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Earle's Block and Brick Rows

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The Italianate brick Earle's Block ( PR45.1; c. 1872), 369 South Main Street (at James Street) provides an astonishingly well-preserved example of the plain Victorian commercial palace type, with its commanding scale, high cast iron storefronts, and sandstone identification with bold, handsome lettering. Next in line, beginning with the Eddy Block ( PR45.2; 1812), 283–297 Main Street, are three brick rows in the Federal style, one with a gabled roof, two with hips. They were originally designed as row houses, and interrupted by alleylike streets whose names—Guilder, Doubloon, Silver, Gold, Bullion—proclaimed this as the financial heart of the colonial city. In the nineteenth century brick rows ran to the river, breaking through the line of warehouses and dock facilities which then, and vestigially into the twentieth century, walled the riverfront. The middle of the three and most intact, Comstock Row ( PR45.3; 1824), 263–273 South Main Street, which retains some of its original fanlighted doors, is known to be the work of John Holden Greene. The original owners of all three rows were residents of College Hill and had close business and social ties with each other. The owners of Clarke and Nightingale Row ( PR45.4; between 1815 and 1823), at 247–257 South Main, for example, lived in substantial mansions a block above their investment property. Shop fronts, added during the nineteenth century, were “restored” beginning in the 1960s. Row houses are uncommon in Providence. Most were built between 1810 and 1845, their presence due to aspirations for urbanity more than population density.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.

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