Sixth District Court House (Old State House)
|Location||150 Benefit St., Providence, Rhode Island|
|Architectural style||Georgian architecture|
|Part of||College Hill Historic District (ID70000019)|
|NRHP reference No.||70000092|
|Added to NRHP||April 28, 1970|
|Designated NHLDCP||November 10, 1970|
The Old State House on College Hill in Providence, Rhode Island, also known as Providence Sixth District Court House, Providence Colony House, Providence County House, and Rhode Island State House is located on 150 Benefit Street, with the front facade facing North Main Street. It is a brick Georgian-style building largely completed in 1762. It was used as the meeting place for the colonial and state legislatures for 149 years.
On May 4, 1776, meeting in the building, the General Assembly declared its independence, renouncing its allegiance to the British crown, and the date is now celebrated as Rhode Island Independence Day. Debates about slavery occurred in the building in the late 18th century. George Washington visited the building in 1781 and 1790. Other visitors to the building in the 18th and 19th centuries included Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony.
From colonial times to the mid-19th century, the Rhode Island General Assembly rotated meetings between the state's five county court houses; five of these former Rhode Island state houses survive today. In 1730, a statehouse known as the Providence Colony House or County House was built on Meeting Street on the site now occupied by the Brick Schoolhouse. The wooden building burned down in December 1758.
In 1760 The General Assembly constructed the current building as the new Providence Colony House, on a site which overlooked The Parade, the location of ceremonial processions. The new building, which was smaller than the building is now, was based on the Colony House in Newport, Rhode Island, which was the first Colony House built, and served as a model for others.
The building was constructed of Flemish bond brick with rusticated brownstone quoins and wooden trim. It was largely finished by 1762 with some details being completed as late as 1771. Many of the Georgian details were borrowed from the larger and more ornate Newport Colony House. The building's interior, specifically, resembled the Newport building, following the traditional layout of English town halls. Prior to 19th century alterations to the Providence State House, the two buildings greatly resembled one another
After 1853 the state legislature ceased meeting at Kent, Washington and Bristol county courthouses, but continued to alternate its sessions between the Colony Houses in Providence and Newport into the early 20th century.
19th and 20th century
The building was extensively renovated and dramatically altered several times in the 19th century.
In 1840, the building was remodeled by Rhode Island architect, Russell Warren. This renovation involved the replacement of original windows with sash windows and the rearragement of portions of the interior.
It was again altered in 1850, when Thomas A. Tefft of Tallman & Bucklin added the large tower facing Main Street, and a reorganization of nearly the entire interior. In 1867 James C. Bucklin designed an addition on Benefit Street that nearly doubled the size of the building. Both of these additions were sympathetic to the building's original design. The building was refurbished in 1877–1883, to designs by Stone & Carpenter.
The building served as the legislature's meeting place until 1901, when the new Rhode Island State House began being occupied. The building was completely finished in 1904, and it was decided to use the old building as a courthouse. Major internal alterations by Banning & Thornton were completed in 1906, and the building re-opened as the Sixth District Courthouse.
Since 1975, the building has been home to the Rhode Island Historical Preservation Commission, which oversees it maintenance and renovation. In 2020, the building underwent a renovation and restoration effort.
An open space hall for public meeting was located on the main floor and later became a courtroom.
On the second floor was the House of Representatives and Senate chambers. Additional space was create for the Governor's and Secretary of State's offices. Today, the former Council Chamber is the only room to retain its original furnishings. As a result of the various expansions and renovations, the only room in the building which is largely original is the office of the Secretary of State on the second floor.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. January 23, 2007.
- Woodward, Wm. McKenzie (2003). PPS/AIAri Guide to Providence Architecture. Photography by William Jagger Photography (1st ed.). Providence, Rhode Island: Providence Preservation Society and American Institute of Architects Rhode Island Chapter. pp. 27–28. ISBN 0-9742847-0-X.
- Kimball, Hoke P.; Henson, Bruce (2017). Governor's Houses and State Houses of British Colonial America, 1607-1783: An Historical, Architectural and Archaeological Survey. McFarland. ISBN 978-1-4766-2593-5.
- Conley, Patrick T. (1988). The State Houses of Rhode Island. Providence, Rhode Island: Rhode Island Historical Society. ISBN 0-932840-04-3.
- Woodward, Wm. McKenzie (1986) Providence: A Citywide Survey of Historic Resources. Providence, Rhode Island: Rhode Island Historical Preservation Commission. ISBN 9780939261123
- Jordy, William H. Buildings of Rhode Island. 2004.
- MacDonald, Mary (2020-05-14). "Old State House renovation continues". Providence Business News. Retrieved 2020-12-19.
- "Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission: About the Commission". ri.gov. Retrieved 10 February 2015.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Old State House (Rhode Island).|