Industrial National Bank Building

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Industrial National Bank Building
Industrial Trust Building Providence RI.jpg
Former namesIndustrial Trust Tower, Fleet Bank Building, Bank of America Building
Alternative namesSuperman Building, Industrial Trust Building
General information
LocationKennedy Plaza, Providence, Rhode Island, United States
Address111 Westminster Street
Coordinates41°49′28″N 71°24′39″W / 41.824553°N 71.410696°W / 41.824553; -71.410696Coordinates: 41°49′28″N 71°24′39″W / 41.824553°N 71.410696°W / 41.824553; -71.410696
Construction started1925
OwnerHigh Rock Development
Roof428 ft (130 m)
Technical details
Floor count26
Design and construction
ArchitectWalker & Gillette, George Frederick Hall
DeveloperIndustrial Trust Company
Historic plaque

Industrial National Bank Building, located at 111 Westminster Street (locally referred to as the Superman Building) is the tallest building in the city of Providence, Rhode Island, the tallest in the state of Rhode Island,[1] and the 28th tallest in New England.[2] Standing at 428 feet (130 m) with 26 floors, the building occupies a footprint on the eastern periphery of Kennedy Plaza; the building has been vacant since April 2013.[3]


Butler Exchange building[edit]

Before the current building was erected, the site was the location of the six story Butler Exchange building. Located at 55 Exchange Place and constructed in 1872, the land was purportedly deeded by the heirs of the original Samuel Butler.[4] Due to address changes across the city, by 1913 it bore the address 123 Westminster;[5] the 1872 building housed the Rhode Island Commercial School which was purchased and merged into Bryant & Stratton College in 1916, the forebear of modern-day Bryant University. It housed many retail businesses such as Dodge and Camfield (importers and grocers), A. & L. Tirocchi Gowns, and the Waite Auto Supply Company.[6] The Providence Ladies' Sanitary Gymnasium was also a tenant; that building was demolished in 1925, after a devastating fire, to make way for a new tower.

Industrial Trust Company[edit]

Commissioned in 1925 by the Industrial Trust Company (founded in 1886 by Samuel P. Colt), the current building was constructed and opened during the inter-war boom period as the Industrial Trust Tower in 1927. Designed in the Art Deco style popular at the time, the building opened for tenants on October 1, 1928.

Its name became the Fleet Bank Tower in 1982 when Industrial Trust changed its name to Fleet Financial Group in 1982. It would remain Fleet's headquarters until Fleet merged with Shawmut National Bank in 1995 and moved to Boston.

In 1998, then FleetBoston Financial, (then the current owner) was acquired by Bank of America; and the building became known as the Bank of America Building. In 2008, shortly before the Great Recession in the United States, the building was purchased by High Rock Development of Massachusetts for $33.2 million.[7] Bank of America was the building's sole tenant, and utilized about half the building.[8] Bank of America invested $7 million in a new sprinkler and fire safety system.[8]


In 2012, Bank of America, still the sole tenant, decided not to renew its lease;[8] the bank vacated the building, leaving it empty.[7]

High Rock's requests for public funds to redevelop the building were turned down.[7][1] State taxpayers, still smarting from the controversial money-losing loan to 38 Studios in 2012, were in no mood to offer public funding or tax credits.[8]

In 2016, it was estimated that at least $115 million would be needed to rehabilitate the building.[8]

In 2013, High Rock sued Bank of America for millions of dollars, claiming that the bank had neglected upkeep of the building and left it in a deteriorating state;[1] the building is pockmarked with gaps of missing limestone, and is surrounded by scaffolding to prevent injuries to passers-by.[1]

Bank of America litigation[edit]

In 2013, High Rock brought suit against Bank of America in the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island, claiming that the bank failed to meet its repair and replacement obligations under a long-term lease, rendering the building unleasable. High Rock sought up to $54 million in damages; the Bank brought a counterclaim seeking recovery of monies spent removing furniture from the building after the lease expired. The counterclaim was subsequently dismissed by the court (Smith, J.),[9] and the case was scheduled for trial in May, 2017. Shortly after jury empanelment, the bank settled the suit on confidential terms.[10]

Architectural details[edit]

Main doors

Of steel-frame structure sheathed in Indiana limestone, with Deer Island granite at its base, the tower was advertised as “A Business Building for Building Business.”[11] It has six wings stemming from a central tower. Though stepped buildings in New York City had been a common solution for Manhattan's strict 1916 zoning policies regarding adequate light and air, there were no such restrictions in Providence; nevertheless, New York architects Walker & Gillette chose to include the innovative symmetrical stepped massing, with the assistance of local architect George Frederick Hall.[12]

The base and the trim at the base's top were built to match the cornice height of existing adjacent (now gone) four-story buildings,[13] it was among the tallest buildings in New England when completed, and ranked third after its construction to the 527 foot 1919 Travelers Tower in Hartford, Connecticut,[14] and the 496 foot 1915 expansion of the Custom House Tower in Boston. The majority of relief art is found on the cornice of the tower's base; the twenty two frames depict various scenes of Native American & Colonist interaction and stages of Industrialization alongside four seals, and four eagles.

Dual street level staircases, rise at the east and west ends of a stately columned grand hall; the hall itself is about three stories in height, and runs the length of the building; the room contains the large windows that overlook Kennedy Plaza and the Arcade Building. The balcony level of the grand hall contains the lobby and entrance to an intimate ball room with marble fireplaces and brass chandeliers.

The 26th floor hosts the executive office for Industrial Trust Company; the suite contains secretary staff common areas, dining room and offices. A stairway leads to the higher north-face 29th level private 'dining car' or Gondola room designed to resemble the gondola of an airship; the room contains a wine closet and dark leather details. A peregrine falcon nest box is also located in the area;[11] the 28th and 29th floors contain the gravity water-service system and two large tanks are housed on these levels for the buildings use. The 29th floor also contains a lavatory for service to the Gondola rooms and adjoining balconies.

The basement contains the vault; the vault was designed to house small and large items, supplied with storage areas for client possessions such as fine rugs. A 17-ton door is the primary security feature of the vault.

The metal doors and trim were manufactured by Dalhstrom Metallic Door Company, of Jamestown, New York; some of these street-level doors possess relief art of eagles in brass. The original glass of the beacon was of green hue, and topped with a decorative globe, surrounded by seven and half ton circle of stone eagles. In 1932, it was damaged and repaired after a lightning strike;[15] this architectural feature removed in 1950 after one eagle fell to the street below in 1930.

Floors 5, 12, 14, 17, 18, 26 and 30 each recede back to form the buildings distinctive profile.[12] From nightfall until midnight, the building's peak is traditionally lit a bright blue with varying red and green at Christmas, and Valentine's Day; the building has remained relatively unchanged over the years with the exception of the lobby, the upper windows and the 2 story turret tower and light beacon. Due to its vacant occupancy the exterior lights illuminating the superstructure are not lit. In 1973, the beacon tower was turned off for the first time since 1928 to conserve energy.

Rehabilitation effort[edit]

The building has remained relatively unchanged over its years; the latest update came when tenant Bank of America installed new fire suppression systems for a cost of $7 million USD around 2007.[16]

In 2011, speculation[17] simmered that Bank of America, the building's last tenant, would move out at the end of its ten-year lease; which eventually led to the bank's 2012 announcement that it would vacate the space the coming year. In March 2013, Bank of America officially ceased operations at the building leaving the Providence landmark facing Kennedy Plaza unoccupied since; the Providence nighttime skyline was subsequently affected as the exterior nighttime lighting used to illuminate the upper structure was shut off, with the exception of the peak light.

Subsequently, new owner High Rock Development - who purchased the building in 2008 for $33 Million USD - proposed a plan to convert the building into mostly luxury apartments, involving $80 million in tax credits from the State[A]; this plan was rejected and the State has applied to move some of their Health and Human Services offices into the now vacant property. High Rock Development has since offered a four-year plan that would require $40 million in new funding for the rehabilitation of the tower into a mix of uses that include retail, business and 285 residential units;[18] the former and new financing proposals were met with mixed reaction with several individuals noting High Rock Development has $200 million available to put towards the rehab effort but have declined to do so.[19]

In 2014, after a 2012 independent appraisal, Providence group Scotti and Associates determined that the building had "no value."[20]

In December 2017, Paolino Properties and Gilbane Development announced a plan that would involve demolishing the building and replacing it with a new 36 story building; this is one of several plans being pitched to Hasbro for a new headquarters in downtown Providence.[21]

In popular culture[edit]

Three buildings, two of the same stature, and one smaller than the others
The skyline of Providence, as viewed from the northwest looking southeast, from left to right: One Financial Center, 50 Kennedy Plaza, and 111 Westminster Street

111 Westminster Street is commonly referred to as the "Superman Building", due to its resemblance to the Daily Planet building in the Superman comic book.[22] However, Superman co-creator Joe Shuster claims he drew his inspiration not from the Providence building (nor the also rumored AT&T Huron Road Building in Cleveland, Ohio, where Shuster was living at the time), but rather from his home city of Toronto (such as the Commerce Court North and the Fairmont Royal York); the building shown in the television program, however, is the Los Angeles City Hall.[23]

The downtown Providence building, and its neighbors, are displayed prominently on the skyline of the fictional City of Quahog, Rhode Island, the setting of the American adult animated sitcom Family Guy; the building is often seen behind the Griffin family's home on fictional Spooner Street.

The current building at 111 Westminster Street influenced design elements seen in the Providence Place Mall's two turrets.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Mooney, Tom (17 February 2017). "Crumbling face of an icon: Can 'Superman' be saved?". The Providence Journal. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  2. ^ "". Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  3. ^ "Rhode Island's 'Superman Building' Will Soon Go Dark". WBUR. Associated Press. 7 April 2013. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  4. ^ "Industrial Trust Company, Providence". Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  5. ^ The Providence House Directory and Family Address Book, 1913. Providence: Sampson & Murdock Co. 1912. p. 819.
  6. ^ "Bryant & Stratton R.I. Commercial School : Butler Exchange". Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  7. ^ a b c Abbott, Elizabeth (29 October 2013). "The Superman Building in Providence, Now Dark, Is in Need of a Savior". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  8. ^ a b c d e Pacitti, Tony (18 October 2016). "Can the Superman Building Be Saved? Both sides of the debate weigh in on reviving Providence's iconic skyscraper". Providence Monthly. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  9. ^ High Rock Westminster Street LLC v. Bank of America, N.A. Opinion and Order, United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island, August 6, 2014. Retrieved August 29, 2017.
  10. ^ Mooney, Tom. "Superman building lawsuit settled", The Providence Journal, May 8, 2017. Retrieved August 29, 2017.
  11. ^ a b "Storied Providence Skyscraper, Now Empty, Seeks a Future". The New York Times. 13 November 2013. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  12. ^ a b "Providence Architecture - Locations - Industrial Trust". Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  13. ^ Woodward, Wm McKenzie. Guide to Providence Architecture. 1st ed. United States: 2003. ISBN 0-9742847-0-X. p101.
  14. ^ [1], Travelers Tower, Hartford, CT
  15. ^ "Industrial Trust Company - Providence Public Library". Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  16. ^
  17. ^ "GoLocalProv - The Superman Building: Downtown's Ticking Time Bomb". GoLocalProv. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  18. ^ "'Superman' developer alters bid for state aid". Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  19. ^ High Rock Development Closes $50 Million Fund, High Rock Fund I will be able to invest up to $200 million.
  20. ^ Nagle, Kate. "Superman Building Has Zero Value, Appraisal Shows". GoLocalProv.
  21. ^ Fenton, Josh. "UPDATED: Plan to Build Hasbro Headquarters in Providence -- Demo Superman Building". GoLocalProv.
  22. ^ "Edward Fitzpatrick: Look! Up in the air! The 'Superman building' is vacant another year!". The Providence Journal. January 2, 2016. Retrieved September 11, 2017.
  23. ^ "Superman co-creator has humble Canadian roots". Accessed July 25, 2007.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Rhode Island State House
Tallest Building in Providence
Succeeded by