You are here
T. F. Green State Airport (Hillsgrove Airport)
Airport terminals must be among the most mutable of building types. They are regularly and routinely subject to demolition or disfiguring alterations. Rhode Island's current facility ( WA3.1), named the Bruce G. Sundlun Terminal for the governor who implemented its construction, on Post Road around the corner from the original terminal, was completed in 1996 to designs by HNTB, a New Jersey firm specializing in such projects. It handsomely replaces a somewhat ackward and inadequate 1950s terminal. All the more miraculous that two previous terminals stand virtually untouched, on the other side of the airfield. The original terminal ( WA3.2) is a rare survivor from the 1930s. This small gem is simply composed of flat-roofed, cream-colored stucco boxes: a central block flanked by one-story wings, fronted by a two-story entrance tower with a monumental geometric Art Deco portal and topped with a polygonal glass control room. Except for the deep, stepped-back reveal of the main portal, door and window openings are unornamented cutouts, and the roofs are ringed with steel tubular industrial railing. It is somewhat remarkable that this was executed by a Providence architecture firm that made red brick, white-trimmed Neo-Georgian structures its stock in trade, though it seems clear that to these architects modernism was yet another style to be used eclectically, as here, where the program called for imagery that was contemporary, even futuristic. The somewhat more conservative second terminal ( WA3.2), known as Hanger No. 1, has a central entrance block articulated with pilasters. At the parapet, a relief depicts the state seal—an anchor on a shield—flanked by stylized bird wings and parts of airplane propellers.
The original Hillsgrove Airport, as the core of the much larger T. F. Green Airport (renamed for a governor, then a very long-termed U.S. senator) was the first state-owned airport in the country. It was opened in 1931 at the behest of the Providence business community, which thought that a publicly owned facility would serve the metropolitan area better than the collection of small, privately operated airfields that then ringed the city. The airport and its original terminal represent the state's commitment to providing up-to-date facilities for future economic development. They reflect the culmination of the optimistic outlook of the Roaring Twenties carried into the early years of the Great Depression.
If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.
SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.