“Here you are, mac. The Daily Planet.” That’s what a cab driver tells Clark Kent as he arrives at the iconic newspaper. Superman was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in the late 1930's, the Daily Planet was introduced about ten years later. Since then the man of steel and the Daily Planet have been virtually inseparable. Much like our Providence has become synonymous with the Superman Building. But how exactly did that happen?
Well here’s the thing about that. Shuster was the artist for Superman and when he drew the original Daily Planet building, it was in an art deco style, makes sense given the timeframe he and Siegel created the man of steel. Eventually people started noticing that what was then known as the Industrial National Bank building bore a striking resemblance to the place Clark Kent made a name for himself as a mild-mannered reporter.
But the truth is Shuster himself denied the building being the inspiration. He grew up in Toronto, before moving to Cleveland where Superman was created and where most people believe he drew his inspiration from. As for film and television, afraid that’s a no as well - The Daily Planet has been filmed in New York, LA, Vancouver, and Chicago, but alas never PVD. Apparently we just co-opted the name because of the similar look.
Regardless of what we call it, the building itself has had a few official names and tenants. Fleet Bank Tower in the 80's and more recently, the Bank of America Building. Currently the building has been vacant for quite some time. There have been a handful of ideas and plans in the ether, including turning it into luxury apartments. Which for the record would be amazing but incredibly expensive. Being as old as it is, renovations simply to get it up to code would take millions and that’s before you even outfit it with actual units. High Rock Development of Massachusetts had proposed a deal for the residential development, but it was turned down by the city due to the burden it would have put on the taxpayers.
More recently, and much more publicly, Providence developers Paolino Properties and Gilbane Development unveiled a plan to demolish the Providence landmark to make way for a brand new 36 story tower to serve as Hasbro's consolidated headquarters. This of course is being met with resistance from locals looking to save the Superman Building as reported by GoLocalProv.com.
So what are we to do? Leaving the building abandoned merely for nostalgia sake won’t get us anywhere we want to be. For whatever the real reason, it seems like luxury living isn’t in the cards. And a brand new shiny tower with Hasbro on it will clean out close to a hundred years of treasured history, but also create hundreds of local jobs and revenue for the city and state.
While the building’s fate may be up in the air, its impact on popular culture is not. Besides frequently appearing in Family Guy, the building also shows up as a backdrop in countless Instagram posts. It has become a crucial part of Providence’s branding. Logos, t-shirts, mugs, postcards, art films, and while I personally haven’t checked, I’m sure more than a few tattoos. What about you, what’s your Superman Building story?
Thanks for reading!
+ Colin Carlton