Historic District Commission

Do you remember where the Castle used to be The Castle (or the Masonic Castle), 1332 Narragansett Boulevard in Edgewood, was demolished and replaced with several private homes a few years ago. Designed by Thomas J. Gould and built in 1901 for Herman G. Possner, president of the Sure-Lock Paper Clip Company, this large stone and shingle building with mock crenelations (the squared notches we associate with real castles) was a dramatic structure with an interesting history. In 1920, Dutee Flint, the largest Ford dealer in the country, acquired the house and began radio broadcasting, there turning the Castle into Rhode Island's first radio station. Cherry and Webb took over the operation in 1931, changing the station's name to WPRO. At the end of its life, The Castle was the home of the Harmony Lodge, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons.

The Castle is just one of many structures whose architectural and historical significance was no deterrent to its destruction. Fighting to save our city's endangered heritage often is an uphill battle, but it is the mission that we of the Cranston Historic District Commission have embraced. The members of the Cranston Historic District Commission are professionals whose interests, backgrounds and experience, taken together, provide the City with expert advice on matters pertaining to the preservation of districts and specific buildings of the City that reflect elements of its cultural, social, economic, political and architectural history. The Commission comprises seven Cranston residents who serve without compensation and are appointed for three-year terms by the Mayor. The current commissioners have demonstrated interest in historic preservation as well as expertise in architecture, city planning, American history, oral history and folklore, archaeology and education; three commissioners are also independent business owners. Thus, the commissioners are both knowledgeable of preservation concerns and sensitive to the needs of business.

The Cranston Historic District Commission, established in 1966, is regulated by a set of precisely defined standards and guidelines adopted by the City Council. These standards of operation, which follow closely those promulgated by the National Park Service of the U. S. Department of the Interior, are among the most complete of any Historic District Commission in the country. The Commission functions to protect sites of particular historical and architectural significance by acting as a design-review board for major exterior alterations, repairs, moving or demolition of structures or historic landscape features within the city's local historic districts. The purpose of the review process is to ensure that any proposed changes are compatible with existing historic features in terms of design, texture, material, siting and location.

Unfortunately, only those structures that are within historic districts designated by the City Council are protected by this review process. Currently, the following are Local Historic Districts in the city: Oaklawn Village and the former Lippitt Hill School. When a structure outside of a designated district, such as the Castle, is threatened with demolition or incompatible alteration, there is little we can do aside from writing letters.