DOWNCITY HISTORY: LOEW’S THEATER FROM THE SMOLSKI COLLECTION

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Here is an image of Weybosset St. in Providence, featuring Loew’s Theater. Originally a movie theater during the Golden Age of Cinema, Loew’s was built in the late 1920s.  After falling into disprepair in the late 1970s, it had been used primarily as a concert venue. In 1977, it was threatened by demolition. By 1978, the building was saved by a consortium of local businesses, foundations, and government agencies and reopened as the Providence Performing Arts Center.

Loews

An embellished but unre­markable facade shows a mild Spanish in­fluence in what might be called 1920s Plateresque (richly ornamented in a low-relief style suggesting silver work).

It was designed by a specialist firm notable across the country for movie houses in hybrid styles. As the appropriate motif for a Providence the­ater, the decorous fantasy of New England’s own Federal style envelops the space. The architects drew inspiration from the engravings of Robert Adam.

Professor Smolski was a geography professor who traveled the world photographing examples of urban renewal, city planning, historic architecture, and public spaces. He was a also a vocal advocate for Providence and urban life at a time when Providence was rapidly deteriorating and populations were flocking to the suburbs. Throughout his life he wrote hundreds of op-ed pieces for the Providence Journal, many about the unique character of Downtown Providence and the importance of preserving it’s architecture. In 2009 the Smolski family donated the late professors entire slide film collection and writing to Rhode Island College Special Collections. 

This series is in collaboration with Digital Initiatives at the Adams Library, part of RIC. Andy Davis, Digital Initiatives Staff, did the research for this article and gallery from their collection. 

For a full list of sources, please visit their website

 

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