The Cranston St. Armory: Preservation Campaign Project Leader
The Cranston St. Armory is the cornerstone of Providence’s West End neighborhood, fondly referred to by residents as the neighborhood castle. Built in 1907 for use of the Rhode Island National Guard in response to the frequent strikes of nearby millworkers, the armory was designed as a 165,000sf fortress. With its two head houses, crenelated towers and, drill hall with 90ft ceilings, the building has a formidable presence in the neighborhood and easily seen from miles away. It’s unparalleled in its design, and facing a large parade ground park is arguably the most picturesque armory in the country.
The armory has stood vacant and mostly deteriorating since the National Guard vacated the building in 1991. Several studies have been conducted on the armory over the last 25 years, and multiple proposals for its reuse have been made. So far, none of the proposals have been financially viable and the small investments that State continues to make to the building’s upkeep are not enough to slow its decline. Estimates now exceed $80M to restore and renovate the structure for modern use.
In September of 2015 the West Broadway Neighborhood Association (WBNA) approached me to launch an armory preservation campaign. Over the course of four months I developed a preservation strategy for the building informed through interviews with 25 state, city and community stakeholders. On behalf of the WBNA I wrote and received a $10,000 grant to organize a charette for the building’s reuse. I digitized and organized an online archive of armory materials (reports, plans, photographs, news stories etc.) for the community’s use. Finally, I built a comparative study and database of 250+ armories around the country in an effort to demonstrate its potential to be a national landmark.
These efforts helped build momentum around the armory’s preservation and reuse, leading to a monthly armory stakeholder meeting convened by the state’s Department of Administration who control the building, as well as a new request for proposals to lead a community process around its preservation.
I continue to be involved in the armory through my role as the Vice Chair of the newly formed committee for armory advocacy, organized by the WBNA.