Elaine Stiles

Photograph of Elaine Stiles
Elaine StilesAssociate Professor of Historic Preservation Faculty Director, RWU Public Humanities and Arts Collaborative

Contact Information

401-254-5338estiles@rwu.eduAR 252Curriculum Vitae

Areas of Expertise

Historic preservation theory and practice, History of US Architecture and Urbanism 1850-present; Vernacular architecture, Cultural landscape studies, Material culture studies, 20th-century US suburban development


University of California, Berkeley - Ph.D., Architecture, 2020
Boston University,Boston, MA - MA, Preservation Studies, 2002
Smith College, Northampton, MA - BA, Art History, 1997


Elaine B. Stiles, PhD is an Associate Professor of Historic Preservation in the Cummings School of Architecture at Roger Williams University where she teaches courses in preservation practice and the history of the built environment. Before entering academia, Elaine worked for over a decade as an architectural historian, historic preservation planner, and preservation advocate, engaging in projects from the rural reaches of northern Maine to the streets of San Francisco. She also covered the Pacific Northwest for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and staffed the organization’s TrustModern program. Elaine’s scholarly research focuses on architectural underdogs such as mass-produced housing, modern spaces of consumption, and suburban spaces in pursuit of better understanding of the history and sociocultural importance of everyday spaces. Her preservation-related research focuses on critical analysis of contemporary historic preservation practice and the intersections of architecture and memory.

Stiles is also the Faculty Director of ​the RWU Public Humanities and Arts Collaborative (the Co-Lab). The Co-Lab at RWU reimagines public stories, histories, and storytelling for historically marginalized or erased populations and will strive to define new narratives and representations for the New England region. The Co-Lab allows students and scholars to learn from community partners about their histories, heritage, and cultures that will allow our graduates to enter the world equipped with cultural competencies and the capacity to engage equitably and justly with others. The Co-Lab undertakes publicly engaged scholarship across the humanities to transform society and lived realities by contributing and engaging in contemporary debates, amplifying community voices and histories, supporting communities that must navigate difficult experiences and preserve culture and justice in times of crisis and change. In its work, The Co-Lab at RWU foregrounds the exploration of race and race relations as they structure our world and seeks to build community-centered pathways toward reconciliation, equity, and justice.


Recent Publications:

Global Architectural History Teaching Collaborative, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, “Global Housing in the American Suburb,” 2021.

“No Simple Dwelling: Design, Politics, and the Mid-Twentieth Century Economy House.” Buildings & Landscapes 26, No. 2 (Spring 2019), 73-93.

Review of Indoor America: The Interior Landscape of Postwar Suburbia, by Andrea Vesentini, Buildings & Landscapes 28, No. 1 (Fall 2021), 136-137.

Review of Detached America: Building Houses in Postwar America, by James A. Jacobs, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 80, No. 2 (June 2021), 228-230.

Feminist Art and Architecture Collaborative. “To Manifest.” Harvard Design Magazine 46 (Fall/Winter 2018), 182-189. http://www.harvarddesignmagazine.org/issues/46/to-manifest.

Recent Professional and Student-Engaged Work (*Denotes Projects Undertaken with RWU Preservation Students)

*Limited Scope Commercial, Civic, and Institutional Historic Resource Survey for Riverside Square, East Providence, RI. 2021(in progress). Cultural resource survey project with preservation students in PRES 341/541 Historic Building and Site Documentation and Research Methods at Roger Williams University to inform rehabilitation and revitalization efforts in the Riverside Square multi-use zoning area.

*Limited Scope Historic Structure Report for Wind Hill, Bristol, RI. 2021. Intensive documentation and conditions assessment for 1891 Tudor Revival summer home in the Ferry Hill Summer Colony with students in in PRES 341/541 Historic Building and Site Documentation and Research Methods at Roger Williams University to inform rehabilitation and adaptive reuse planning by the university.

*Townsend Greene House, 74 Bridge Street, Newport, RI. Newport Restoration Foundation. 2020. Completed with students in PRES341/541 Historic Building Documentation and Research Methods at Roger Williams University to inform Newport Restoration Foundation planning for future use.

*William Vernon House, 46 Clarke Street, Newport, RI. Newport Restoration Foundation. 2020. Updated HABS documentation to include additional twentieth century history of the building and additional information about the Vernon family’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade with students in PRES 341/541 Historic Building Documentation and Research Methods at Roger Williams University.

*Adaptive Reuse Feasibility Study for the Rochambeau Avenue Fire Station, 270 Rochambeau Avenue, Providence, RI. Providence Redevelopment Authority. 2018. Prepared with students in Preservation Economics at Roger Williams University to inform reuse potential for a historic, decommissioned fire house.

Eureka Valley (Castro) Historic Context Statement. 2017. Historic context statement for the Eureka Valley – now Castro – neighborhood of San Francisco, a center of LGBTQ history and early (pre-earthquake) domestic architecture. Sponsored by the Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association and the San Francisco Historic Preservation Fund Committee.

National Register of Historic Places Nomination for the Sacred Heart Parish Complex, San Francisco, CA. 2016 (listed 2017). National Register nomination for nineteenth-century Catholic parish complex in the heart of San Francisco's Western Addition. The complex was the site of important religious social justice work under the leadership of Father Eugene Boyle in the late 1960s and early 1970s, playing host to the Black Panther's Breakfast Program, anti-Vietnam war activities, and labor activism. Funded by the San Francisco Historic Preservation Fund Committee.