Architecture ~ Union Station ~ Providence

Union Station Building
1 Exchange Terrace
Providence, Rhode Island

Union Station exterior by I {heart} Rhody
Union Station today

The building that stands on Exchange Street, right across from Burnside Park and the skating rink, is actually the second Union Station train depot in Providence. The original was built in 1847 using architect Thomas Tefft's design.

photo courtesy Art in Ruins

From Art in Ruins' site:
"Widely considered “a brilliant example of Romanesque architecture,” Union Station was then the longest building in America, at a disputed 700 feet long (some claimed it was only 625)."
 A commenter noted that:

"The design was perfectly symmetrical on each side of the centerline. The large towers were set at either side of the central facade of the main building. There were also two wings which branched off from the main building at a slight angle – one on the east (Boston) side and another on the west (New York) side. Each of the wings consisted of a large train shed covering four tracks and terminated on the street side in a two-story octagonal pavilion with a round external stair tower."

The building burned to the ground in 1896 and the present building was constructed in 1898, using the design firm of Stone, Carpenter and Willson.

By the 1950s, train travel had dropped off considerably. In 1987 the City opened a new train station and this one was damaged by fire.

Today it houses the Rhode Island Foundation, WRNI radio and several restaurants.

I had the chance to visit the Rhode Island Foundation and meet with some of the staff, and tour the building.

Union Station lobby by I {heart} Rhody

You can still see the remnants of the train station interior as you enter. A security station near the doorway holds a miniature replica of the clock in the center of the facade.

greeter's desk by I {heart} Rhody

The Foundation is very respectful of the history of the building, and includes a window from the original station as an installation. It's part of the wall that encloses the elevator.

Original window from first Union Station building by I {heart} Rhody

There are more offices upstairs, including a conference that sits right behind the clock in the facade. It's an impressive sight, made even more cool by the light coming through the clock and surrounding grillwork.

Clock interior at conference room by I {heart} Rhody

The upstairs lobby is even more spacious. This is where passengers waited for their trains, which were elevated at the time.
RI Foundation wall of honor by I {heart} Rhody

Facing stateside is another conference room, this with a terrace that used to be part of the boarding platform. Now it overlooks the State House, Providence Place Mall and the Basin. It's a great view.
conference room balcony by I {heart} Rhody

An interior conference room used to be the smoking lounge.
conference room by I {heart} Rhody

The original fireplace and built-ins are still there.

It's obvious that the building is respected and well cared for. It was a pleasure to see it with a modern use, while still keeping its original "bones" intact.


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