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Fall Symposium and Gold Dome Gala

Friday, 10/23/2009

The "American Renaissance" (c.1876-c.1917) was a period of great cultural change and achievement in American art, architecture, and literature, a period that roughly coincides with what has been called Providence's Golden Age. On October 23 and 24, PPS will look at the American Renaissance in Providence with a symposium. 

The symposium culminated with a Gold Dome Gala, held Saturday evening in the Old Stone Bank, one of Providence's most iconic commercial buildings of the period. Guests were treated to dinner courtesy of Russell Morin Fine Catering , fabulous cocktails and a live auction.

The American Renaissance and Providence: A Golden Age in Architecture and the Arts

The late nineteenth century saw a rapid acceleration of America’s transformation from an agricultural to an industrial society. The diminishing frontier, exploding immigration, unprecedented technological innovation, and highly networked transportation converged to make the urban center the new organizing entity of American life. Against this backdrop, the American Renaissance period (1876 – 1917) in architecture and the arts emerged.

As a major industrial center, Providence transformed during this period as well. The city was the home of industrial entrepreneurs and attracted record numbers of immigrants to work in their factories. Numerous local companies rose to preeminence in their industries, both nationally and internationally, among them Brown and Sharpe, Corliss Steam Engine Company, Nicholson File, and Gorham Manufacturing Company. By the turn of the century, the nation’s smallest state produced its highest per capita value of manufactured goods. Providence was the center of manufacturing in Rhode Island and among the leaders in the northeast.

The architectural landscape of Providence changed to accommodate this exceptional physical, demographic, and economic growth. Through the design and construction of new schools, universities, and libraries; an ornate and elaborate City Hall; broad, tree-lined thoroughfares such as Blackstone Boulevard and Elmwood Avenue; and the expansive Roger Williams Park, the newly built environment expressed a return to academic classicism, anticipating the subsequent City Beautiful Movement.

The 2009 Providence Preservation Society Fall Symposium explored this golden age in the city’s history with a look at some of the developments in architecture and design resulting from this era of great change and growth. Its impact and the monuments that remain from the thriving metropolis that was Providence during the American Renaissance continue to shape civic life more than a century later and constitute much of the fabric of the city that the Providence Preservation Society strives to protect and enhance through its mission of advocacy for, and education about, the built environment.

Among the well-respected historians who spoke were:

  • Richard Guy Wilson, Ph.D., Commonwealth Professor & Chair of Architectural History, University of Virginia
  • Ronald J. Onorato, Ph.D., Professor of Art History, University of Rhode Island
  • Erin Williams, Collections Manager, Culinary Arts Museum, Johnson & Wales University
  • Thomas S. Michie, Russell B. and Andrée Beauchamp Stearns Senior Curator of Decorative Arts and Sculpture, Art of Europe, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  • Emily J. Peters, Ph.D., Associate Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs, Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design
  • John R. Tschirch, Director of Academic Programs, The Preservation Society of Newport County
  • Christopher P. Monkhouse, Eloise W. Martin Curator and Chair, Department of European Decorative Arts, Art Institute of Chicago
  • Pauline C. Metcalf, Independent Architectural Historian, Interior Design Historian, & Author

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