Thanks to everyone who came to The Museum Of Westminster Street. This is the final week of the window at 191 Westminster Street – but we’ll keep posting more stories on here for the next few weeks. Thanks for stopping by!
The STOP sign originated in Detroit, Michigan, in 1915. The original American STOP sign had black letters on a white background. In 1924, the background changed to yellow, and then in 1954 to the current design of a red octagon. Its legal minimum mounting height in urban areas is seven feet. There has been a stop sign on this corner since 1989.
The stop sign on the corner is attached to a red post that is what remains of an old fire department call box. On top of it was a phone that allowed residents and businesses on this street to alert the Fire Department in an emergency. If you go to the corner of Dorrance and Pine Streets, you can see one with its call box intact. Long in disuse, the post continues to be painted red by the Downtown Improvement District, who retouch the paintwork every spring.
Between 1964 and 1989, this section of Westminster Street was pedestrianized, and known as Westminster Mall. The lead designer in opening it up to traffic again was RISD graduate Kim Ahern, now a landscape architect in Massachusetts. “When we started laying the sidewalk,” she says, “we discovered a lot of disused coal cellars underneath, so we had to waterproof everything before putting down the bricks.”
This trash can was commissioned in 2006. It’s one of a series made by The Steel Yard, a Providence-based community organization that fosters the industrial arts and small business. You can see The Steel Yard logo, a tool known as ‘pincers,’ on the side of the can. A team of artists worked on its creation: Curtis E. Aric, Nate Nadeau, Heidi Born, Monica Shinn, Ally, Tim Ferland, D Tillery, Howie Sneider, Adam Morosky. The yellow stripe around it was painted by the Downtown Improvement District in 2009, to indicate that it, rather than the City of Providence, takes care of emptying this can.
Most of the poles on parking signs in Providence are green in color, but on this street, and in much of downtown, they are black. That’s because the Downtown Improvement District paints all of the street furniture every year, from the lamp posts to the parking meter poles, using Rust-Oleum protective paint in the color “Gloss Black.”
The lamp posts were designed and manufactured by Urban Metal, based in Pennsylvania. The design is called “Providence” with a “National” base. They were installed as part of the reopening of the street to traffic in 1989. They’re unusually tall, to bring attention to the architecture of the buildings, and they were originally painted dark green.
The tall black vent on the street helps to cool the electricity lines that run underneath this street. It is owned and maintained by National Grid, and painted by the Downtown Improvement District. Occasionally, you can see steam rising out of it, and hear a fan whirring as the heat escapes.
The building owners are responsible for the sidewalks in front of their property – which explains the variation in quality and materials as you walk down the street. Check out the sidewalk in front of Tazza, and along the Eddy Street side of Two Brothers Beauty Supply – it’s actually tar, stamped with brick shapes and painted red.