Architecture ~ Old Stone Bank ~ Providence

Old Stone Bank
86 South Main St.
Providence, Rhode Island

Roof of Old Stone Bank Building, Providence, RI by I {heart} Rhody

We love taking out-of-town visitors on tours of DownCity. As soon as we get to the river, someone will ask, "Oh! What's that?" They're asking, of course, about the green and gilded dome of the Old Stone Bank.

Because of the way the building is situated on Main Street, you really have to be right in front of it to see the base, but the dome is visible from many places around town. Especially on sunny days, the gilding gleams like a beacon.

I've found it very difficult to get a good photo of the face of the building, but has done a fine job.
"Old Stone Bank" was officially named "The Providence Institute for Savings" when it was founded in 1819. This building was its flagship branch, designed by architects C.J. and R.J. Hall in 1854. The building gave rise to the nickname "Old Stone Bank," which the bank adopted, even using Fred Flintstone as a mascot.

According to Wikipedia, the bank collapsed in the 1980s, after which the building was sold to Brown University, and later to a private owner. It's usually closed to the public.

Not everyone loves the dome, and I've heard it referred to as "the gilded frog." I was curious to see what was beneath that wonderfully ornate dome, and inside the historic building.

A few weeks ago, Waterfire hosted Red Fork Empire, a Steampunk* organization, at the Old Stone Bank. Empire put on a free Steampunk exhibition, and I couldn't miss it. I dragged my visiting daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren (age 5, 6 and 8 months) to see. Baby N slept through the experience, but D and T had a good time, enjoying the costumes and art.

Steampunkers by I {heart} Rhody
Red Fork Empire gathering

Steampunk general and D shaking hands
shaking hands

Steampunk robot by I {heart} Rhody
Steampunk robot
I enjoyed all that, too, as well as the live music.

What really made the event important for me was the chance to see the inside of the Old Stone Bank - a rare treat indeed.

The first thing I think most people are curious about is the inside of the dome. The green and gilt exterior indicates there's something very special inside. And there is. There were exhibits in many of the side rooms, including in the vault.

Old Stone Bank rotunda by lastonein
inside dome by lastonein

Steampunk Fox lady by I {heart} Rhody
inside the vault
It's clear that this was once a richly appointed Victorian style bank, built to look substantial, trustworthy and exclusive.

Marble floors, the large circular central desk, balconies overlooking the rotunda and rich dark wood compete with peeling wallpaper and crumbling plaster inside. I hope the owners are able to slowly rehab the building. It's just stunning.

Barnaby Evans surveys the work in progress. by waterfireprov
Barnaby Evans supervises the setup for the event from one of the balcony windows.
photo by WaterFire Providence

Do you have photos of the inside of the Old Stone Bank? We'd love to see them! Share your links in the comments.

*"Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery, especially in a setting inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century. Steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century's British Victorian era or American "Wild West", in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power has regained mainstream use, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power. Steampunk perhaps most recognizably features anachronistic technologies or retro-futuristic inventions as people in the 19th century might have envisioned them, and is likewise rooted in the era's perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, and art." (Wikipedia)


  1. Here are some photos from WaterFire's 15th Anniversary celebration that was held in the Old Stone building on December 31, 2009: The performers were Quixotic Fusion and opera singer, Nathan Granner.

  2. I was really curious of the Steampunk robot. What was its purpose there? Is it for decoration purposes?


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