Rhode Island College of Education

In 1954, a bond issue to fund the creation of a new campus for the Rhode Island College of Education passed, affording the institution $3,500,000 to begin construction. [1] Development  began  in 1956,  and  the  college  dedicated  its six  new buildings two years later.  The six original buildings- Alger Hall, Craig-Lee Hall, Henry Barnard  School,  Whipple Gymnasium, Robe1ts Hall, and a Student  Center  – were designed  by the Rhode  Island from of Howe,  Prout, and Ekman Architects and built by the E. Turgeon Construction  Company.

Shortly after construction was complete, the college’s swelling  population  began to test the  limits of its new campus.  The first residence hall , named for  Mary Tucker  Thorp, was erected  in 1961.  By 1962, a large dining complex named for Fred J. Donovan h ad been completed, and a year later the library moved out of the Student Center and into its own building.   1963 also saw the construction of the John Clarke Science  Building.   As the college continued to expand,  it enticed out-of-state  students with the construction  of additional  residence halls named for Mary Weber (1965),  Rose Butler Browne (1969), and Charles  Willard (1971 ). [2]  Later residences would be built in 1991  (David E. Sweet) and 2007(yet unnamed).    As the college expanded and enrollment grew, additional classroom buildings  were constructed.   William C. Gauge Hall (1966, originally called Horace Mann  Hall) and Fogarty Life Science  (1975)  provided needed classroom  space. The construction of the present Student Union in 1966 preceded the transformation of the original Student Center into the Art Center classrooms.

Additions to the campus have been consistent over time and continue today, with buildings like the John Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts (2000) and extensive renovations to existing buildings.   Most notably, the 1990s-2000s have seen significant alterations to existing  buildings, transforming  buildings like Alger Hall, originally designed in a sleek and simple mid-20th century style, into high tech centers for twenty-first  century students.   Additionally—with the 1990s acquisition of the Rhode Island State Home and School/ O’Rourke Center property that now composes the East Campus  — the college significantly expanded, adding another group of flat-roofed mid-century modern buildings to its stock.  These buildings, along with the original campus buildings like Alger Hall, have also been targets for significant facade redesigns.  Overall, the clear trajectory of construction   and reconstruction   on the campus reflects the priorities of changing times, from an optimistic postwar 1950s, to uncertainty and challenges to tradition in the 1970s, and an attempt to reassess the campus and create smart and sustainable buildings in the 2000s.

RIC Archives
The 180 acre RIC campus didn’t always look as it does now. Pictured above the farm-like fields of pre­campus days.




  1. "Historical Development." Catalog of the Rhode Island College of Education, 1958-1959. p.20.  Rhode Island College. James P. Adams Library, Special Collections.
  2. Buildings and Named Places Binder.  Rhode Island College.  James P. Adams Library, Special Collections.



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