In the spring of 2022, the Carl G. Lauro Public School in Providence commissioned me to create a model of their lovely, historic home building on Kenyon Street in Providence.
The building has two rectangular wings connected to a center building. The two rectangle wings are roughly the same size, but have some key aesthetic differences. This suggested to me that the East Wing was built earlier (the corbeling matches that from many buildings in Providence from 1880-1910), and the West Wing and center ‘connector’ were built in the 20’s-30’s. Carl Lauro students visited the Providence Public Library and dug up Providence Journal articles related to the school’s opening in 1927. These made no mention of an older existing structure that was added to, so my theory remains open!
Some of the notable features of the building (to my eye) are the grand arches over the East Wing entrances, some cool frieze work around the windows on the West Wing, and overall classic, distinctive, and creative brick work details all around the building. On a nice day, one can sit outside at Nitro Coffee Shop (Dash Bicycle) on Broadway, sip a latte, look down DePasquale Avenue and get a good, admiring view of this building.
Culturally, this school dated from the golden era of public building construction in Providence when the city built about 50 fine school buildings in 50 years. While that era was certainly a time of great wealth disparity and anti-immigrant sentiment, these buildings are testament to the fact that wealth was translated into public architecture and the city did not shirk the responsibility of constructing educational facilities for an explosive immigrant population. I hope that examining the cultural history of these structures can lead to a re-embracing of these values!
I presented the LEGO model of the Kenyon Street School to the students and teachers of Carl G. Lauro in their last week of school. It was a marvelous day; the children were wonderful. I got to meet each grade and talk a little about my love for the beautiful streetscape of Providence, and the students were super excited to see the model. Afterward, I was treated to a tour of the building lead by a group of fifth graders who showed me all the ‘coolest’ spots in the building. The atmosphere of the school was fantastic; I saw happy, bustling, productive classes everywhere I went. It was clear to me that the Carl Lauro faculty were masters of striking a balance between maintaining an orderly school while still totally letting kids be kids.
A few weeks after the installation, I was honored to meet Peter Lauro, the son of the late Carl G. Lauro, for coffee. Mr. Lauro the Younger shared stories of his father who had been a Providence public school teacher, coach, and administrator before his untimely death in his forties. Mr. Lauro the Elder was very well-known, and a shocked city rapidly re-dedicated the Kenyon Street School to him.
Installation Day at Carl Lauro!
I got a cool tour of the building and saw some of the ‘cool stuff.’ I’m not sure why I liked all the radiators and piping so much, but I did!
Some exteriors of the Kenyon Street building. I hope the model did it justice!