37 Cooke Street.jpg
38 Cooke Street.jpg
37 Cooke Street.jpg


Providence, Rhode Island

Protecting the architectural beauty, quality of life and residential character of the College Hill neighborhood.



Providence, Rhode Island

Protecting the architectural beauty, quality of life and residential character of the College Hill neighborhood.

About Historic College Hill

We shape our buildings, and afterwards, our buildings shape us.

Winston Churchill

In 2012, some residents of an area of Historic College Hill became concerned about changes happening in their immediate vicinity. Up to that time, they assumed they were in a protected area because most houses have PPS House Markers, but that was not the case. Sandwiched between the Stimson Avenue Local Historic District and the College Hill Local Historic District, the area between Hope Street and Governor Street, Angell Street and Power Street has all the characteristics of a protected historic district, but none of the protections. They wondered if historic designation could help preserve what they love most about their neighborhood.

Historic designation is a method for ensuring that changes to a neighborhood occur in thoughtful ways which preserve the character of an area while allowing new development and changes to existing buildings. Historic designation is the best way to ensure responsible and incremental change. This is particularly important in College Hill where pressures for high-density rental housing as well as institutional expansion can threaten the character and livability of what has long been a modest-scale, low-density, mixed-income residential neighborhood.

In 2013, neighbors reached out to the Providence Preservation Society which then conducted an architectural resources survey of the area bounded by Hope, Angell, Governor, and Power Streets. The study area included parts of three districts on the National Register of Historic Places. Click here to open map.


Historic College Hill

College Hill is the site of Providence's original settlement dating from 1636, and it contains the most distinguished historic architecture in the city. The district is primarily residential though there are commercial corridors such as Thayer Street and Wickenden Street. Along Waterman Street and Angell Street, there are many commercial users that have successfully adapted formerly-residential structures. Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design also have major campuses on College Hill, with a mix of buildings constructed from the late 18th century to 2017.

Many of the properties proposed for inclusion in an expanded College Hill Historic district are currently listed in the Power Street-Cooke Street National Register District, the Hope Street National Register District, and the College Hill National Register Historic District. Others lie outside recognized historic districts but are important parts of a cohesive neighborhood. Click here to open map and click here to learn more.

“One of the largest and most diverse concentrations of preserved architecture in the United States.”

Historic Architectural Styles

The study area includes 187 buildings and portions of three National Register districts. This largely residential area reflects a period of development in the city of Providence spanning nearly 150 years, including examples of the Federal style from the early 1800s to Colonial Revival Houses dating to the early 1900s, with the height of development occurring during the second half of the 19th century. There are also seven houses recorded by the Historic American Buildings Survey and two National Historic Landmarks -  the Rhode Island Historical Society’s Aldrich House and Preserve Rhode Island’s Governor Henry Lippitt House Museum. The area contains grand and modest homes, single and double houses, as well as apartment buildings and converted carriage houses. Each contributes to the rich texture of the Historic College Hill neighborhood.

38 Cooke Street.jpg

Count Me In



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Count Me In



Show your support with our free yard signs. Fill out the form below to send your name and street address. One yard sign will be delivered to you within 24 hours.


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Why do we need historic designation?

Historic designation ensures that changes to a neighborhood occur thoughtfully, preserving the qualities of places that people love, that have histories that help us understand our community. They have quality design, construction and materials that can’t easily be replicated today. Historic designation also acknowledges that modern lifestyles require different modes of living, so guidelines allow for modifications and additions. This is especially important as pressure for higher density housing grows around institutional campuses and as non-resident owners with no stake in our community acquire property.

Will historic designation affect my property values?

Local Historic Districts are more stable and property values typically appreciate faster than the local market overall as well as faster than similar, non-designated neighborhoods. In economic downturns, properties hold their values better.

What are other benefits to historic designation?

Preserving neighborhoods has been shown to have social and psychological benefits because there is a sense of stability. Being in a local historic district gives you a greater voice in the future. Making community decisions together in a structured way rather than behind closed doors or without public comment gives everyone involved a sense of empowerment and confidence

Does historic designation affect my property rights?

In Providence, a local historic district is administered in the form of a zoning overlay. This overlay zone is intended to preserve structures of historic and architectural value by regulating the construction, alteration, repair, moving and demolition of such structures. The Historic District Commission is authorized to regulate the alteration, repair, construction, demolition, removal of any exterior structure and/or appurtenance within any Historic District identified on the Providence Overlay Zoning District Maps of the Official Zoning Map adopted in accordance with the ordinance.

What are the guidelines for changes?

Design Guidelines are used to make sure that development within a zoning overlay achieves the goals of the district. In Providence, all “residential” local historic districts are subject to the same design guidelines.

Will designation prevent me from repairing, altering, renovating, or adding on to my property?

The Standards and Guidelines of local historic districts help owners make changes to their property. The PHDC staff meets with property owners to determine the best method to complete each project. Often, small repair and alteration projects are approved at a staff level, without having to be heard by the PHDC.

What is the Historic District Commission’s approval rate for design review?

In the year ending October, 2015, zero project applications were denied, out of a total of 145 applications received.

Will I have to do anything or re-do work that has already been done to my house?

No, only future exterior changes that you initiate will be subjected to design review.

Is there money available to help preserve old buildings?

The Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission (RIHPHC) administers programs that may be available to help owners meet the costs of maintaining their historic properties. Programs include tax incentives, preservation easements, and low-interest loans. More information can be found at preservation.ri.gov/credits.

Will PHDC tell me what color to paint my house?

Paint color and regular maintenance are exempt from review. However, paint removal methods, the painting of previously unpainted surfaces, and any repairs needed before repainting may be subject to review.

For property owners who are interested, advice on appropriate paint colors and surface preparation is available on request from the PHDC staff.

Can I make my building more energy efficient?

In 2014, the Standards and Guidelines for Residential Local Historic Districts was amended to include new guidelines to facilitate the installation of solar panels, heat collectors, and photovoltaic systems.

Will designation mean that new construction has to be designed a certain way?

New construction is reviewed by PHDC. Since its inception in 1960, the PHDC’s philosophy regarding new construction has been to promote high quality new design, often contemporary in nature that fits within the context of the historic district. New additions may be designed in the spirit of the existing architectural style, or may be clearly differentiated from the historic structure, but compatible with it and with the surrounding historic district.

What about the interior of my house?

Interior projects are not reviewed by PHDC.

Can I demolish my house?

Demolition is strongly discouraged in a local historic district, and alternatives, such as moving the structure and adaptive reuse, are encouraged. But, in cases of extreme hardship, demolition may be allowed.