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Merchants Bank Building

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1855–1857, Alpheus C. Morse and Clifton A. Hall. 20 Westminster St.
  • (Photograph by Andrew Hope)
  • (Photograph by Patricia Lynette Searl)
  • (Photograph by Patricia Lynette Searl)
  • (Photograph by Patricia Lynette Searl)
  • (Photograph by Patricia Lynette Searl)

Diagonally opposite the old Hospital Trust Building on Westminster Street is another relic of the scale of Providence banking of an earlier day. This and the Bank of North America ( PR19) introduced the Italianate palace as a popular mid-nineteenth-century image for commercial buildings, and the two remain the only pre–Civil War downtown survivors of a commercial type destined to have prolonged effect. At six stories, the Merchants Bank Building was long the tallest building in the city and the first to be retrofitted with an elevator. Like Thomas Tefft before them, Morse and Hall graduated the treatment of their features from ground floor to roof. Turk's Head nicely responds to its wedge shape as an opposed wedge. One creates a funnel into the plaza hub; the other, one out of it. And, like the Exchange Bank Building ( PR25), this also demonstrates the urbanistic value of the pigmy building among giants.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "Merchants Bank Building", [Providence, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Rhode Island, William H. Jordy, with Ronald J. Onorato and William McKenzie Woodward. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, 50-51.

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