At the July meeting of the Fox Point Neighborhood Association, neighbors engaged in a heated discussion about historic preservation in the heart of the Local Historic District. At issue was an 1880s Victorian cottage that, unlike other homes in the area, is currently located off the street; it is nestled away from Williams Street between Benefit and Thayer streets, in one of the neighborhood’s few densely wooded blocks. The architect Friedrich St. Florian, who designed the National World War II Memorial in Washington as well as the Providence Place Mall in downtown Providence, has proposed clearing much of the wooded area (while leaving in place “significant trees”), moving the cottage forward on the property, restoring it, doubling its size, and demolishing an adjacent, mid-century (not historic) multi-car garage.
In a presentation to neighbors, St. Florian argued that the proposal would enhance the streetscape, especially the view of the cottage from Williams Street. “It will significantly contribute to the beauty of the neighborhood,” he said. Neighbors disagreed. “It is a beautiful cottage that was meant to be in the woods,” countered Lily Bogosian. Others opposed the near-clearing of the ecosystem and feared the developer/architect will propose subsequent, new construction to fill the space. “You claim that you want to save [some of] the trees,” said another neighbor, “yet it seems clear to us that you are moving the cottage in order to build more buildings.”
The Providence Historic District Commission “continued” the proposal in late July, after reviewing the plans and hearing neighbors’ objections; St. Florian and the developer will likely submit a revised plan in August. FPNA stands with neighbors and the Providence Preservation Society; we hope to do all we can to find a solution that preserves the character of the neighborhood. We will keep you posted as this issue plays out.