Interior of the Arcade (2005)
Front facade of the Arcade Providence
Depiction of the Arcade in its early days
Interior of the Arcade
Backstory and Context
History of the Arcade Providence
In 1828, Providence had a population of 14,000 residents, but its markets and commercial district were growing substantially and the urban core served a much larger market that the city's relatively small population might otherwise suggest. In an attempt to better promote the commercial development of downtown Providence, Cyrus Butler worked to build a single urban market with a multitude of connected shops. Owing to the harsh New England weather, Butler's envisioned this as an enclosed space that would make shopping a pleasurable experience throughout the year.
Architects Russell Warren and Tallman & Bucklin designed the building for Butler’s venture, calling for three floors of arcaded lanes of shops and a skylight providing illumination, similar to many structures in European cities. The 216-foot Arcade building was finished in 1828, constructed entirely out of granite, and it featured twelve massive 21-foot granite columnns (the largest monolithic columnns in the country at the time). The total cost of the building was around $145,000 (approximately equivalent to around $30 million in 2015). After opening, the Arcade grew in its popularity, though garnering a profit was exceedingly difficult. Moreover, the Arcade Providence held widespread renown for its architecture; in fact, the Metropolitan Museum of Art once called it one of the finest commercial buildings in the history of American architecture.1