Friday, July 20, 2007

Graffiti and Masonic calipers

An "old and ugly" ashlar has finally been smoothed.

The four-star Renaissance Providence Hotel in Providence, Rhode Island, opened in May in a never-completed Masonic building whose cornerstone was laid in 1926.

After two years of construction, the Masons abandoned the unfinished building when they ran out of money. (Five years later, during the height of the Great Depression,
Bro. Fredrick I. Dana, the treasurer for the Scottish Rite Trust of Rhode Island, the group who was paying for construction, was sent to prison for embezzlement.)

The uncompleted building sat idle until 2004, when hotel developer Sage Hospitality of Denver started work on the property.

In 1926, the estimated cost to complete the opulent, monumental building as a Masonic center was $2.5 million. Completing it as a luxury hotel in 2007 ran the bill up to $100,000,000.00 (one hundred million dollars). Typical rates for one of its 272 rooms are between $199 and $319 a night. Parking is additional, at $25 per day.

Two artistic themes were used, in various combinations, in the interior of the hotel. Since the building had spent its life "on the streets," so to speak, it was covered with three-quarters of a century's worth of graffiti. The hotel developers chose to carry on this theme by decorating many of the guestrooms and the hotel's restaurant with graffiti, some of it done by local street graffiti "artists" who a few years earlier had practiced their art on the unfinished Masonic building.

Blended with the graffiti are neo-Masonic symbols, including what is being called Masonic "calipers." An eye in a triangle, which they call "the all-knowing eye," is visible in the staircase banister leading to the hotel's restaurant, which is called "The Temple Downtown."

Official hotel site
Article from The Providence Journal
Article from The Boston Globe
Flash slideshow of exterior sketches
Photo slideshow of interiors
Fun facts about the building

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1 comment:

  1. Calipers, eh?

    Interestingly, Rhode Island has a large manufacturing base. Perhaps "calipers" are more familiar to them then "compasses"?


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