Rhode Island State House

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Rhode Island Statehouse
Rhode Island State House 2.jpg
South facade
Location82 Smith St.
Providence, Rhode Island
Coordinates41°49′51″N 71°24′54″W / 41.83083°N 71.41500°W / 41.83083; -71.41500Coordinates: 41°49′51″N 71°24′54″W / 41.83083°N 71.41500°W / 41.83083; -71.41500
AreaDowntown and Smith Hill
ArchitectMcKim, Mead, and White
Architectural styleNeoclassical
NRHP reference #70000002
Added to NRHPApril 28, 1970
State House, 1917

The Rhode Island State House is the capitol of the state of Rhode Island, located on the border of the Downtown and Smith Hill sections of Providence. It is a neoclassical building which houses the Rhode Island General Assembly and the offices of the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, and general treasurer of Rhode Island. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.


This is Rhode Island's seventh state house and the second in Providence after the Old Rhode Island State House. The architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White designed it, and it was constructed from 1895 to 1904. The building had a major renovation in the late 1990s.[1] It served as the United States Capitol exterior in the 1997 film Amistad. It also served as the City Hall of Capital City in Disney's Underdog.


The Independent Man

The Rhode Island State House is constructed of 327,000 cubic feet (9,300 m3) of white Georgia marble, 15 million bricks, and 1,309 short tons (1,188 t) of iron floor beams.[2] The dome is the fourth-largest self-supporting marble dome in the world, after St. Peter's Basilica, the Minnesota State Capitol, and the Taj Mahal.[2][3] On top of the dome is a gold-covered bronze statue of the Independent Man, originally named "Hope". The statue weighs more than 500 pounds (230 kg); it is 11 feet (3.4 m) tall and stands 278 feet (85 m) above the ground. The Independent Man represents freedom and independence and alludes to the independent spirit which led Roger Williams to settle and establish Providence Plantations and later the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

The chamber of the Rhode Island Senate is located in the east wing of the building, and the chamber of the Rhode Island House of Representatives is located in the west wing. Other notable rooms include the rotunda (beneath the dome), the State Library (north end), and the State Room (south end). The State Room is an entrance area for the office of the governor and contains a full-scale portrait of George Washington by Rhode Island native Gilbert Stuart. This room is also where the governor has press conferences and bill signings at the State House. It was one of the first public buildings to use electricity. It is lit by 109 floodlights and two searchlights at night.[2]

In 2013, Governor Lincoln Chafee's administration started to remove grass from the eastern side of the Statehouse lawn in order to provide extra parking for employees. The move was opposed by the Capital Center Commission,[4] which is a public board designated with the task of overseeing zoning requirements within the district. Supporters of the proposed parking say that there is demand from employees and visitors to the building.[4] Opponents point to existing zoning requirements that make the surface lot illegal, point to the expense of providing parking, and advocate an increased presence for transit, biking, walking, and carpooling instead.[5][6][7] The state spent $3.1 million on an adjoining piece of land on Francis Street next to I-95 for parking, which provides 100 parking spots at around $30,000 a space.[8]

Christmas at the State House[edit]

The State House tree in 2013

It is an annual State House tradition to feature a Christmas tree and community and cultural holiday displays each December. A Fraser fir or Balsam fir is erected in the large central rotunda and decorated. The tree, donated by a local family or tree farm, is typically between 17 and 25 feet tall.[9]

It has become a holiday tradition in local media to feature stories about problems with Rhode Island's state tree, often meriting front page treatment:[10]

  • In 2005, the tree was removed from the rotunda after a treatment of flame retardant caused the needles to fall out.[9][10]
  • In 2007, a "sickly-looking" tree was spotted being replaced a few weeks before Christmas.[10]
  • In 2011 Bishop Thomas J. Tobin and others objected to the wording on tree-lighting ceremony invitations, which referred to the tree as a "holiday" tree.[11] Protestors at the tree-lighting ceremony lit a protest tree of their own and sang “O, Christmas Tree,” drowning out the official music provided by a local children's chorus.[10]
  • In 2012, the official tree lighting ceremony was canceled, as Governor Chafee hastily flipped a switch and left the State House.[10]
  • In 2013, Governor Chafee changed the wording to "Christmas" tree.[11][10]
  • In 2016, a 14-foot Fraser Fir was deemed to be too small for the rotunda.[9][10] A replacement 20-foot tree was placed in the rotunda, and the smaller tree moved to the south steps.[9]
  • In 2017, the rotunda's 25-foot Fraser Fir made national headlines when it began dropping needles "at an alarming rate," after being on display for three weeks.[12] The New York Post remarked, "this is the saddest state capital Christmas tree."[10] The sickly tree was replaced with a smaller (12-foot) tree.[13]
  • The 2018 tree was an 18-foot tall Douglas fir donated by a South Kingstown tree farm.[10]

Since 2014, holiday displays from "any Rhode Island area-based religious or secular group" have been featured on the first and second floors.[14] Participating groups have included local religious, ethnic, and secular organizations.[14]

Photo gallery[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Cupolas of Capitalism: State Capitol Building Histories: States from P to S". Cupola. Retrieved January 10, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c "Facts and Figures". State of Rhode Island General Assembly. Archived from the original on May 15, 2012. Retrieved January 10, 2014.
  3. ^ "The Providence Heritage Trail". VisitRhodeIsland.com (Rhode Island Tourism Division). Archived from the original on September 3, 2012. Retrieved January 10, 2014.
  4. ^ a b Grimaldi, Paul (October 16, 2013). "Capital Center chairman opposed to more parking near R.I. State House". The Providence Journal. Retrieved January 10, 2014.
  5. ^ Nickerson, Jef (October 18, 2013). "State defiantly moves ahead with surface parking". Greater City Providence. Retrieved January 10, 2014.
  6. ^ Kennedy, James (February 21, 2013). "Guest post: Parking reform should start at the State House". Greater City Providence. Archived from the original on February 2013. Retrieved January 10, 2014.
  7. ^ Rachel, James (November 2011). "Dear Audubon Society..." Transport Providence. Retrieved January 10, 2014.
  8. ^ Grimaldi, Paul (July 2, 2013). "R.I. will pay $3.1M for land across from State House". The Providence Journal. Retrieved January 10, 2014.
  9. ^ a b c d Anderson, Patrick (22 November 2016). "State House Christmas tree didn't measure up, so it got replaced". The Providence Journal. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i Amaral, Brian (28 November 2018). "Buckle up, Rhode Island: It's time to light the State House Christmas tree". The Providence Journal. Retrieved 30 November 2018.
  11. ^ a b McKinney, Mike (2 December 2013). "After 'holiday tree' controversy, Chafee now calls RI State House tree a 'Christmas tree'". The Providence Journal. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  12. ^ Bender, John (18 December 2017). "After A Moment In The Spotlight, RI Statehouse Christmas Tree Comes Down". Rhode Island Public Radio. Retrieved 19 December 2017.
  13. ^ Anderson, Patrick (18 December 2017). "Dead Christmas tree is replaced at R.I. State House". The Providence Journal. Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  14. ^ a b Gregg, Katherine (27 November 2015). "Holiday displays at the State House: Open to all, but follow the rules". The Providence Journal. Retrieved 24 November 2016.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Tallest Building in Providence
68 m
Succeeded by
Industrial Trust Building