Hidden PVD

Stairway to Heaven

Take a peek inside the off-limits dome of the Beneficent Congregational Church on Weybosset Street

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The dome of Beneficent Congregational Church on Weybosset Street, a hallmark of the Providence skyline, is a cavernous, attic-like room crisscrossed with beams of two-century-old lumber. According to lore, the reverend James “Paddy” Wilson wanted the church to match a domed custom house in his native Dublin. Much has been added to the church since 1810: ionic columns, a crystal chandelier, and a pipe organ donated by the Rockefellers. As Greek Revival gained popularity, builders crowned the dome with a wooden monument to Lysicrates, the classical god of music; it’s now covered in a weather-resistant copper casing. Although guests aren’t allowed to climb the rickety staircase to the top, the dome received 508 visitors in September, thanks to the Doors Open Festival Rhode Island. “Some of them just stayed inside the church,” says Matthew Hird, a church member. “They didn’t realize there was even more to see.”