If you’re crossing the junction of Westminster and Weybosset Streets in downtown Providence, Rhode Island, look up at the wedge-shaped skyscraper that dominates the intersection. There, you’ll see the stern stone face of a turbaned 19th-century Ottoman soldier glowering down at you.
The Turk’s Head, which gives the building its name, has its origins in the 1800s. Shopkeeper Jacob Whitman procured the wooden figurehead, which is shaped like an elite Turkish guard, from the merchant ship Sultan and hung it over the entrance to his store. The figure soon became a popular rendezvous point for locals and an iconic landmark of the city.
The wooden Turk’s Head was eventually lost to time, but in 1913 developers making plans to build a 16-story skyscraper on the site of Whitman’s former shop commissioned an Art Deco stone visage into their design to honor the original. The exterior of the building is also adorned with Deco-style bas reliefs of lions, seashells, flowers, and other forms.