photo by: Liz Warburton

January 9, 2019

A Local's Guide to Providence's Reimagined Historic Spaces

For preservationist Liz Warburton, her fascination with old buildings started young. “Going on road trips with my family growing up, I was always looking out the window at buildings as we drove past,” she explains. “[When] it came time for me to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, I was really drawn to the history of buildings.”

Warburton has followed that passion to her current job as the Senior Architectural Historian at Rhode Island’s Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission in her native Providence, Rhode Island. “Being from Rhode Island, we have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to historic buildings," Warburton says. “Historic places are the foundation of [Providence’s] identity.”

Warburton’s love for historic places isn’t limited to 9 to 5 though: She photographs buildings she comes across while traveling—or just walking around Providence day to day. As a student, she would always have a full DSLR kit in tow whenever the class embarked on trips to study architecture. Since then, phone cameras have made Warburton’s passion for documenting photos much more portable, and she shares her pictures on her Instagram account, @lizwarburton_. (You can keep an eye out for one of her Instagram shots on the back page of Preservation magazine’s Winter 2019 issue.)

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Warburton considers photography and Instagram to be tremendous creative outlets for her passion for the built landscape, as well as a way for her to share the beauty of her city’s eclectic historic architecture with others. “I enjoy having the opportunity to encourage people to pay attention to the buildings around them and to think about architecture, especially people outside the field.”

Working to help preserve Rhode Island’s historic places, Warburton has been struck with how preservation efforts—in particular, renovations funded by historic rehabilitation tax credits—have provided a foundation for a diverse spread of old buildings across the city to be refreshed in creative ways and refitted for new chapters in their already-storied lives. As Warburton aptly put it: “Historic rehabilitation tax credit projects have helped reimagine historic places to create new spaces for gathering, dining, performing, and living.”

We asked Warburton to give us a sampling of the fascinating refurbished historic spaces around Providence that have found new life because preservation work. Below are several of Warburton’s photos along with her own captions, sharing a little more about these buildings’ past and present.

Rebecca Gale is an Editorial Intern at the National Trust. In her spare time, you can find her visiting local museums, photographing historic buildings, or playing guitar.

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