The Weather Bureau in Providence

“In Philadelphia I dragged out a colorless and an unhappy existence till September, 1904, when to my delight I was ordered back to New England, and this time nearer the centre of civilization. (Of course by that I mean Boston, which is the “hub of the universe” the “Athens of America”, the “Centre of Culture”, and last but not least, the home of the humble baked bean and the sacred codfish). I was sent to Providence, R. I., and have remained here ever since and hope to continue my residence here. By a happy combination of circumstances I have lived in the classic halls of Brown University ever since my arrival in Providence. The location and environment are eminently satisfactory.”

―George Francis Field, “Harvard College Class of 1901.” June 1911

University Hall Weather Bureau
An instrument shelter on the roof of University Hall.

In addition to the weather station at Ladd Observatory there was another on the Brown campus. Located on the roof of University Hall it was operated by the U.S. Weather Bureau. The pole behind the chimney at left was likely used to support the anemometer, an instrument to measure wind speed.

University Hall Weather Bureau
University Hall

George Francis Field was an observer for the Weather Bureau and was assigned to Providence when the weather station at University Hall began collecting records in 1904. In 1911 he lists his home address as 32 University Hall. He apparently lived in the building for some years after the weather station was moved to downtown Providence in 1909. His business address is given as 607 Banigan Building.

Banigan Building
An instrument shelter can be seen on the corner of the roof with an anemometer to the right. (The name of the building printed on the postcard is a typo.)

The Banigan Building was Providence’s first “skyscraper.” The ten story building was constructed in 1896 for Joseph Banigan who made his fortune in the rubber industry. When the taller Turk’s Head Building was completed in 1913 it blocked the wind for the existing station. The instruments were moved to the roof of the newer building.

Turk's Head Building
The anemometer was 35 feet above the instrument shelter on the top of the Turk’s Head Building. Photo circa 1915.

The Weather Bureau records for Providence were collected from instruments that moved to a number of different locations during the early 20th century.

  • University Hall, 1904
  • Banigan Building, 1909
  • Turk’s Head Building, 1913
  • Post Office Annex Building, 1940

The Post Office Annex was a poor site for collecting weather data and was discontinued just a year later. Today the official Weather Service site is it at the Green State Airport which has had a weather station since 1932.

One thought on “The Weather Bureau in Providence”

Leave a Reply