Of course I approached the Fieldstone Trolley Shelter not by trolley, but by car. Providence’s streetcar service was disbanded by the city in 1946 due the huge increase of cars. It’s a shame. I never learned to drive as I grew up in big cities with massive public transit systems. I rode the eL in Chicago and the metro in DC. But here in Providence I have to depend on not always dependable buses. It would take me an hour to get from my home to the trolley shelter and adjacent Swan Point Cemetery by bus, a distance of just over 4 miles. So I asked my partner (who insists that I’ll be learning to drive this summer) to drive me to my destination. It’s too bad Providence’s trolleys are no longer, but at least we still have this cool trolley shelter. Not long ago, it too was threatened with destruction.
The trolley shelter is situated at the entrance of Swan Point Cemetery. It was constructed by the request of the cemetery, who also picked up the bill, when the city began building a new streetcar line along Blackstone Blvd. The cemetery turned to the Olmsted Brothers, sons of the world famous landscape architect Fredrick Law Olmsted, to design the shelter which was completed in 1904.
The Olmsted Brothers (as their firm was appropriately called) had recently completed the cemetery’s entrance and surrounding wall — an impressively sized organic structure composed of large rocks and boulders. The trolley shelter was designed to mimic the wall, both of which were clearly influenced by the work of Olmsted senior who was known for his naturalistic design principles. Both the wall and the trolley shelter appear to have grown out of the surrounding landscape. The shelter lies low and long emphasizing the horizontal landscape it sits upon. Large rocks, carefully pieced together around large open-air windows and entrances on either side, support a wooden hip roof with wide overhanging eaves. So yeah, as trolley shelters go, this one is pretty cool.
Though 100 years after its completion, its age started to show. The roof was falling apart, some structural stones had become dislodged, and it was plagued by vandalism. In 2008 it was listed on PPS’s Most Endangered Properties list. The cemetery and Blackstone Parks and Conservatory worked together to restore the building, which looks great today. A success story.
What would really make this a success story? The revival of Providence’s streetcars of course! We already have $13 million, now we just need $26 million more. And I guess the line as currently mapped wouldn’t exactly reach the Fieldstone Trolley Shelter . . . but it’s a start!
KUDOS to Challenge Winner Bill Fisher @williamjfisher for correctly guessing my whereabouts . . . Hope to meet him on a trolley someday.