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Providence Travel Guide

City Map

City Introduction

Providence is the capital and largest city of the US state of Rhode Island. The town was founded in 1636 by Roger Williams, who founded America’s first Baptist church in the town two years later. Providence grew, and after the American War of Independence in the 18th century, it was one of the ten largest cities in the United States, with more than 7,500 inhabitants.

In a few decades the population doubled, and through much of the 19th century Market Square was the center of the city’s political and social life. Providence was industrialized as well, and around the year 1900 more than 175,000 citizens lived here, and the city was one of the most prosperous in the United States.

The 1900s saw declines for Providence, with the depression of 1929, the recession of the 1930s and a Category 5 hurricane in 1938 all causing great damage to the city’s population, economy and production. Factories closed in a large number, and later many residents moved to the suburbs. From the turn of the century, downtown Providence has been revitalized.

Today, Providence is an interesting city to visit, and there are quite a few sights. You can start a stroll in the downtown area at Kennedy Plaza, where Providence City Hall stands as the southwestern end of the elongated square. The town hall was built 1875-1878 in second empire style with an impressive interior, not least in the large atrium and in the town council hall. Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy are among those who have spoken from the steps in front of the building.

Kennedy Plaza is the center of the city, and opposite the city hall you can see the Federal Building from 1908, which was built as a courthouse, post office and customs building. Between the two buildings you can notice the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument from 1871. Along the south side of the square stands a series of high-rise buildings, with the Industrial National Bank Building as the best known. The 130-meter-high construction was built 1925-1928 and opened as the state’s tallest building.

Along the north side of Kennedy Plaza was the former Providence Central Station. It burned in 1896, making way for Burnside Park, while a new railway station was built further north on the opposite side of Burnside Park. The railway station buildings are still located here, even though the tracks were rerouted in 1986 to the city’s new station, which is a little to the north-east.

From downtown, you can make a short walk to the north, where the Rhode Island State House is located. It is the government building of the state of Rhode Island and thereby the seat of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The building was built in neoclassicism in the years 1891-1901 with a large dome and the statue of the Independent Man on top. The statue symbolizes freedom and independence. In the State House you can see an impressive interior and there is also a museum.

You can visit other interesting museums in Providence as well, such as the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, which is an art museum that was established at the same time as the local school in 1877. The museum today has a wide collection with everything from antique art to contemporary art, and countless art forms and artists are represented. You can also enjoy Providence’s urban space on the tour in the city, and one of the best places is Waterplace Park with a view of the water in the Woonasquatucket River and the city skyline.

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