Commentary: Saddened masterpiece ‘Superman’ building is being thrown into the dustbin

By Mike Fink
Posted 2/12/20

Paris is endeavoring to repair and restore Notre Dame Cathedral. We here in Providence have neglected our only Skyscraper, the most poetic and "philosophical" structure in our downtown.It saddens me …

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Commentary: Saddened masterpiece ‘Superman’ building is being thrown into the dustbin

Posted

Paris is endeavoring to repair and restore Notre Dame Cathedral. We here in Providence have neglected our only Skyscraper, the most poetic and "philosophical" structure in our downtown.
It saddens me that we have tossed this masterpiece of 20th century design into the dustbin, and the amnesia and oblivion of our history. Inside and outside, the former Industrial Trust Building was a story in stone. The bas reliefs on all its walls told the tale of each chapter of our collective conscience. Roger Williams greets the indigenous people, a pair in canoes willing--at first--to collaborate, each culture enriching the partner.
Craftspeople from beyond the borders of our shoreline come to construct the community, weaving, designing, gathering, learning new languages, dining on the produce of our farmland. Providence was more than rural — it was Eden! You can see the saga carved as you stroll around the corners of the "Superman" building, like a book pointing skyward for inspiration.
No wonder myth has it that the boy artists who glimpsed its charm sketched the image and turned it into the ideal of the Clark Kent reporter who can save the planet from the ills of Depression, Duration, and the fascist foes in far-away Europe.
When submarines circled the East Coast hoping to divide and conquer us, with our pledge and promise of freedom all over the world, along came the shy but secretly powerful rescuer from another planet, Superman.  These high school teen-age friends saw something in the Industrial Trust tower that gave them Hope, the motto of our flag, and they gave it to their generation of readers of the funnies.
One of the sorrier aspects of the postwar world has been the emphasis on throwing away yesterday and celebrating the new.
I would plead before the deadline that the Providence Preservation Society, the Academic world, with Rhode Island School of Design and Brown University, as well as University of Rhode Island, share and use the gem of downtown. We draw disciples from all around the global world.
This I believe: that we might come together and find a nobler solution to the problem of neglect and abandonment. We can reclaim our ancestral mission to welcome all kinds of diverse people into the American Dream at its best.
Its best is the Industrial Trust, the local Superman building, looming up to the biblical Firmament like a lighthouse for the future as well as a torch from the past.

— Mr. Fink has been a professor of film studies at Rhode Island School of Design since 1958. He is a regular contributor to The East Providence Post.

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