This Boutique Hotel Loves its City Like No Other
Ari Heckman of ASH NYC took a century-old structure with a storied past and transformed it into a boutique hotel that pays homage to its roots. "The original mission of the project was to create a hotel where people could get an excellent experience and serve as a launching pad for exploring Providence on a very tight budget," says Ari Heckman. "We have strived to honor that despite the demand. We know we are not for every traveler, but those that stay with us come away with an experience and hopefully an understanding of Providence and what makes it special."
Heckman sought to update the interiors, restore some of the original luster, and create a hotel befitting modern-day Providence. "The ambition was more to create something that felt articulated and indigenous and obviously pleasing without being designed or overly intentional," Heckman, a Providence native, says. "The Dean had a very well-known and checkered past and we did not want to gloss over that—we wanted visitors to appreciate the transformation but see through to the roots a tiny bit."
"We sought to create [a hotel] that felt for the place and of the place, so guests could be locals and locals could be guests for an evening," Heckman says. "Nothing is more democratic than a beer hall, so Faust was created with that common spirit in mind."
"The vintage pieces at the Dean came from around the globe—many were acquired on shopping trips to Les Puces in Paris and some of our favorite dealers in Belgium and Holland," Heckman says. "Other pieces came from dealers in Rhode Island and at Brimfield."
"Providence has a very strong history of being an industrial center, so we wanted to support and encourage the rebirth of local manufacturing through our efforts," Heckman says. "That’s part of the reason we prioritized local over imported, and aimed to do so without spending more than the alternative. It was a successful experiment in creating in America affordably."
"We liked the idea of creating a democratic hotel, where members of a band playing down the street or a student coming to visit RISD would feel as comfortable as the parent of a Brown student accustomed to luxury digs," Heckman says.
"The idea of these different characters with different budgets rubbing shoulders in the hallways and lobby is very exciting to us."
"Because we are designers as well as developers, we pay very close attention to physical detail," Heckman says. "For us, part of the fun of doing a hotel was being able to focus on all of the touch points in a way you are not often able to on residential projects. It is tough to describe, but one of the main 'amenities' of The Dean is staying in a property where every detail, no matter how minute, has been thought about."
"Exploring the Downcity neighborhood and the adjacent historic neighborhoods is a safe bet. Providence is a small, compact city and very walkable. The hotel has bikes for loan too. The architecture changes dramatically block to block and the neighborhood feel can differ dramatically by crossing the street."
"Al Forno is the go-to for their famous grilled pizza. North has creative, casual Asian fare. The Shop is a gorgeous little coffee shop in Fox Point and a favorite of design groupies. Justine’s is a speakeasy in rough and tumble Olneyville. Birch is a serious restaurant with twelve seats and a tasting menu. Downtown has so many new additions that have opened recently and are really stellar—Ken’s Ramen, Bodega Malasana, Rosalina’s, the Eddy, etc. And of course our own bars (The Boombox and The Magdalenae Room) and Bolt Coffee."