Old State House and Parade in Providence Secure Major Federal Grant for Preservation

Published on Tuesday, July 18, 2023

(Providence, R.I.) The State of Rhode Island was awarded a $750,000 federal grant to preserve the Old State House and Parade at 150 Benefit Street in Providence. The research and restoration project is being supported by a Semiquincentennial Grant from the Historic Preservation Fund administered by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior. Semiquincentennial Grants commemorate the 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States. The federal grant for the Old State House and Parade is one of 20 such cultural resource preservation projects across 14 states that received funding this year.

Erected in 1760-62 when Rhode Island was but a colony, the Old State House in Providence has played a pivotal role in the political life of Rhode Island for more than 260 years. The storied brick-and-brownstone building was the setting on May 4, 1776, when Rhode Island’s General Assembly renounced its allegiance to King George III, two months ahead of the Declaration of Independence. Its historic landscape, the Parade, is a sloping lawn that descends to brownstone steps on North Main Street. This was an important gathering place, where Rhode Islanders listened to speeches and congregated for special events, such as visits from President George Washington in 1790 and the Marquis de Lafayette in 1824. When the new State House opened on Smith Hill in 1901, the Old State House became home to the Sixth District Court. Today it is headquarters of the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission (RIHPHC), Rhode Island’s state agency for historical preservation and heritage programs.

The Semiquincentennial is an opportunity for the nation to recognize and reflect on the diverse cultures, events, and places that have helped shape our country,” said NPS Director Chuck Sams. “Through the Semiquincentennial Grant Program, the National Park Service is supporting projects that showcase the many places and stories that contributed to the evolution of the American experience.” 

“I am pleased to help deliver federal funding to preserve the Old State House, one of just six surviving Colonial-era state houses in America.  This federal funding will support research and restoration efforts.  It will compliment continued state restoration investments in saving this historic, architectural, and cultural gem,” said U.S. Senator Jack Reed. “As the nation gears up to celebrate America’s 250th anniversary, it is important that we preserve our past.”

“As Americans gear up to celebrate our country’s 250th birthday, I am grateful for this recognition of Rhode Island’s central role in our early history,” said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. “This federal funding will ensure that the historic Old State House and Parade can be restored to its former glory and enjoyed for generations of Rhode Islanders to come.”

“The Old State House and Parade is an important part of Rhode Island’s heritage. We’re grateful to the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service for their investment in this revitalization project to help us preserve and celebrate our State’s history,” said Governor Dan McKee.

The Semiquincentennial grant will support both research and restoration of the site, which was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and included in the College Hill Historic District, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in the same year. In-depth primary research is expected to reveal new information about the construction of the Old State House and Parade and will inform the preparation of an updated nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. Preservation activities focused on the building’s public, interior spaces include plaster repair, painting and flooring. The Parade’s historic landscape features will be restored, including the ashlar retaining wall, brownstone stairs, wrought-iron fence and cobblestone-lined gutters. From procurement of consultants to final inspection of the work, the project is expected to be completed by fall 2025.

“This federal grant, combined with the State’s ongoing support, demonstrate a wide-ranging commitment to preserving the Old State House and Parade,” said RIHPHC Executive Director Jeffrey Emidy. “This project will ready the Old State House and Parade for events with the RI250 Commission and others in commemoration of the Semiquincentennial, when we share the stories of Rhode Island’s role in the founding of our nation.”

Old State House
Old State House, facing North Main Street, Providence
Old State House and Parade
Old State House at top of Parade, facing North Main Street, Providence
needlepoint of Old State House
Clarissa Daggett, A Front View of Providence Court House (1799), courtesy of RISD Museum