An old black and white photo of a train in front of a building.

VIDEO: Our Superman – “Dreams save us. Dreams lift us up and transform us.”

Photo: A train zooms through Providence, with the Industrial Trust building in the background. (YouTube)

Here is a video produced, apparently seven years ago, by Matthew Bird, a videographer who hails from the Rhode Island School of Design. For those of us who love the Industrial Trust Bank Building, including many who roll our eyes when it is referred to as the Superman Building (it is not), it is a fascinating look at the history of the building that has been the state’s tallest since its completion in 1928.

The video is excellent, witty and a joy to watch. Except, perhaps, for one thing.

I have a good friend who has studied the Industrial Trust very closely and who disagrees with Bird’s contention that the building was not erected in part as a mooring station for airships. Noah believes that it was.

Airships were considered the future when the Industrial Trust was under construction in the mid-1920s. Charles Lindbergh did not cross the Atlantic until the year before its completion. Airships were at that time a genuine rival to commercial shipping for freight and passengers. Of course, all that ended with the Hindenberg zeppelin disaster in 1937, nine years after the ITBB opened in 1928.

Jump forward to recent years. The upper stories of the building were redesigned within the past two decades, I believe. My friend Noah Schwartz says the upper stories featured interior design that reflected the interiors of a commercial airship, the British airship B-1, but no longer. He says the Industrial Trust has other structural and mechanical features of any building contemplating a role as an airship docking station. But this is very difficult to confirm with the building now being renovated as apartments.

You can read Noah’s rebuttal to Matthew Bird’s comments, from the video he made, about the docking station issue at the end of the comments section at the site inhabited by the YouTube video.

Whatever the truth of the legend of airship moorings atop the building, I hope that its current renovation goes forward and that the Industrial Trust – which has been empty since 2013 – will come to life again and bring more life to downtown Providence.


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My freelance writing and editing on architecture and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat, Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy,, or call (401) 351-0451