The progressive idea of promoting education to all in
support of a free society was at the heart of this old
brick schoolhouse. By 1800, Rhode Island had one
of the earliest public education systems, housed in
this building. In its long history as host to innovative
educational initiatives, it served as a school for African
American students, an early fresh air school for children
suffering from tuberculosis, and site of the Meeting
Street School, a pioneering organization for children of
all mental and physical abilities.
The Providence Preservation Society (PPS), formed in
1956, leased the old schoolhouse from the city for its
headquarters in 1960 and undertook restoration. Organized
to rescue 18th and 19th century buildings in the College
Hill area of the East Side of the city from demolition, the
PPS saved the historic character of whole neighborhoods
and has grown into a citywide advocate for preservation.
The College Hill Study of 1959, sponsored by the PPS, the
City of Providence and the Housing and Home Finance
Agency, was an early example of urban revitalization using
preservation and rehabilitation rather than demolition and
redevelopment. Among many activities, it publishes the
annual Ten Most Endangered Buildings List to raise public
awareness of the threat to the city’s architectural heritage.