is the capital and most populous city of the state of Rhode Island
and is one of the oldest cities in the United States.
It was founded in 1636 by Roger Williams
, a Reformed Baptist theologian and religious exile from the Massachusetts Bay Colony
. He named the area in honor of "God's merciful Providence" which he believed was responsible for revealing such a haven for him and his followers. The city is situated at the mouth of the Providence River
at the head of Narragansett Bay
Providence was one of the first cities in the country to industrialize and became noted for its textile manufacturing and subsequent machine tool, jewelry, and silverware industries.
Today, the city of Providence is home to eight hospitals and seven institutions of higher learning
which have shifted the city's economy into service industries, though it still retains some manufacturing activity.
and Boston, Providence lacked a royal charter. The settlers thus organized themselves, allotting tracts on the eastern side of the Providence River
in 1638. Roughly six acres each, these home lots extended from Towne Street (now South Main Street) to Hope Street.
In 1652, Providence prohibited African and African American slavery for periods of longer than 10 years. This statute constituted the first anti-slavery law in the United States, though there is no evidence the prohibition was ever enforced.
In March of 1676, Providence Plantations was burned to the ground by the Narragansetts
as part of King Philip's War
. Later in the year, the Rhode Island legislature formally rebuked the other colonies for provoking the war.
In 1770, Brown University
moved to Providence from nearby Warren
. At the time, the college was known as Rhode Island College and occupied a single building
on College Hill
. The college's choice to relocate to Providence as opposed to Newport
symbolized a larger shift away from the latter city's commercial and political dominance over the state.
Providence residents were among the first Patriots to spill blood in the lead-up to the American Revolutionary War
during the Gaspee Affair
and Rhode Island was the first of the Thirteen Colonies to renounce its allegiance to the British Crown on May 4, 1776.
It was also the last of the Thirteen States to ratify the United States Constitution
on May 29, 1790, once assurances were made that a Bill of Rights
would become part of the Constitution.
Following the war, Providence was the nation's ninth-largest city[b]
with 7,614 people. The economy shifted from maritime endeavors to manufacturing, in particular machinery, tools, silverware, jewelry, and textiles. By the start of the 20th century, Providence hosted some of the largest manufacturing plants in the country, including Brown & Sharpe
, Nicholson File
, and Gorham Manufacturing Company
Providence residents ratified a city charter in 1831 as the population passed 17,000.
The seat of city government was located in the Market House
in Market Square
from 1832 to 1878, which was the geographic and social center of the city. The city offices soon outgrew this building, and the City Council resolved to create a permanent municipal building in 1845.
The city offices moved into Providence City Hall
Local politics split over slavery during the American Civil War
, as many had ties to Southern cotton and the slave trade. Despite ambivalence concerning the war, the number of military volunteers routinely exceeded quota, and the city's manufacturing proved invaluable to the Union. Providence thrived after the war, and waves of immigrants brought the population from 54,595 in 1865 to 175,597 by 1900.
By the early 1900s, Providence was one of the wealthiest cities in the United States.
Immigrant labor powered one of the nation's largest industrial manufacturing centers.
Providence was a major manufacturer of industrial products, from steam engines to precision tools to silverware, screws, and textiles. Giant companies were based in or near Providence, such as Brown & Sharpe, the Corliss Steam Engine
Company, Babcock & Wilcox
, the Grinnell Corporation, the Gorham Manufacturing Company, Nicholson File, and the Fruit of the Loom
From 1975 until 1982, $606 million of local and national community development funds were invested throughout the city. In the 1990s, the city pushed for revitalization, realigning the north-south railroad tracks, removing the huge rail viaduct that separated Downtown from the capitol building, uncovering and moving the rivers (which had been covered by paved bridges) to create Waterplace Park
and river walks along the rivers' banks, and constructing the Fleet Skating Rink (now the Alex and Ani City Center)
and the Providence Place
In the early 2000s, Providence developed an economic development plan that outlined a planned shift to a knowledge economy
. These efforts involved the rebranding of the formerly industrial Jewelry District
as a new "Knowledge District"
Despite new investment, poverty remains an entrenched problem. Approximately 27.9 percent of the city population is living below the poverty line.
Recent increases in real estate values further exacerbate problems for those at marginal income levels, as Providence had the highest rise in median housing price of any city in the United States from 2004 to 2005.
Satellite photograph of greater Providence
The Providence city limits enclose a small geographical region with a total area of 20.5 square miles (53 km2
); 18.5 square miles (48 km2
) of it is land and the remaining 2.1 square miles (5.4 km2
) is water (roughly 10%). Providence is located at the head of Narragansett Bay
, with the Providence River
running into the bay through the center of the city,
formed by the confluence of the Moshassuck
Rivers. The Waterplace Park amphitheater and riverwalks line the river's banks through Downtown
Providence is one of many cities claimed to be founded on seven hills
like Rome. The more prominent hills are: Constitution Hill (near Downtown), College Hill (east of the Providence River), and Federal Hill
(west of Downtown and containing New England's largest Italian district outside of Massachusetts). The other four are: Tockwotten Hill at Fox Point
, Smith Hill (where the State House is located), Christian Hill at Hoyle Square (junction of Cranston and Westminster Streets), and Weybosset Hill at the lower end of Weybosset Street, which was leveled in the early 1880s.
Map of neighborhoods in Providence
Providence has 25 official neighborhoods, though these neighborhoods are often grouped together and referred to collectively:
- The East Side is a region comprising the neighborhoods of Blackstone, Hope (aka Summit), Mount Hope, College Hill, Wayland, and Fox Point.
- The Jewelry District describes the area enclosed by I-95, the old I-195, and the Providence River. The city has made efforts to rename this area the Knowledge District to reflect the area's newly developing life sciences and technology-based economy.
- The North End is formed by the concatenation of the neighborhoods of Charles, Wanskuck, Smith Hill, Elmhurst, and Mount Pleasant.
- The South Side (or South Providence) consists of the neighborhoods of Elmwood, Lower South Providence, Upper South Providence, Washington Park, and the West End.
- West Broadway is an officially recognized neighborhood with its own association. It overlaps with the southern half of Federal Hill and the northern part of the West End.
Downtown Providence has numerous 19th-century mercantile buildings in the Federal
architectural styles, as well as several postmodern
and modernist buildings. In particular, a fairly clear spatial separation appears between the areas of pre-1980s development and post-1980s development; West Exchange Street and Exchange Terrace serve as rough boundaries between the two.
The majority of the cityscape comprises abandoned and revitalized industrial mills, double- and triple-decker
housing, a small number of high-rise buildings (predominantly for housing the elderly), and single family homes. Interstate 95
serves as a physical barrier between the city's commercial core and neighborhoods such as Federal Hill
and the West End
Providence has a humid continental climate
(Köppen climate classification
) bordering a humid subtropical climate
with hot summers, cold winters, and high humidity year-round. The USDA
places the city in hardiness zone
6b, with the suburbs in zones 6a – 7b.
The influence of the Atlantic Ocean keeps the state of Rhode Island warmer than many inland locales in New England.
January is the coldest month with a daily mean of 29.2 °F (−1.6 °C) and low temperatures dropping to 10 °F (−12 °C) or lower an average of 11 days per winter,
while July is the warmest month with a daily mean of 73.5 °F (23.1 °C) and highs rising to 90 °F (32 °C) or higher an average of 10 days per summer.
Extremes range from −17 °F or −27.2 °C on February 9, 1934
to 104 °F or 40 °C on August 2, 1975;
the record cold daily maximum is 1 °F (−17.2 °C) on February 5, 1918, while the record warm daily minimum is 80 °F (26.7 °C) on June 6, 1925.
Temperature readings of 0 °F or −17.8 °C or lower are uncommon in Providence and generally occur once every several years. The year which had the most days with a temperature reading of zero degrees or lower was 2015 with eight days total—one day in January and seven days in February.
Conversely, temperature readings of 100 °F or 37.8 °C or higher are even rarer, and the year with the most days in this category was 1944 with three days, all of which were in August.
in Providence ranges from a high of 4.43 inches (112.5 mm) in March to a low of 3.17 inches (80.5 mm) in July.
In general, precipitation levels are slightly less in the summer months than the winter months, when Nor'easters
can cause significant snowfall and blizzard
are not frequent in coastal New England, although Providence's location at the head of Narragansett Bay makes it vulnerable to them.
As of the 2000 United States census
Providence's population consisted of 173,618 people, 162,389 households, and 35,859 families. The population density was 9,401.7 inhabitants per square mile (3,629.4/km2
), characteristic of other small cities in New England
such as New Haven, Connecticut
; Springfield, Massachusetts
; and Hartford, Connecticut
The city's population peaked in the 1940s, just prior to the nationwide period of rapid suburbanization
Providence has a racially and ethnically diverse population. In 2010, white Americans
formed 49.8% of the population, including a sizable white Hispanic community. Non-Hispanic whites
were 37.6% of the total population,
down from 89.5% in 1970.
Providence has had a substantial Italian American
population since the start of the 20th century, with 14% of the population claiming Italian ancestry.
Italian influence manifests itself in Providence's Little Italy in Federal Hill
immigrants have also had considerable influence on the city's history, with 8% of residents claiming Irish heritage.
The percentages of people claiming Irish and Italian ancestry, though high, has gone down considerably from historical highs, and is much lower than the percentages of these groups in Rhode Island as a whole. The city also has a sizable Jewish community, estimated at 10,500 in 2012, or roughly 5% of the city's population.
Map of racial distribution in Providence, 2010 U.S. Census. Each dot is 25 people: White, Black, Asian, Hispanic or Other (yellow)
In 2010, people of Hispanic or Latino
origin composed 38.1% of the city's population and currently form a majority of city public school students.
The majority of Hispanics in Providence are of Dominican
descent. Constituting roughly 19% of the city's population, Providence's Dominican community is one of the largest in the United States. Other Hispanic groups present in sizable numbers include Puerto Ricans, Guatemalans, and Colombians. Hispanics are most concentrated in the neighborhoods of Elmwood
, the West End
, and Upper
and Lower South Providence
In 2010, Providence elected its first Hispanic mayor, Dominican-American Angel Taveras
of the city's population, with their greatest concentrations found in Mount Hope
and the Upper and Lower South Providence neighborhoods.
Providence has small Liberian and Haitian communities in the city. Liberians compose 0.4% of the population;
the city is home to one of the largest Liberian immigrant populations in the country. Asian-Americans
constitute 6% of Providence's population. The largest Asian groups are Cambodians
(1.1%), Indian Americans
(0.6%), and Koreans
Another 6% of the city has multiracial ancestry. American Indians and Pacific Islanders make up the remaining 1.3%.
Providence has a considerable community of immigrants from various Portuguese-speaking
countries, especially Portugal, Brazil, and Cape Verde
. These residents are concentrated in the Washington Park and Fox Point neighborhoods. Portuguese
is the city's third-largest European ethnicity, after Italian and Irish. At 4% of the population; Cape Verdeans
compose 2% of the city's population.
The Providence metropolitan area
includes Providence, Fall River, Massachusetts
, and Warwick
, and is estimated to have a population of 1,622,520. In 2006, this area was officially added to the Boston Combined Statistical Area (CSA), the sixth-largest CSA in the country
. In the last 15 years, Providence has experienced a sizable growth in its under-18 population. The median age of the city is 28 years, while the largest age cohort
is 20- to 24-year-olds, owing to the city's large student population.
The per capita income
as of the 2000 census was $15,525, which is well below both the state average of $29,113 and the national average of $21,587.
The median income for a household was $26,867, and the median income for a family in Providence was $32,058,. The city has one of the highest rates of poverty in the nation with 29.1% of the population and 23.9% of families living below the poverty line
. Of residents in poverty, the largest concentrations are found in the city's Olneyville, and Upper and Lower South Providence areas.
Poverty has affected children at a disproportionately higher rate, with 40.1% of those under the age of 18 living below the poverty line. These residents are concentrated west of Downtown in the neighborhoods of Hartford, Federal Hill, and Olneyville.
Compared to the national average, Providence has an average rate of violent crime and a higher rate of property crime per 100,000 inhabitants.
In 2019, the city experienced 18 murders, up slightly from the prior year's total of 13.
The 2018 number—10— was tied as the city's lowest in 40 years. Violent crime
in the city is highly specific by neighborhood, with the vast majority of the murders taking place in the poorer sections of Providence such as Olneyville, Elmwood, South Providence, and the West End.
Around 1830, Providence had manufacturing industries in metals, machinery, textiles, jewelry, and silverware. Manufacturing has declined since, but the city is still one of the largest centers for jewelry and silverware design and manufacturing. Services also make up a large portion of the city's economy, in particular education, healthcare, and finance. Providence also is the site of a sectional center facility
(SCF), a regional hub for the U.S. Postal Service.
It is the capital of Rhode Island, so the city's economy additionally consists of government services.
Over one third of Providence's economy is based in trade, transportation, utilities, and educational and health services 
The headquarters of Textron (center), and One Financial Plaza (back right)
The city is home to the Rhode Island Convention Center
, which opened in December 1993.
Along with a hotel, the convention center is connected to the Providence Place Mall
, a major retail center, through a skywalk
The Port of Providence is the second largest deep-water seaport in New England.
It handles cargos such as cement, chemicals, heavy machinery, petroleum, and scrap metal. Providence is also home to some of toy manufacturer Hasbro
's business operations, although their headquarters are in Pawtucket.
According to the City's 2014 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,
the top twenty employers in the city are:
The Providence City Council Chambers
The headquarters of the city's fire and police departments is a 130,000 square foot, steel frame Public Safety Complex on Washington Street near Interstate I-95. The building was dedicated in 2002 by former Mayor Vincent Cianci Jr.
The main campuses of five of Rhode Island's colleges and universities are in Providence (city proper):
Private and charter schools
The Providence Public School District
serves about 30,000 students from pre-Kindergarten to grade 12. The district has 25 elementary schools, nine middle schools, and thirteen high schools. The Providence Public School District features magnet schools
at the middle and high school level, Nathanael Greene
respectively. The overall graduation rate as of 2007 is 70.1%,
which is close to the statewide rate of 71% and the national average of 70%.
The state of Rhode Island also operates two public schools in Providence.
Much of Providence culture is synonymous with the culture of Rhode Island
as a whole. Like the state, the city has a non-rhotic
accent that can be heard on local media. Providence also shares Rhode Island's affinity for coffee, with the most coffee and doughnut shops per capita of any city in the country.
Providence is also reputed to have the highest number of restaurants per capita of major U.S. cities,
many of which are founded or staffed by Johnson & Wales University
During the summer months, the city regularly hosts WaterFire
, an environmental art
installation that consists of about 100 bonfires which blaze just above the surface of the three rivers that pass through the middle of Downtown Providence.
There are multiple Waterfire events that are accompanied by various pieces of classical and world music
The city gained the reputation as one of the most active and growing gay and lesbian communities in the Northeast.
The rate of reported gay and lesbian relationships is 75% higher than the national average,
and Providence has been named among the "Best Lesbian Places to Live".
Former mayor David Cicilline
won his election running as an openly gay man,
Former Mayor Cianci instituted the position of Mayor's Liaison to the Gay and Lesbian community in the 1990s.
and Providence is home to the largest gay bathhouse
in New England.
Arts and performing arts
The city is also the home of the Tony Award
-winning theater group Trinity Repertory Company
, the Providence Black Repertory Company
, and the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra
as well as groups such as The American Band
, once associated with noted American composer David Wallis Reeves
. Providence is also the home of several performing arts centers, such as the Veterans Memorial Auditorium
, the Providence Performing Arts Center
, and Festival Ballet Providence. The city's underground music is centered on artist-run spaces such as the now-defunct Fort Thunder
and is known in underground music circles.
Providence is also home to the Providence Improv Guild
, an improvisational theatre
that has weekly performances and offers improv and sketch comedy classes, and AS220
, a long-standing non-profit arts center with exhibition, educational, and performance spaces, as well as live-work studios.
Sites of interest
Providence is home to a 1,200-acre (4.9 km2
) park system.
Notable among these are Waterplace Park
and the Riverwalk, Roger Williams Park
, Roger Williams National Memorial
, and Prospect Terrace Park
. Prospect Terrace Park features expansive views of the downtown area, as well as a 15-foot tall granite statue of Roger Williams gazing over the city. As one of the first cities in America, Providence contains many historic buildings
, while the East Side neighborhood in particular includes the largest contiguous area of buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the U.S., with many pre-revolutionary houses.
The Bank Newport City Center is located near Kennedy Plaza in the Downtown district, connected by pedestrian tunnel to Waterplace Park, a cobblestone and concrete park below street traffic that abuts Providence's three rivers.
Another Downtown landmark is the Providence Biltmore
, a historic hotel which stands adjacent to Kennedy Plaza.
The city has two rugby teams, the Rugby Union team Providence Rugby Football Club, and the Semi-Professional Rugby league
team The Rhode Island Rebellion
, which play at Classical High School
. In 2013 the Rebellion finished the USA Rugby League
(USARL) regular season in third place. Their playoff run took them to the USARL Semi-Finals, the first time the Rebellion made the playoffs in its short three-year history.
The Providence Hurling Club was founded in 2015 by Michael Kennelly, David O'Connor, and Michael Walsh. The club is part of the Boston Gaelic Athletic Association
(GAA). Since their inauguration the team has captured three cups. The league comprises Worcester, Hartford, Portsmouth, and Concord. UConn Huskies also put forth a team in various play and other university teams are in the process of being established. Home games are played at a pitch located at 50 Obediah Brown Road behind Pleasant View Elementary School. In November 2018, for the first time playoffs were hosted in Providence and Providence took the cup by defeating Worcester.
The city's defunct baseball team, the Providence Grays
, competed in the National League
from 1879 through 1885. The team defeated the New York Metropolitans
in baseball's first successful "world championship series" in 1884
In 1914, after the Boston Red Sox
purchased Babe Ruth
from the then-minor league Baltimore Orioles
, the team prepared Ruth for the major leagues by sending him to finish the season playing for a minor league team in Providence that was also known as the Grays. Most baseball fans—along with the local media—tend to follow the Boston Red Sox.
Major colleges and universities fielding NCAA Division I athletic teams are Brown University and Providence College. The latter is a member of the Big East Conference
. Much local hype is associated with games between these two schools or the University of Rhode Island
Providence has also hosted the alternative sports event Gravity Games
from 1999 to 2001, and was also the first host of ESPN
's X Games
, known in its first edition as the Extreme Games, in 1995. Providence has its own roller derby
league. Formed in 2004, it currently has four teams: the Providence Mob Squad, the Sakonnet River Roller Rats, the Old Money Honeys, and the Rhode Island Riveters. Until 2020, Providence was home to the headquarters of the American Athletic Conference
Providence is served by T. F. Green Airport
, and general aviation fields also serve the region. Massport
has been promoting T. F. Green as an alternative to Boston's Logan International Airport
because of over-crowding. Providence Station
is located between the Rhode Island State House
and the Downtown district and is served by Amtrak
and MBTA Commuter Rail
services, with a commuter rail route running north to Boston and south to T.F. Green Airport and Wickford Junction
Approximately 2,400 passengers pass through the station per day.I-95
runs from north to south through Providence; I-195
connects the city to eastern Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts, including New Bedford, Massachusetts
and Cape Cod
encircles Providence, while RI 146
provides a direct connection with Worcester, Massachusetts
. The city began the long-term project Iway in 2007 to move I-195 for safety reasons, to free up land, and to reunify the Jewelry District with Downtown Providence, which had been separated by the highway.
The project was estimated to cost $610 million.
in Downtown Providence serves as a transportation hub for local public transit as well as a departure point for Peter Pan Bus Lines
and Greyhound Lines
Public transit is managed by Rhode Island Public Transit Authority
Through RIPTA alone, Kennedy Plaza serves more than 71,000 people a day.
The majority of the area covered by RIPTA is served by traditional buses, but RIPTA also runs a "Rapid Bus", the R-Line
which connects the suburbs of Pawtucket and Cranston with Downtown Providence. Of particular note is the East Side Trolley Tunnel
running under College Hill, whose use is reserved for RIPTA buses. RIPTA also operates the Providence LINK
, a system of tourist trolleys in Downtown Providence. From 2000 to 2008, RIPTA operated a seasonal ferry to Newport, Rhode Island
between May and October, but SeaStreak
began operating that ferry route in 2016.
In 2020, RIPTA completed construction of the Downtown Transit Connector
, an upgraded BRT
service to run from Providence Station
to the Hospital District
Walking and bicycling
In 2017, the city signed a $400,000 contract with a private Silicon Valley company to introduce Providence's first bicycle sharing program
, supported by local hospitals and RIPTA.
Shortly after the program started in September 2018, the bicycles became associated with a "wave of vandalism and criminal activity" including widespread thefts of bicycles, bikes tossed into the Providence River, and even a company tech held at gunpoint.
The company suspended the program in August 2019.
In August 2019, a pedestrian bridge
opened, spanning the Providence River and connecting Providence's east and west sides. The bridge was constructed on the granite piers of the old Route 195 bridge.
In January 2020, mayor Jorge Elorza
unveiled a "Great Streets" initiative to create a framework of public space improvements to encourage walking, riding bicycles, and public transit.
The plan includes establishing an "Urban Trail Network" which includes 60 miles of bicycle paths, bike lanes, and greenways within Providence.
In late 2019, the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority
released a draft of the Rhode Island Transit Master Plan, documenting and describing a variety of proposed improvements and additions to be made to the state's public transit network by 2040. Many of the proposals has particular emphasis on the Providence area, with several still under consideration as of December 2020,
including implementation of a bus rapid transit
system, express bus routes, and construction of a new light rail
network through downtown, as well as expansion of Amtrak and MBTA services.
Electricity and natural gas are provided by National Grid
Providence Water is responsible for the distribution of drinking water, ninety percent of which comes from the Scituate Reservoir
about ten miles (16 km) west of Downtown, with contributions coming from four smaller bodies of water. Drinking water in Providence has been rated among the highest quality in the country.
This motto may appear rhetorical, but it was an earnest expression from the traditional account of Roger Williams' arrival in Rhode Island with settlers William Harris, John Smith, Joshua Verin, Thomas Angell, and Francis Wickes. The party was greeted by a group of Narragansetts, with the description of their exchange:
Not far from that bridge [over the Blackstone] in a little cove is the famous "Slate Rock," on which it is said that Roger Williams first landed after his tedious and painful flight from the persecutions of his Massachusetts brethren.
As he approached the place he was saluted by some friendly Indians with the peaceful enquiry "What Cheer netop?" netop, meaning friend, a phrase which they had acquired from their intercourse with the English and which was equivalent to the salutation "How are you?" or "What's the news?"... It is this incident which is pictured upon the seal of the city of Providence.
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