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Sites and Stories: Mapping a Preservation Ecosystem

October 18 and 21, 2017

The field of historic preservation has always focused on architectural sites in order to preserve their history, and for many in the field, the sites are the focus: how do we save them?

Preservationists are increasingly called upon to help preserve stories about places that no longer physically exist, but still have much to tell us about our history. Stories of an erased landscape can also be the focus: how do we make them visible?

And what happens when a site tells more than one story, or erases one in favor of another? How do we plan for a future that preserves and unites sites and stories?

Preservation needs supporters from across the spectrum. SITES AND STORIES will set out to map a preservation ecosystem that attends to both the economics and the ethics of preservation, and allows for development of shared purpose and creation of shared opportunity. Join us for a conversation that will acknowledge the divides in the field, provide an opportunity to consider multiple points of view, and engage all those who care about the history of the built environment— both that which still stands and that which once stood.

Wednesday, October 18 Schedule

7:00-9:00 pm

Cable Car Cinema and Café

204 South Main Street (click for map)


Sites and Stories of Urban Displacement and its Aftermath—Film Screenings and Q&A

Some Kind of Funny Porto Rican?”:  A Cape Verdean American Story (2006)

This film documents the 1970s-era Fox Point Cape Verdean displacement. Written and directed by Claire Andrade-Watkins, former resident of Fox Point, Emerson College Professor, and director of the Fox Point Cape Verdean Project. She is also Visiting Scholar with the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice and a Distinguished Community Practitioner and Senior Fellow with Swearer Center for Public Service, both at Brown University.

movie poster

SPIA Media Productions, Inc.

The Rebirth of the Nation: The Story of Urban Renewal (1963)

This 16mm restored film is courtesy of SPIA Media Productions, Inc. Filmed in small and medium sized cities, this movie is designed to explain the urban renewal process, from the Workable Program for Community Improvement through project execution, to city councils, service clubs, people who live in residential urban renewal areas and other interested groups. Explanation is in non-technical terms with scenes from actual residential urban renewal areas showing before and after pictures of housing conditions and public facilities. Produced by City Planning Associates, Inc.

Informal Q&A to follow with Claire Andrade-Watkins.

Learn more at:



Access online documentaries focusing on Providence's Fox Point Cape Verdean Community through Kanopy, a streaming video service making quality educational content available to public libraries and educational institutions. Kanopy is providing free access to Providence Public Library patrons (must have a PPL library card) for one year to the SPIA Media Productions, Inc., online collection that focuses on the history of Providence's Fox Point Cape Verdean community.

Saturday, October 21 Schedule

8:15 am-4:00 pm

First Unitarian Church of Providence

1 Benevolent Street (click for map)

8:15 am               

Registration and coffee

8:45 am                 


9:00-10:00 am        

Who Owns Heritage?

Keynote Address by Randall Mason, Chair, Graduate Program in Historic Preservation and Associate Professor of City & Regional Planning, University of Pennsylvania.

10:00-11:00 am       

Sites and Stories: A Consideration of Urban Displacement and Its Aftermath 

A conversation with Claire Andrade-Watkins, Professor of Film and Africana Studies at Emerson College, Visiting Scholar at Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, Distinguished Community Practitioner & Senior Fellow at the Swearer Center for Public Service, Brown University, and director of the Fox Point Cape Verdean Project. Moderated by Christina Bevilacqua.

11:00-11:30 am     

Refreshment break

11:30-12:45 pm  

The Death and Life of American Planning—Building Our Future

A roundtable with historians and planners on the post-urban renewal evolution of the planning field, including the role of preservation. Featuring Yale School of Architecture Associate Professor Elihu Rubin, Allen Penniman, principal planner for the City of Providence, J. Trey Scott, Principal Planner for the City of Central Falls, and Caroline Cheong, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Central Florida.. Moderated by Marisa Brown from the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage at Brown University.

2:30-4:00 pm     

Walking Tour of Fox Point redevelopment area with Claire Andrade-Watkins and John McNiff, National Park Service Ranger, Roger Williams National Memorial


2017 Providence Symposium Venue

First Unitarian ChurchFirst Unitarian Church. Photo credit: Peter Michel

First Unitarian Church of Providence

1 Benevolent Street (click for map).

Built 1815-1816 by John Holden Greene, the First Unitarian Church is the second church to stand at its location at 1 Benevolent Street after a fire destroyed the previous meeting house built just 19 years prior. Inspired by the architectural designs of Charles Bulfinch and his work on sacred spaces in Boston, the First Unitarian Church echos Bulfinch's designs with its grand entrance portico comprised of a large bracketed pediment and doric pillars. 

The church has survived centuries of use, and the fire of 1966 caused by a lightning strike which threatened its strucutral integrity and existence. In a beautiful example of historic preservation, restoration began immediately after the disaster, repairing the wooden and plaster detailing to a high level of integrity.

The First Unitarian Church is in close proximity to many of the topics of discussion that will be explored during the Symposium such as owner neglect on Benefit Street, expansion on College Hill, and the history of displaced communities on Lippitt Hill, Fox Point and the area around Cathedral Square.


Claire Andrade-Watkins

Christina Bevilacqua

Marisa Angell Brown

Caroline Cheong

Randall Mason

Allen Penniman

Elihu Rubin

J. Trey Scott



PPS Thanks our 2017 Symposium Sponsors

10-6 symp sponsors

rich logo This project is made possible by a grant from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.