The original State Airport Terminal at Hillsgrove, now Theodore Francis Green State Airport, was the first state-owned airport in the United States. The airport was constructed in 1932 and opened for business in 1933. The state-owned terminal provided an example of early modern architecture associated with the developments in transportation, commerce and public works in early 20th-century Rhode Island. Providence area businessmen believed that a publicly owned and operated airfield was necessary to attract National airlines to Providence and to ensure that the capital city would be part of the aviation age. Warwick officials were also convinced that a state-owned airport would promote local commercial and industrial development. The state responded by establishing the first state-owned airport.
The site for the new airport was chosen in 1929 and dedicated on September 26, 1931. The number of spectators, 150,000, who attended the first two inaugural air shows at the facility indicates the importance of the airport. This was the largest crowd known to attend any public event in Rhode Island up to that time. Designed by the Providence architectural firm Jackson, Robertson and Adams, the terminal is one of the earliest buildings erected in the state that reflects the influence of International style architecture of the 1920s and the decorative principles of the Art Deco and Art Moderne styles. It adopted the futuristic image of early aviation and reflects the optimistic attitude toward progress and technical achievement, which characterized the 1920s and 1930s.
The terminal is a stucco-covered masonry building composed of several flat-roofed, rectilinear blocks arranged symmetrically. A two-story central block with truncated front corners rises above a one-story central mass flanked by shorter one-story wings. A control tower connects to the rear (south) of the two-story block and rises above it. Ornamented with tubular steel railings around the roofs and stringcourse-like bands painted blue-green to contrast with the cream-colored stucco walls, the terminal's exterior appears sparse and unadorned. The entrance is articulated with a stepped parapet mirroring the polygonal corners. All windows and entrances are untrimmed.
Over time other buildings were added near the terminal including a second terminal built in 1938 and altered in 1953 and the present (third) terminal off of Post Road that opened in 1961. The original terminal at 572 Occupasstuxet Road has been used for offices, including the official U.S. Weather Service office for Providence. The first State Airport Terminal embodies the aspirations and sentiments of its era. It is a symbol of the state's commitment to provide up-to-date public facilities that would promote modern commercial and industrial development in Rhode Island.
Rhode Island State Airport Terminal is located at 572 Occupasstuxet Rd. in Warwick, Rhode Island. It is part of the T.F. Green International Airport complex, as headquarters for the Operations Unit of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC). It is not open to the public. For further information, contact RIAC's Public Affairs office at 401-737-4000 ext. 283.
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