Having lived in Rhode Island my whole life, and no more than an hour from any particular landmark in the state, I have passed by many hotels and B&Bs without giving them much thought. However, since its opening in 2007, I have always been curious about the Renaissance Hotel, a Marriott property, which rose from the ruins of a monumental, Greek-revival structure known as the Masonic Temple. Building of the Temple began in 1927, as a meeting hall for the Freemasons, but was abandoned when the economy took a nosedive with the Great Depression. By that time, all that stood was the building’s shell, and any hope of completion ended when World War II entered the picture. Meanwhile, the building started to crumble over the years and became an ugly eyesore on the Providence landscape, when, in 2004, at a time when Providence was undergoing its own renaissance, the building was purchased, renovated and became the luxury boutique Renaissance Hotel.
My husband and I happened to have tickets to a performance by the RI Philharmonic Orchestra taking place in the Veterans Memorial Auditorium next door, and thought this would be the perfect opportunity to check out the hotel for ourselves. Therefore, we decided to be like tourists and book a romantic night out of music followed by an overnight at the Renaissance.
The lobby, upon entering, reveals an understated elegance, with modern and attractive furnishings and contemporary art. Our room was located on the 9th floor (the top floor) with an incredible view of the RI State House. If you’re visiting our great little state for the first time, you’ll soon discover we have one of the finest state capitol buildings in the country, featuring the 3rd largest unsupported dome in the world (after St. Peter’s Basillica in Rome, and the Capitol in D.C.). I’ve long admired our state house, but had never seen it from this impressive angle in all its glory.
The accommodations – a standard king room – were spacious, modern, clean and attractively decorated in muted, inviting colors. The linens were luxurious, and the bed and pillows super comfy. There was extra seating in the form of a chaise lounge, comfortable enough to sleep on if one wanted. The bath, entered through double doors, was large and featured an inviting luxurious black plush-lined robe on a hanger, not your usual white terry variety.
The one downside is parking – there isn’t any, not the free kind, anyway. Unless you come in by train (the Amtrak station is very close to the hotel, by the way) or by taxi, you’ll be hit with a $28 per night valet parking fee, which is actually standard for most cities. We purchased the B&B/champagne package and found the bottle of bubbly to be very good. The restaurant area is located a floor below the lobby, “Temple” level, in a nice-looking space, also featuring bar and lounge area. Breakfast choices include menu items or a hot/cold buffet. Like parking, pricing is a bit on the high side, but pretty much in line with any other major 4 or 5-star hotel in any city.
Providence is a compact, walkable city. In addition to being perfectly located adjacent to Vets Auditorium and government offices, the hotel is in walking distance to shopping (Providence Place Mall is just down the road), Brown University, Johnson & Wales University, Providence Performance Art Center, Trinity Theatre, and “downcity”, the financial district. Federal hill, containing the best restaurants anywhere, is just a short ride away.
We enjoyed our brief stay at the Renaissance. It’s a lovely hotel, and the service we encountered from everyone was great. Even more, we love the fact that a grand, old, derelict space – long on the endangered building list – was saved, added to the National Register of Historic Places (as the Mason Building in 1993), and turned into something beautiful and useful.
For more history on the Masonic Temple and its transformation to the Renaissance Hotel, visit: Art in Ruins
About Me: Jan Neves is a Rhode Island cruise & travel planner for Seven Sea Journeys, an affiliate agency of Cruises & Tours Unlimited.