Opened in 1928, Edwards Hall was built with the same rough squared ashlar granite as the earlier buildings on the Quadrangle.
Named after the college’s third president, Edwards initially housed the library, small seminar room, a large central reading room, and a large auditorium with 1,009 opera seats, each costing $4.71. For years, Edwards was home to URI Theatre and popular movies were shown there for decades.
When the Will Theatre in the Fine Arts Center opened in 1969, Edwards was redesigned for use as a large lecture classroom, as well as, a public facility for concerts, movies, and ceremonial occasions. Seating was replaced in 1988 the “new” seating installed in 1969.
The Conti Murals of Edwards Hall
Edwards Hall underwent a $1.5 million project in 2010 to enhance fire protection, technology, and aesthetics. Workers in the Edwards lobby were amazed to uncover a colorful set of oil-on-canvas murals painted by Providence artist Gino Conti as part of the federal Works Progress Administration program that provided jobs and more to boost the economy during the 1930s and 1940s. In near perfect condition, the murals, survivors of earlier renovations that kept them hidden for 43 years, were removed and restored.
Today, Edwards still boasts a large auditorium as well as the Office of Teaching and Learning.
The stately buildings ringing the University of Rhode Island’s Quadrangle helped shape the story of the institution. Here, on the occasion of URI’s 125th Anniversary, we present you with a narrative behind the walls of that historic timeline.
**Much of the historic data in this article was culled from information provided by the late Sandy Taylor, a champion of historic preservation and land conservation, who served as University Architect from 1987 until his retirement in 2005. We are also deeply indebted to students enrolled in Catherine DeCesare’s history class last fall who provided additional information. DeCesare is a history coordinator, academic advisor, and lecturer. Finally, we would like to thank Mark Dionne, Archives and Special Collections, for his patience and vast knowledge.