The Hillsgrove State Airport is a historic district that is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Part of its significance are the notable examples of the Art Deco (Terminal Building and Hangar 1) and Art Moderne (Hangar 2) styles in Rhode Island.
The Providence architectural firm of Jackson, Robertson and Adams designed the Terminal Building, which was the first public building in Rhode Island built in the Art Deco style. It reflected the influence of aerodynamic streamlined forms that became synonymous with modern transportation in the 1930s, such as clean lines, the use of geometric shapes, a sense of “lightness” of construction, the use of color, and restrained, streamlined ornamentation. At the Terminal Building, the stepped geometric design around the terminal entrance bay; the stylized font of the sign reading “Theodore Francis Green Airport of Rhode Island”; and the use of color to accentuate building elements (water table, roofline, etc.) reflect the Art Deco style, as do interior light fixtures, plasterwork, and other details featured in both the Terminal and Hangar 1.
Similar to Art Deco, Art Moderne is sometimes referred to as “Streamline Moderne.” This style often incorporates curved elements and bold geometry intended to illustrate a sense of motion and the age of mass production. Hangar 2’s brick pilasters with curved tops, round “porthole” windows, and curved awnings and observation deck railings are elements of the Art Moderne.
Rhode Island‘s economic condition during the Great Depression hindered new construction in general, and resulted in a limited number of Art Deco and Art Moderne-style buildings. An informal in-progress list of these buildings only includes 30 known examples, ranging from skyscrapers to diners. Some of the more significant examples include the Industrial National Bank, Providence (Walker and Gillette, 1928); Pawtucket City Hall (O‘Malley and Richards, 1935); Pawtucket West High School (John F. O‘Malley, 1938); Rosedale Apartments, Cranston (Herbert Hunt, 1939); California Artificial Flower, Providence (Albert Harkness, 1939); and People‘s Bank, Providence (Cram and Ferguson, 1949). Of the 12 Works Progress Administration-funded Rhode Island buildings chosen to be showcased in the Public Works Administration‘s publication, Public Buildings: A Survey of Architecture of Projects Completed by Federal and Other Governmental Bodies between the Years 1933 and 1939 with the Assistance of the Public Works Administration, only Hangar 1 and Pawtucket City Hall were executed in the Art Deco or Art Moderne Style, then-new styles associated with the aesthetics of contemporary technology. The remaining Rhode Island buildings were executed in a more conservative Colonial Revival style.