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Garden City

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1946 (housing), Nazzareno Meloccaro. c. 1970, N. Robert Meloccaro; land planning, Federal Housing Authority (Peter Cipolla directing). 1947 (Garden City Shopping Center); after 1956, expanded; c. 1988, redesigned, Flatley Corporation. Bounded roughly by Route 2, Reservoir Ave., Route 37, and Sockanosset Cross Rd. to the east and north, by the Pocasset and Pawtucket rivers

Across Sockanosset Cross Road from the Sockanosset School for Boys is Garden City, incorporating Rhode Island's first shopping mall. Small by later mall standards (originally 18 acres, now 40), around 1988 it received a new look when it was tweaked into a fashionable postmodernist village image with gables, dormers, and a mix of bull's-eye and Palladian windows. There are unintended ironies in this juxtaposition of “villages” designed, on one side of the highway, to reform Victorian waywardness and, on the other, to captivate the post–World War II consumer's heart. Behind the mall to the east as far as the Pocassett River are the serpentine streets of its residential component, the Levittown of Rhode Island, intended to provide the first line of customers for the shops.

Nazzareno Meloccaro emigrated from Pontecorvo, Italy, in 1920, taught himself to build houses and, three years later, set up his own successful contracting firm. In 1941 he bought a 233-acre farm and, with help from the Federal Housing Authority's land planning division, laid out a “city within a city.” In addition to the shopping center, the town originally contained a Roman Catholic church, parochial school, post office, some ninety-four apartments in seven brick buildings, and, when completed, more than 700 houses. Nazzareno built these in blocks of fifty in an assembly-line operation, mixing Cape Cod, colonial, and ranch exteriors, which were popular for development houses at the time. During the post–World War II boom they sold for $8,000–$30,000 as fast as he could pour foundations. Following his death in 1955, his son, N. Robert Meloccaro, completed the community, before eventually selling the shopping center. Although many houses have been altered and enlarged, the nature of the original community is still evident. As with Levitt's towns, the current generation of owners (1990 population, 3,189) is remarkably stable and satisfied. At the beginning of the 1990s, houses went for $98,000–$178,000, depending on the accretion of owner add-ons.

Writing Credits

Author: 
William H. Jordy et al.
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Citation

William H. Jordy et al., "Garden City", [Cranston, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/RI-01-CR6.

Print Source

Buildings of Rhode Island, William H. Jordy, with Ronald J. Onorato and William McKenzie Woodward. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, 181-182.

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