield, Connecticut just four years after the establishment of the town. Civic leaders in October 1712 successfully petitioned the Connecticut General Assembly for permission to levy a tax for “the settling and maintaining of the ministry in the said Town of Ridgefield.” Rev. Thomas Hauley, the first minister, also served as town clerk and school teacher. The first meeting house, on the town green, opened for worship in 1726. Plans for a new meeting house were drawn up in 1771 to fit a growing population, but construction was not complete until 1800. The second church was built in a more traditional style with a steeple. With a shift in the towns demographic from rural homeowners to ritzy exurb to New York City, a more suitable church was required by the end of the 19th century. Josiah Cleaveland Cady, one of the many great New York architects at the time was hired to design a new church suitable for the wealthy New Yorkers who summered in town to consider a neighbor, and he did not disappoint! The building blends many styles from Queen Anne, to Victorian Gothic, to Romanesque Revival in a way that isn’t clunky as in some other versions.
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, “each 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!
Columbus Avenue A.M.E. Zion Church // 1885
The Columbus Avenue African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church sits on the border of the South End and Lower Roxbury neighborhoods and is a great example of how the area evolved in the 19th and 20th centuries. The beautiful Romanesque Revival building was constructed in 1885 as the first synagogue of Congregation Adath Israel, which was founded in 1854. The congregation sought more space from its current location, and a closer place of worship for many of the German Jews who settled in Boston’s South End. They built this synagogue in 1885 and eventually moved west to a new Kenmore Square synagogue less than thirty years later as the neighborhood’s demographics began to shift. In 1903, the A.M.E. Zion Church purchased the former synagogue as their new home. This congregation had its beginnings in 1838 when seventeen African Americans withdrew from the communion of the Methodist Episcopal Church, then located on Joy Street in Beacon Hill. This group of Black worshippers wanted more religious freedom and desired to become part parcel of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion connection under the leadership of their own race. For many years, this church was the largest and principal Black church in the city of Boston. In 1903, shortly after moving to Columbus Avenue, the church experienced what was called the “Boston Riot.” The church hosted a debate between Booker T. Washington and William Monroe Trotter, editor and publisher of the “Boston Guardian”. Trotter, a Black Bostonian, opposed the gradual conservative approach to civil and political rights as promulgated by Mr. Washington. The debate took place on July 3, 1903 and the church was packed with over 2,000 spectators. Shortly after the opening prayer by Pastor McMullen of the AME Church, Washington was introduced. A disturbance then erupted with Trotter eventually being arrested for disturbing the peace. This building is the oldest synagogue building in Massachusetts and has been a center of Black life in Boston ever since the beginning of the 20th century.