Brown University Walking Tour, Providence

Brown University Walking Tour (Self Guided), Providence

Chief among the iconic landmarks contributing to the cultural atmosphere of Providence, Rhode Island, is Brown University, a prestigious Ivy League institution known for its liberal arts education and vibrant campus life. Founded in 1764, this is the seventh-oldest university in the United States, chartered before the American Revolution.

Brown's historic campus offers a classic New England college experience and is fairly easy to find, heading down the historic, pedestrianized College Street. A brick and wrought-iron fence punctuated by decorative gates and arches traces the block's perimeter dominated by Georgian and Richardsonian Romanesque buildings, dating from 1770-1926.

One of the most notable structures here is the John Hay Library, housing extensive collections of rare books and manuscripts. Nearby, the Van Wickle Gates mark the ornamental entrance to the campus, leading visitors into the serene "Quiet Green" where students often gather to study or socialize. The majestic University Hall, the first building on campus, erected in 1770, is a symbol of Brown's academic excellence.

For those interested in anthropology, the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology Gallery offers fascinating exhibits, while Robinson Hall, another prominent site, hosts the university's Department of Economics.

The heart of campus life revolves around the Main Green, a picturesque open space surrounded by academic facilities. Sayles Memorial Hall and Faunce House are popular venues for events and student organizations. Lyman Hall, initially built as a gymnasium, today is the primary venue for the Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies.

The John Carter Brown Library and Annmary Brown Memorial are valuable resources for research and scholarship. Meanwhile, Saint Stephen's Episcopal Church is a listed building on the National Register of Historic Places and a tranquil place for spiritual reflection.

For students seeking academic resources, the Sciences Library on Thayer Street provides access to a wide range of materials and study spaces. Pembroke College, now integrated into Brown University, holds a special place in the institution's history and continues influencing its educational mission.

In essence, Brown University is a dynamic and intellectually stimulating environment for those keen to learn. Suppose you're ready to embark on an enriching academic journey and experience all that Brown has to offer. In that case, we encourage you to explore the university's campus now and perhaps discover its potential as your future alma mater!
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Brown University Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Brown University Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Providence (See other walking tours in Providence)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 16
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 Km or 1.4 Miles
Author: alice
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • College Street
  • John Hay Library
  • Van Wickle Gates and the "Quiet Green"
  • University Hall
  • Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology Gallery
  • Robinson Hall
  • Main Green
  • Sayles Memorial Hall
  • Faunce House
  • Lyman Hall
  • John Carter Brown Library
  • Annmary Brown Memorial
  • Saint Stephen's Episcopal Church
  • Sciences Library
  • Thayer Street
  • Pembroke College
College Street

1) College Street

College Street is a historic street in Providence. This is the street that leads directly to Brown University from Memorial Boulevard on the west side of the Providence River. Because the street itself pre-dates automobiles, it is very pedestrian friendly. Any tour of Brown University will include a stroll on College Street.

From Memorial Boulevard, visitors will walk across the pedestrian bridge. A brick column showing College Street in bronze letters is topped with a street lamp that stays brightly lit at night. The pedestrian bridge gives a perfect view of WaterFire on the nights when the display is active.

Along College Street, visitors will see the Memorial Park, which is home to the Providence River Greenway, the Rhode Island Holocaust Memorial and the 150-foot tall World War I Memorial.

Other places of note along College Street include the Rhode Island School of Design and its museum, the Superior Court, the Providence Athenaeum and a number of Brown University's most important buildings. Among these are the John Hay Library, the List Art Center and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library. College Street ends at the Van Wickle Gates on the Brown University Quiet Green.
John Hay Library

2) John Hay Library

The John Hay Library is the second oldest library on the campus of Brown University in Providence. Located on Prospect Street, opposite the Van Wickle Gates, it replaced the outgrown former library, now Robinson Hall, as the main library on the campus. Today, the John Hay Library is one of five individual libraries that make up the University Library. The Hay houses the University Library's rare books and manuscripts, the University Archives, and the Library's special collections.

The John Hay Library opened in November 1910, serving from that time until 1964 as the main library of the University. It was designed in the English Renaissance style by the eminent Boston architectural firm of Shepley Rutan & Coolidge. The Library is named for John Hay, class of 1858, at the request of Andrew Carnegie, who contributed half of the $300,000 cost of the building.

John Hay served as Abraham Lincoln’s private secretary during the Civil War and later became Secretary of State. His papers and personal library form part of the collections of the John Hay Library.
Van Wickle Gates and the "Quiet Green"

3) Van Wickle Gates and the "Quiet Green"

The Van Wickle Gates form the ornamental entrance to Brown University's main campus in Providence. The gates stand at the intersection of College Street and Prospect Street at the crest of College Hill. Dedicated on June 18, 1901, they stand as a symbol for the campus and its 251-year history.

The gates were built with the bequest of Augustus Stout Van Wickle (Class of 1876, d. 1898), who was the president of a bank and several coal corporations. Van Wickle also provided for the construction of a set of gates at Princeton University: the 1905 FitzRandolph Gate.

Designed by architects Hoppin & Ely and Hoppin & Koen, the gates are constructed of wrought iron, with brick and stone piers. The larger main gate is flanked by two smaller side gates. The top of the gate is crowned with the Brown University coat of arms while the two piers are decorated with the seals of Rhode Island and Providence. The sides of the gates feature inscriptions by Cicero.

The gates, along with an adjacent building financed by Van Wickle, were dedicated on Tuesday June 18, 1901.

The smaller two side gates remain open throughout the year, while the larger center gates usually remain closed. These gates are opened for three annual occasions. At the beginning of the academic year and the beginning of the Spring semester, the center gates open inward to admit students during Convocation and Mid-Year Convocation. At the end of the second semester, the gates open outward for the Commencement Day procession.

Campus superstition holds that students who pass through the center gate more than twice will not graduate. Members of groups like the Brown University Band, who regularly pass through the gates avoid the purported curse by hopping on one foot and entering the gates backwards.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
University Hall

4) University Hall

University Hall is the first and oldest building on the campus of Brown University in Providence. Built in 1770, the building is one of only seven extant college buildings built prior to the American Revolution. According to architectural historian Bryant F. Tolles Jr., the structure is "one of the genuine icons of early American collegiate architecture."

The building occupies a central part of the university's front campus and is framed by the Van Wickle Gates.

Built in 1770, University Hall was originally known as the College Edifice. The building was constructed on a piece of land that had belonged to the original Brown family ancestor and co-founder of Providence, Chad Brown (c. 1600–1650).

University Hall is a four-story, seventeen bay structure. The building's largely rectangular form measures approximately 150 long and 46 feet wide. The central three bays of the building project an additional ten feet forward, forming pedimented pavilions measuring 33 feet across. The structure's hipped roof is decorated with an ornamental balustrade and features a central cupola.

Designed in the late Georgian style, the building is constructed of red brick and decorated with white-painted, wood trim. The facade of the structure is relatively unornamented with the exception of plain brick belt courses which mark the building's stories. Brick segmental arches frame the structure's evenly spaced, double sash windows.

Compared to coeval academic buildings, University Hall is of modest and utilitarian character.

During Independence War, the building was used to house French and other revolutionary troops led by General George Washington and the Comte de Rochambeau during the wait to commence the celebrated march of 1781 that led to the Siege of Yorktown and the Battle of the Chesapeake.

The building has been used for many different purposes at the University over the years. It currently houses the office for the president of Brown on the first floor, facing the middle campus in space first occupied by the Commons, along with other administrative offices.

The building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962, recognizing it as an excellent example of 18th-century academic architecture, and as key place in the life of educator Horace Mann (1796–1859), who graduated from Brown in 1819 and taught there until 1821, before embarking on a career of educational reform.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology Gallery

5) Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology Gallery

The Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology is Brown University's teaching museum. The museum has a 2,000-square-foot (190 m2) gallery in Manning Hall on the university campus. Changing exhibitions in the museum’s gallery in Manning Hall, at the center of Brown University's campus, highlight the museum's collections from around the world and the work of Brown University faculty, staff and students. The museum also offers public lectures, performances, symposia, festivals, school activities, and a broad range of programs and events for all ages.

The Museum originated with the private collection of Rudolf F. Haffenreffer, who founded the King Philip Museum in the early 20th century on the Mount Hope Grant in Bristol RI, the former headquarters of Metacom, or King Philip, a 17th-century Wampanoag sachem. The Museum became part of Brown University in 1955 and opened its gallery on the Brown campus in 2006.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Robinson Hall

6) Robinson Hall

Robinson Hall is home to the Brown University Department of Economics. However, it was originally built as a library in 1878. The building was designed by architects William R. Walker and Thomas Gould in the Venetian-Gothic architectural style. It is noted for its octagonal cupola, stained glass windows and round rotunda.

The building was funded by John Carter Brown who bequeathed the money and land for a library. A marble bust of Brown was originally in the entrance, but it was removed after the statue's nose was broken. In addition to this bust, statues of an owl, a fox and mountain lions appeared near the entrance to the library.

Robinson Hall was renamed in 1946 after Ezekiel Gilman Robinson who was the president of Brown University when the building was constructed. It was given the new name after the John Hay Library became the chief library for the campus and the hall itself was primarily used as classrooms and offices.
Main Green

7) Main Green

Main Green is a central park area in the midst of Brown University. It is a popular location for students to meet, study, picnic and play. It is also a common spot for gatherings and special events on the campus.

Main Green is located between University Hall and Sayles Hall with many of the University buildings within only a few steps. Visitors to Brown University will see a number of students stopped on the green as they bide time between classes or simply enjoy the day.

It is also a good place to observe one of the most important pieces of art on the Brown University campus. The Idee di Pietra, or "Ideas of Stone," sculpture by Giuseppe Penone was installed on the green in 2006. Made from cast bronze and grey granite river stone, the sculpture represents the forces of gravity on the natural world and on humanity itself.
Sayles Memorial Hall

8) Sayles Memorial Hall

Sayles Memorial Hall is a Richardsonian Romanesque hall on the central campus of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. The granite structure was designed by Alpheus C. Morse and constructed from 1879 to 1881.

Sayles Hall was built in memoriam of William Clark Sayles, who entered Brown in 1874 and died in 1876. In 1878 Sayles' father gifted the school $50,000 for the construction of a building in his sons' honor “which shall be exclusively and forever devoted to lectures and recitations, and to meetings on academic occasions.”

The building is constructed of rock-faced Westerly granite with Longmeadow brownstone trim. The structure follows a T-shaped plan. The front section measures 35 by 75 feet and is topped by a hipped roof; the rear of the building has a gabled roof. The main auditorium of the building is characterized by pine roof trusses.

The building is home to a 1903 Hutchings-Votey gifted to the university by Lucian Sharpe. Today, the organ is the largest remaining Hutchings-Votey organ of its type. The organ is used for an annual Halloween concert which begins at midnight.

The main auditorium of the structure is adorned with 35 historical and contemporary portraits of leaders and benefactors of the university.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Faunce House

9) Faunce House

Those looking for Faunce House on the Brown University campus might find themselves lost. The historic building, which was originally called Rockefeller Hall, was renamed to the Stephen Robert '62 Campus Center. The redesign has turned the older building into a recreational hub for Brown University students.

The building first opened in 1904 as Rockefeller Hall due to a gift from John D. Rockefeller, Jr. The hall had a reading room, a smoking room, a barber shop and a billiard room. It also had a small cafe, YMCA offices and a trophy room. The building was designed by architectural firm McKim, Mead and White.

It was Rockefeller's request that the building be expanded and renamed after Dr. William Herbert Perry Faunce in 1931. Dr. Faunce was an American clergyman and educator, and was the president of Brown University between 1899 and 1929. The addition provided dining rooms, a large cafeteria, a theatre and a tavern. It also included the Faunce Memorial Room, which was intended to be a meditation space for students.

Visitors to the Stephen Robert '62 Campus Center are welcome in the building from 7 AM to 5 PM Monday through Friday.
Lyman Hall

10) Lyman Hall

Lyman Hall was named after Daniel W. Lyman who provided funding for a building in his will. Originally known as Lyman Gymnasium, construction of the building was completed in 1891. It was designed by architects Stone, Carpenter & Willson in the Richardson Romanesque architectural style. The hall was used as a gym until Marvel Gymnasium was built in 1946.

Lyman did not explicitly state that the building needed to be a gymnasium, but the students at the time requested the funds, along with other money raised, be used for this purpose. It included a batting cage, bowling alleys, a running track, a swimming tank and a wrestling room.

Lyman Hall was remodeled in 1977 to be used for the Brown University Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies or TAPS. A theatre was added with space for 140 patrons. Leeds Theatre continues to be one of the primary theatres in use by and for the university.
John Carter Brown Library

11) John Carter Brown Library

The John Carter Brown Library, founded in 1846, is administered separately from the Brown University, but has been located on the Main Green of the campus since 1904. It is generally regarded as the world's leading collection of primary historical sources pertaining to the Americas before 1825. It houses a very large percentage of the titles published before that date about the discovery, settlement, history, and natural history of the New World.

The "JCB", as it is known, publishes Bibliotheca Americana, the main bibliography in the field. Typical of its noteworthy holdings is the best preserved of the seven surviving copies of Bay Psalm Book, the first extant book printed in British North America. There is also a very fine Shakespeare First Folio, added to the collection by John Carter Brown's widow (a Shakespeare enthusiast) on the grounds that it includes The Tempest, a play set in the New World.

The JCB holdings comprise more than 50,000 early titles and about 16,000 modern books, as well as prints, manuscripts, maps, and other items in the library's specialty. The library occupies a Beaux-Arts style building designed by Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge. The 1904 edifice was expanded in 1990 by architects Hartman-Cox of Washington, D.C.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Annmary Brown Memorial

12) Annmary Brown Memorial

Annmary Brown Memorial is an art museum, library and a mausoleum at Brown University. The building was constructed between 1903 and 1907, designed by Rhode Island architect Norman Isham. Its monumental bronze doors feature allegorical representations of Art and Learning, signaling to visitors that the building contains many cultural treasures inside well worth exploring. Before merging with the university in 1948, the museum was established as an independent collection by General Rush C. Hawkins and his wife, Annmary Brown.

Recognized by his contemporaries as both distinguished book collector and discerning patron of the arts, the General showed preference for representational paintings. His Memorial collection comprises 17th-20th century European and American paintings, among which are the early works of Anthony Van Dyck and his school, Angelika Kauffmann, Michelle Marieschi, Peter Paul Rubens, Andrea del Sarto, Francesco Solimena, Gilbert Stuart, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and Benjamin West. The more modern ones feature the likes of Giuseppi Barbaglia, Jacob D. Blondel, Don Jose Casado, Thomas Couture, Thomas Hicks, John Wesley Jarvis, Eastman Johnson, Frederik Kaemmerer, Gari Melchers and Edwin Lord Weeks.

The Memorial's book section is one of the five libraries making up Brown University Library system. Previously, it had contained a collection of 450 incunabula and other ancient tomes and manuscripts, before it was transferred to the John Hay Library in 1990.

Personal mementos of the founder and the Brown family, as well as the Cyril and Harriet Mazansky British Sword Collection are also displayed at the gallery. At the rear of the building, there is a crypt holding the remains of Annmary Brown and General Hawkins themselves.

The venue is open Monday through Friday, from 1:00 to 5:00 pm during the academic year, Labor Day through Memorial Day.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Saint Stephen's Episcopal Church

13) Saint Stephen's Episcopal Church

Saint Stephen's Church is a historic Episcopal church in the midst of the Brown University campus, and an active parish in the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island.

The parish was established in 1839. As it grew bigger during the 1850s, the need for a larger and more centrally located church became apparent. Pursuant to that, in 1860 the parishioners bought a plot of land on George Street on which the architect Richard Upjohn, one of the pioneers of the Gothic revival in the United States, designed a temple in the Middle Pointed or Decorated style.

The cornerstone was laid on Saint Matthew’s Day, September 21, 1860, and the completed building was consecrated on Thursday, February 27, 1862. The new edifice, measuring 120 feet long, 86 feet wide, and 68 feet high, was constructed of Smithfield (Rhode Island) granite, with New Jersey brownstone window frames and tracery.

At the southeast corner of it stands the Church Tower, designed by the local firm of Hoppin and Ely, and completed in 1900. Capped by four pinnacles and a conical copper spire, it stands 93 feet high. The tower contains a set of 15 Tubular Chimes, installed and blessed in 1902, the largest of which weighs almost 230 pounds.

At the third floor on the front of the building, standing in a niche behind protective glass, is a Statue of Saint Stephen. Carved in oak, the main doors of the church contain figures (left to right) of King Solomon, Saint Stephen, Saint Paul, and the Prophet Ezekiel. These were donated in 1928 (along with the Rose Window above) as a memorial to the Rev’d Dr. George McClellan Fiske, who served as Rector at S. Stephen’s from 1884 to 1919.

The building was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Sciences Library

14) Sciences Library

In stark contrast with the surrounding cityscape, the Sciences Library building in Providence, Rhode Island stands out as a striking piece of architecture. Indeed, this is the first high-rise library in the world, soaring 180 feet (or 55 meters) high, which is currently the 16th-tallest building in the city. The main science library of Brown University, nicknamed the "SciLi", was built in 1971, in a Brutalist style, at the height of a wave of Brutalist architecture in the United States.

Clashing with late 19th-century and early 20th-century colonial revival houses and abutting street-level shopping on Thayer Street, the Sciences Library is often seen as an imposing and obtrusive addition to College Hill by critics of this style. Condemned as "overwhelming everything around it" and even compared to a Soviet-era Panelák, especially when observed from its "all-too-many distant viewing perspectives", this building, nonetheless, is a rare surviving example of what proponents of Brutalism consider the world's most endangered architectural style (given the loss of dozens of significant Brutalist buildings in the US in the 21st century).

Other than the library itself, the SciLi is also home to the Science Center, the Writing Center, the Center for Language Studies, the Map Collection, the Interlibrary Loan office, and the Friedman Study Center. The latter includes a variety of seating, a café on the first floor, new computer clusters, and collaborative study rooms. As for the Science Center, it houses academic mentoring and support programs, and serves as the campus clearinghouse for information about research and fellowship opportunities at Brown and around the world.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Thayer Street

15) Thayer Street (must see)

Thayer Street is a historic street in Providence that continues to be a popular spot today. It was renamed from Cross Street to Thayer Street in 1923 after Dr. Williams Thayer. The original street was built in 1799. Thayer Street serves as a communal center for Brown University students and locals. Unlike similar streets in other university towns that are taken over by chain stores, Thayer Street is known for hosting a large number of independent shops and restaurants.

There are a number of popular spots on Thayer Street. Some of these include Blue State Coffee, Rockstar Body Piercing, Avon Cinema and NAVA apparel. A few chains like Starbucks and CVS Pharmacy exist on Thayer, but these are the exception. Restaurants on Thayer Street represent a wide array of cuisines from Middle Eastern to Mexican to Asian offerings.

In addition to shopping and dining, Thayer Street hosts the annual Thayer Street Arts Festival. Outdoor films and exhibits take over the street in late September.
Pembroke College

16) Pembroke College

Pembroke College was founded in 1891 as a higher education institution for women who were not allowed to attend Brown University. It was merged with Brown in 1971.

The first building of Pembroke College was Pembroke Hall, built in 1897. Pembroke Hall was named after Pembroke College at the University of Cambridge, where Roger Williams, the founder of Providence, studied. The original Pembroke Hall was founded by Mare de St Pol, Countess of Pembroke. Pembroke Hall is now the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women and the Cogut Center for the Humanities.

Sayles Gym, now known as Smith-Buonanno Hall, was the original gymnasium for Pembroke College. This building was constructed in 1891. It included a track, a bowling alley and a resting room, which was a type of lounge common in women's colleges at the time. Smith-Buonanno Hall is now a banquet hall.

Other buildings on the Pembroke College campus include Alumnae Hall, Andrews Hall, the buildings of the Pembroke Quad and the buildings of New Pembroke.

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