Superman Building and other misdirections!


I once knew this woman. She was not a pathological liar. She did not say things to be malicious, and yet she so adamantly told the non-truth about so many things, that she told us one of her ex-boyfriends gave her the name Mis.Information. It was so perfect. Most of the time, she was just repeating incorrect information, second-hand falsehoods, and urban myths that she refused to let go. She told me about the “Superman building.”

There is a building in downtown Providence; the former Industrial National Bank Building (picture on the right). The urban myth passed on for years is that this was the building used as the Daily Planet for the TV show Superman. This, however, is incorrect. The building used as the Daily Planet was actually the Los Angeles City Hall (picture on the left). They do look close. This did not stop many Rhode Islanders, new and old from passing on the wrong information to this day, despite the fact the show ended almost 60 years ago.

Rhode Islanders have a unique way of marking buildings, landmarks, and giving directions. You would think that in a place as small as Rhode Island, it would be easy; “excuse me, sir, could you tell me where the courthouse is?” “Sure, it’s over there behind that tree.”  Well, that would be no fun, so all directions have to be given in nautical terms, or reference landmarks that no longer exist. “Pardon me, could you tell me how to get to Newport?” “Sure; walk to the bottom of the street, get on your boat, steer 180 degrees magnetic. When you reach Flashing Red Buoy # 12 on the south tip of Rose Island, turn port into Newport Harbor. Keep Fort Adams to starboard and don’t “cut” the can (shortcut taken before Green Can #1 at the inner harbor).

To a stranger, that may make more sense than the usual directions. Not only are directions given with long-gone sites, but commentary MUST be added in along the way. Multiple run-on sentences are beneficial. More importantly, don’t ask most Rhode Islanders for directions further than 10 miles from their home or place of employment; or as they say in South County……”Whoa, Whoa, Whoa….I don’t go north of The Tower.” The tower being the imaginary breakpoint between living down south with the “Swamp Yankees,” and venturing north past the fire tower toward the urban sections where it’s a well-known fact (see Mis. Information above) that cars get stolen, and people get mugged “all the time.”

Last but not least;  “Hello, could you give me directions to The Dunk (the Dunkin Donuts Center).” “Ah, let’s see……..I know it’s around here somewhere. Oh yea, go to the corner, turn right where the Sunnybrook Farms used to be, go past the garage owned by Kevin Dolan before he sold it to Nicky Shuler, continue 3 blocks past the diner, but don’t eat there because they never wipe off their menus, and complain if you ask for a clean fork or extra glass of water. When you see the red light they just installed because some red Honda went through the stop sign, hit the curb, bounced off a FedEx truck and smashed into the hydrant causing my brother-in-law at the water department to get called in on Saturday; don’t worry, he got “paid time and a half” and now he’s going to the casino “cause of it,” but when you see that, you’re 3 miles from it on the left…..or right. I forget, but you can’t miss it.”


3 thoughts on “Superman Building and other misdirections!

  1. I grew up in providence in the 50’s and left mid 60–NEVER ever heard anyone refer t the bldg as the superman bldg–I moved back to prov in the mid 70’s and the tag “superman bldg” was rather common circulating on the East Side by newly arrived transients , most connected to Brown , in teaching or research—-I like many other’s , saw some similarity in the bldg and went along with the name—-IMO, this name was coined by out of towners , who moved into RI—Those of you who seem displeased by the name should STOP and “get a ;life”–

    Liked by 1 person

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