One Union Station

where Rhode Islanders again "make connections"

Although the last train left Union Station in June of 1986, the prominent yellow brick building in downtown Providence – home to the Rhode Island Foundation since 1999 – is again a place where Rhode Islanders "make connections."

From 1898 to 1986, Union Station was the main terminal of the Providence train station. Designed by Stone, Carpenter, and Willson and constructed by the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad, the station consisted of five yellow brick buildings. The April 27, 1987 Providence Journal noted that it "was conceived as a gateway to the city, linking intercity rail service and local trolley lines. It was one of the first train stations in the country to provide track access through pedestrian subways."

In the station's early days, some 300 trains ran through it each day. But as train usage decreased through the decades, Amtrak constructed a smaller facility nearby, and plans were made to convert Union Station into stores and offices.In April 1987, a massive fire nearly destroyed the historic building. In a front page story the day after the April 26 fire, the Providence Journal reported, "The walls of the yellow brick building were still standing, but its roof was gone, its clock tower cracked and threatening to cave in…the fate of the center structure was uncertain."

But work continued, and two and a half years later -- and $10 million in renovation costs -- Cookson America moved its offices into the former main terminal building.

The Rhode Island Foundation purchased the building in April, 1999 for $4.5 million, and moved into its new home in August from rented office space in Providence's jewelry district. (The Foundation earlier was housed at a bank and a house on Rochambeau Avenue.)

Then-Foundation Chairman Sandy McCulloch stated, "With City Hall on one side, the financial and retail sectors another, and the Rhode Island Foundation representing the nonprofit and philanthropic communities, we are symbolizing that unique American vision of the intersection of business, government, and volunteerism."

Foundation leaders also noted that the building would enable the Foundation to better serve the nonprofit community, with then-President Ronald Gallo saying, "Our vision is to create a 'center for philanthropy' in this magnificent building which has meant so much to Rhode Islanders over the years…We consider it part of our mandate to see Union Station's resurrection as a community meeting place for people who care."

The vision for a "center for philanthropy" and a "community meeting place" is being realized today through the Foundation's Initiative for Nonprofit Excellence (INE) which builds the capacity of nonprofit organizations and through scores of meetings held annually at the Foundation, hosted both by the Foundation and by community organizations that utilize one Union Station's meetings spaces.

The Foundation occupies one and a half floors of the three-story building. Several nonprofit organizations, including Rhode Island KIDS COUNT and Rhode Island Public Radio, lease space in the building.

One Union Station truly is a place where Rhode Islanders again "make connections."


One Union Station
Providence, RI 02903


(401) 274-4564

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