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Winstead Addresses Providence Courthouse Centennial Celebration

As prepared for delivery

Remarks by
David Winstead
PBS Commissioner
U.S. General Services Administration
Providence Courthouse Centennial Celebration
Providence, Rhode Island
February 12, 2008


May it please the Court – Chief Justice Roberts, Chief Judges Boudin and Lisi, Judge Selya and honored judges Smith and Lagueux from the District of Rhode Island, Mr. Finegold and guests.  Thank you for the gracious invitation to join you on this special day—the beginning of a series of events to celebrate this glorious courthouse—fitting plans as the opportunities to mark a centennial are rare and treasured. 

A federal courthouse is a unique edifice—one that symbolizes a cornerstone of our democracy and represents the strength and vigor of our nation and its government.  As the workplace provider for the civilian federal government, GSA understands the importance of the federal judiciary as a fundamental pillar of American society, and we are especially proud to provide the space and services needed by the courts to carry out it mission across the country.  

GSA is the steward of over 1,500 federally owned buildings in 2,200 American communities.  In managing this portfolio for the courts and all our agency customers, our objectives are to provide outstanding quality at good economies to the American taxpayer.

Historic buildings hold a special place in this endeavor: 

  • 243 buildings in our owned-inventory are listed on the National Register.
  • 64 are National Historic Landmarks (and an impressive number of these are courthouses)
  • In addition, we lease more than 2.7 million square feet of space in about 50 historic buildings These are a proud architectural legacy, some of our most renowned and distinguished buildings.

This magnificent building we honor today was constructed at the turn of the 20th century and served as a post office, courthouse and custom house.  It was the city’s third federal building—designed by the local architectural firm of Clarke and Howe in the Beaux Arts style.  This impressive classical profile was a favorite of architects commissioned to design major public buildings at the turn of the century. In its day, it was considered one of the finest federal landmarks outside of Washington DC Its façade and entrance as well as its siting are also noteworthy for their contribution to the importance of Exchange Place as a civic center.

GSA received the building in 1961, following completion of the nation's first automated post office. At that time, the building was devoted primarily to judicial functions, and was renamed the Providence Federal Building and Courthouse. Reconfiguring of some interior spaces, particularly the former postal workroom, was accomplished at that time. The building was listed in the National Register in 1972, and subsequent work has respected that status.

Where we gather today in this magnificent building is an extraordinary courtroom, and inspired by its presence and dignity, I can’t help but wonder what history and important decisions must have taken place in these corridors, these courtrooms and these lobbies. 

This is a great moment for GSA and the U.S. Courts. We are preserving a critical link between our past and our future, a legacy for generations to come. And so we do, indeed, celebrate.

Thank you again for including GSA in this special event, and I look forward to returning on November 21st to mark the actual day of the Grand Centennial.