Bank of America Building (Providence)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
111 Westminster Street
Providence-first impression.jpg
General information
Location Kennedy Plaza, Providence, Rhode Island, United States
Coordinates 41°49′28″N 71°24′39″W / 41.824553°N 71.410696°W / 41.824553; -71.410696Coordinates: 41°49′28″N 71°24′39″W / 41.824553°N 71.410696°W / 41.824553; -71.410696
Construction started 1925
Completed 1928
Owner High Rock Development
Height
Roof 428 ft (130 m)
Design and construction
Architect Walker & Gillette, George Frederick Hall
Developer Industrial Trust Company

111 Westminster Street[1] (formerly the Bank of America Building, formally the Industrial Trust Tower, and commonly referred to as the Superman Building) is the tallest building in the city of Providence, Rhode Island, and the 28th tallest in New England.[2] Standing at 428 feet (130 m) with 26 floors, the building occupies a footprint on the eastern periphery of Kennedy Plaza.

History[edit]

Butler Exchange Building[edit]

Before the current building was erected, the site was location of the 6 story Butler Exchange building. Located at 55 Exchange Place and constructed in 1872, the land was purportedly deeded by the heirs of the original Samuel Butler.[3] The 1872 building housed the Rhode Island Commercial School which was purchased and merged into Bryant & Stratton College in 1916, the forebear of modern-day Bryant University. As well as, many retail businesses such as Dodge and Camfield (importers and grocers) on street level, and Waite Auto Supply Company.[4] The Providence Ladies' Sanitary Gymnasium was also a tenant. That building was demolished in 1925, after a devastating fire, to make way for a new tower.

Industrial Trust Tower[edit]

Commissioned in 1925 by the Industrial Trust Company (founded in 1886 by Samuel P. Colt), the current building was constructed and opened during the inter-war boom period as the Industrial Trust Tower in 1927.[5] Designed in the Art Deco style popular at the time, the building opened for tenants on October 1st, 1928.

Architectural details[edit]

Of steel-frame structure sheathed in Indiana limestone, with Deer Island granite at its base, the tower was advertised as “A Business Building for Building Business.”[6] It has six wings stemming from a central tower. Though stepped buildings in New York City had been a common solution for Manhattan's strict 1916 zoning policies regarding adequate light and air, there were no such restrictions in Providence; nevertheless, New York architects Walker & Gillette chose to include the innovative symmetrical stepped massing, with the assistance of local architect George Frederick Hall.[7]

The base and the trim at the base's top were built to match the cornice height of existing adjacent (now gone) four-story buildings.[8] It was among the tallest buildings in New England when completed, and ranked third after its construction to the 527 foot 1919 Travelers Tower in Hartford, Connecticut,[9] and the 496 foot 1915 expansion of the Custom House Tower in Boston.

The 26th floor hosts the executive office for Industrial Trust Company. The suite contains secretary staff common areas, and offices. A stairway leads to a higher level private 'dining car' which contains a wine closet with dark leather details. A Peregrine Falcon Nest box is also located in the area.[10] The basement contains the vault. The vault was designed to house small and large items, supplied with storage areas for client possessions such as fine rugs.

The metal doors and trim were manufactured by Dalhstrom Metallic Door Company, of Jamestown, New York. The original glass of the beacon was of green hue, and topped with a decorative globe, surrounded by seven and half ton circle of stone eagles. In 1932, it was damaged and repaired after a lighting strike.[11] This architectural feature removed in 1950 after one eagle fell to the street below in 1930.

Floors 2,9, 15, and 22 each recede back to form the buildings distinctive profile.[7] From nightfall until midnight, the building's peak is traditionally lit a bright blue with varying red and green at Christmas, and Valentine's Day. The building has remained relatively unchanged over the years with the exception of the lobby, the upper windows and the 2 story turret tower and light beacon. Due to its vacant occupancy the exterior lights illuminating the superstructure are not lit. In 1973, the beacon tower was turned off for the first time since 1928 to conserve energy.

Rehabilitation effort[edit]

In 2011, speculation[12] simmered that Bank of America, the building's last tenant, would move out at the end of its ten year lease; which eventually led to the bank's 2012 announcement that it would vacate the space the coming year. In March 2013, Bank of America officially ceased operations at the building leaving the Providence landmark facing Kennedy Plaza unoccupied since. The Providence nighttime skyline was subsequently affected as the exterior nighttime lighting used to illuminate the upper structure was shut off, with the exception of the peak light.

Subsequently, new owner High Rock Development proposed a plan to convert the building into mostly luxury apartments, involving $80 million in tax credits from the State[A]. This plan was rejected and the State has applied to move some of their Health and Human Services offices into the now vacant property. High Rock Development has since offered a four year plan that would require $40 million in new funding for the rehabilitation of the tower into a mix of uses that include retail, business and 285 residential units.[13] The former and new financing proposals were met with mixed reaction.

[A]In 1975 the Providence Biltmore, another building facing Kennedy Plaza closed and remained out of use until a group of local businesses implemented Federal tax credits to rehabilitate the building, reopening it in 1979.

In popular culture[edit]

Three buildings, two of the same stature, and one smaller than the others
The skyline of Providence, as viewed from the northwest looking southeast, from left to right: One Financial Center, 50 Kennedy Plaza, and the Bank of America Tower
A cartoon version of the previous image
The skyline's animated Family Guy counterpart

During the 1950s, it was rumored that 111 Westminster Street served as the model for the Daily Planet building in the Superman comic book.[citation needed] The building is still referred to by Providence locals as the "Superman Building" for its resemblance to that of the comic and 1950s television series. However, Superman co-creator Joe Shuster claims he drew his inspiration not from the Providence building (nor the also rumored AT&T Huron Road Building in Cleveland, Ohio, where Shuster was living at the time), but rather from his home city of Toronto (such as the Commerce Court North and the Fairmont Royal York). The building shown in the television program, however, is the Los Angeles City Hall.[14]

The downtown Providence building, and its neighbors, are displayed prominently on the cartoon skyline of the Family Guy's fictional depiction of the City of Quahog, Rhode Island in the American adult animated sitcom created by Seth MacFarlane. The building is often seen behind the Griffins Family home on fictional Spooner Street.

The current building at 111 Westminster Street influenced design elements seen in the Providence Place Mall's two turrets.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Rhode Island State House
Tallest Building in Providence
1927—Present
130m
Succeeded by
None