The Dean Hotel belonging to ASH NYC, an interior design and real estate firm and designed by Kite Architects in New York City brings a much-needed and welcome change to the historic downtown district of Providence.
It ably reflects the colourful culture and eventful history of the rough neighbourhood in an all new light.
The Dean Hotel is a five star property located in the heart of the historic downtown district, Providence that has been known for not quite the right reasons. The development of the hotel has monumentally revamped not only the reputation but also urbanised the locality.
Despite Providence being home to the Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design, progress was long time coming. Downtown Providence is a changing neighbourhood that was once virtually abandoned, but since the last 20 years or so, community leaders, developers, artists and residents have been trying to figure out ways to best reuse and repopulate the area.
Downtown has the good fortune of being at the very centre of the city (and region) and has a very well preserved architecture, which draws people’s imagination and creativity.
Keeping that in mind, an early 20th century brick building which houses 52 rooms has been carefully restored by Kite Architects and beautifully refurbished by its Brooklyn-based owner ASH NYC, which incidentally is also a development and design firm.
The idea behind restoring the property was to rehabilitate and create a hotel for Providence and of Providence, and capitalise upon the local authenticity that differentiates it from some bigger cities or places with more of a corporate culture.
As ASH throws some light, “The foremost design philosophy was to restore an interesting architectural specimen from circa 1912. We had to peel back many layers before we could actually see what existed once. The building was built by the Episcopal Diocese and has once been everything from church housing to a Vaudeville hotel to a strip club and brothel, so there has been very interesting history to work from.”
The ethos behind The Dean has been to create a space and experience that shows off the best of Providence (the preserved architecture, the industrial heritage and still-vital community of makers and creators, the artists and raw creative talent) while bringing in design, products and varied experiences that haven’t yet made it to Providence – everything from Karaoke boxes to Le Labo candles to a true old-school hotel bar.
As one steps into the Hotel, the unique features of the property are refreshing and anything but monotonous in spite of having only comfort and simplicity as the basis for the design process.
ASH has been careful in making the most of the building’s handsome original features, including its mosaic tile flooring and brick façade to emulate a timeless look of sorts.
The hotel encompasses an interesting assortment of custom-designed and fine vintage furniture sourced from markets in Belgium, Paris and the Netherlands. American antiques and rugs sourced from a bazar in Turkey offer a worldly and established feature with classic aesthetics.
The light fixtures and plumbing fixtures add an in-depth character to the interiors, while retaining wood floors and five panel doors to highlight the essence of 1912.
To steer clear from creating a replica or a relic, all of the spaces have been juxtaposed with some really modern art (mostly from RISD or Providence-affiliated artists) and contemporary angular steel furniture created in conjunction with the Steel Yard in Providence.
Few of the 52 rooms and suites are alike; these include vintage pieces and artwork, locally handcrafted furniture, and custom – blended soaps and fine linens. The bed in each room also has a custom-woven, Dean-branded blanket by Brahms Mount of Maine.
The Dean is situated centrally on Fountain Street in downtown Providence and is surrounded by many of the city’s best galleries, bars, restaurants, boutiques and universities. The neighbourhood was only in need of an architectural uplift, and ASH aimed to do just that – restore the best of local stuff and bring in the superlative from outside. An interactive space that is tastefully designed and uniquely structured offers a peaceful composition.
The Dean Hotel integrates history and new developments with an inventive and affordable profile. It seems, they have achieved all of the above with nothing but flying colours.
Text By Namrata Joshi
Photographs Courtesy The Architects