H.P. Lovecraft attended the grand opening in late April 1926. Probably on Sunday 25th April, the day after the official dedication ceremonies of what was then known as the Eliza G. Radeke Museum of Art. Lovecraft also found that he shared his Barnes St. house with… “an official of the School of Design Museum” (Letters from New York, p.312). This calm new Colonial-style museum must surely have been a Lovecraft haunt in the years after his return from New York. Lovecraft already knew well the RISD Museum’s neighbouring…
Pendelton House” … “sedulously maintained in order to give the visitor a faithful picture of Georgian interiors as they really were.” (Lovecraft letter to Kleiner, 1919).
There were hopes that the new Museum would soon have an accompanying Colonial style courtyard garden, though it appears the garden may not have been realised until 1933/4 as the plans were only drawn up in 1933 — if it was completed, it is possible that Lovecraft also visited the inaugural opening of the garden. Presumably there was then no admission charge for the Museum and Pendelton House, as the impoverished Lovecraft was taking his friends to both as late as 9th August 1936…
Today I shall meet Barlow & de Castro at noon, & we shall do the art museum (only a block down the hill from 66 [College St.]) — which R H B [Barlow] has seen only in part, & which will be wholly new to Old ’Dolph [Castro]. There’s some pretty good stuff in it, even if it isn’t a rival of the Metropolitan in N.Y. Attached to the museum proper is a perfect reproduction of a colonial mansion, containing the finest collection of American colonial furniture in the world.” (Letter to Galpin, 9th August 1936)
The Eliza G. Radeke Museum of Art, as the Radeke Building was then known, was housed at 224 Benefit St. in Providence. Its frontage suggested only a modest single floor, but visitors found that it dropped ambitiously down the steep hillside at the back for five floors, each housing galleries showing “a permanent collection … from Egyptian and Ancient art through Impressionism to 20th-century art and design”.
The Eliza G. Radeke Museum Greek & Roman gallery. (Modern photo of the central Roman sarcophagus in colour)
Pictures above from a primarily architectural article in the Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, June 1926.
Sadly the date of the April 1926 opening puts it ‘over the line’ in terms of copyright, so I can’t find newspaper coverage of the initial opening in the Providence Sunday Journal and the like.