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What Cheer Garage

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1910. Conversion, 1990, Gordon Washburn. 156 Benefit St. (at South Court St.)
  • (Photograph by Andrew Hope)
  • (Courtesy of DigitalCommons@RISD)

Adjacent to the Old State House is the reinforced concrete What Cheer Garage, now a studio building for RISD. It proclaimed the arrival of the automobile on College Hill and the need for garage space in a locale too close-packed with buildings to provide adequately for private parking. The reduction of the motif of the classical triumphal arch to a minimal functional statement recognizes the industrial origins of reinforced concrete technology while also according the garage a degree of “class” appropriate for the limousine set to whom it catered (much as Auguste Perret's famous reinforced concrete garages off the Champs-Elysées in Paris used the same formula to the same end at about the same time). The handsome proportions and blunt vigor of its elevations, resurfaced when adapted to studio use, have only been enhanced by the reinstallation of factory-style metal windows, happily with a deeper sash than was originally used, reversing an earlier renovation in which the window openings were insensitively infilled. (“What Cheer” is not the rueful response to a mechanic's bill, but was, according to tradition, the Narragansett Indians' greeting to Roger Williams on his landing at Providence [a contraction of “What cheer with you?,” the seventeenth-century equivalent of “How are you?”]. Many Rhode Island businesses perpetuate the historic greeting.)

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "What Cheer Garage", [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, 77-77.

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