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Eliza G. Radeke Building, Museum of Art

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1925–1926, William T. Aldrich

The Eliza Radeke Building, the major body of the museum, permitted the conversion of museum space on the ground floor of the Waterman Building to classroom space while incorporating the later galleries which had been added to it. This time Stephen O. Metcalf joined with his brothers to contribute the building in honor of their sister, who represented the second generation of women in the Metcalf family in the role of quasi-manager, contributor, and intermediary between the family and the School of Design. Continuing in the Neo-Federal style, Aldrich solved a difficult design problem so adroitly that no problem seems ever to have existed. How to manage his addition so that it would not downplay the Pendleton House while nevertheless making clear that the new building was henceforth the principal entrance to the museum? Aldrich set his addition slightly back from the Willson block as a one-story addition, but (measured against Pendleton House) actually one and one-half stories in height. Within this height he proceeded to blow up the domestic aspects of Pendleton House to more institutional scale. He articulated his wall with brick pilasters the full height of the wing, enlarged on its fanlighted door and projected it slightly from the wall (versus the inset Pendleton entrance). He simplified and enlarged all ornament and, finally, provided a wide, courtlike approach. To balance Pendleton House he projected a plain, two-windowed block at the opposite end of his addition. Preserving the residential feel of Benefit Street, the screenlike wall conceals what eventually becomes a five-story building as it falls down the hill, plus another which is set back above. The lobby behind this screen goes to the sources of the Federal style in suggesting an Adamesque salon (or “saloon,” as Robert Adam would have called it), but in a constricted and restrained manner. It even contains classical sculpture, like Adam's Kedelston Hall, although without Kedelston's overwhelming opulence. Windows along the opposite wall look down to a garden court three levels below, completed a few years later, after Mrs. Radeke's death, and dedicated to her memory. The galleries around it look into it as well. Again, institutional and residential qualities blend to increase the pleasure of viewing one of the outstanding small-city museum collections in the country.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "Eliza G. Radeke Building, Museum of Art", [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, 80-81.

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