History of Providence
Providence was one of the Thirteen Colonies, first settled in 1636 by Roger Williams, an exile from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who gave the city its name. At the time, the area of present-day Providence was inhabited Pokanoket Tribe of the Wampanoag Nation. The settlement soon attracted other religious refugees and exiles from Massachusetts, however its growth was still slow.
In the mid-1770s, Providence joined other colonies in denying allegiance to the British crown, mostly due to taxes that slowed down or impeded the economy in the city, especially its maritime and farming activities. The famous Gaspee Affair of 1772, which eventually led to the American Revolution, involved resident of Providence, many of whom lost their lives in the event. During the war, Providence was never captured but the tensions in the city were still high because the nearby Newport was under siege and because the American troops were quartered there. Washington and De Rochambeau passed through Providence from Newport in what was the beginning of the campaign that led to the defeat of General Cornwallis at Yorktown and Chesapeake.
After the war, Providence was the ninth-largest city in the country. It no longer relied only on maritime activities and became an important manufacturing center, especially for jewelry, silverware, textiles, machinery and tools. The city’s rising industry-based economy attracted many immigrants, especially from Ireland, England, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Cape Verde and French Canada.
Providence was split over the issue of slavery during the Civil War, mostly because many in the city relied economically on Southern cotton. After the war, the city continued to grow until 1920s, when its economy began to decline and jewelry-making remained the only thriving sector. The city was hit hard by the Great Depression and then by the New England Hurricane of 1938, when the entire downtown area was flooded. The World War II boosted the economy in Providence but that ended soon and the city continued to decline. In the period from the 1950s to the 1980s Providence was a center of organized crime.
The “Renaissance” period for Providence began in the 1970s and continued in the 1990s with the mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci, Jr., who focused on showcasing the city’s potential in arts and culture and revitalized certain parts of the city. Today, despite efforts including new development and the arrival of new companies, Providence still has a high poverty rate.
Geography and Climate
Providence is located at the head of the Narragansett Bay. The Providence River flows through the city and then into the bay. The river itself is formed in the city by the Moshassuck and Woonasquatucket rivers. Providence is often claimed to be founded on seven hills, like Rome. The hills include College Hill, Constitution Hill, Federal Hill, Smith Hill, Tockwotten Hill, Christian Hill and Weybosset Hill. Providence has humid continental climate, with warm summers and cool winters.
The city has 25 neighborhoods, grouped into larger districts: East Side, Jewelry District, North End, South Side, West Broadway and West Side.
Providence has a large Italian community, centered mainly in Little Italy neighborhood in Federal Hill. Latinos or Hispanics are also very prominent, and so are the Irish, the Asians, African Americans and immigrants from Portuguese-speaking countries.
The median household income in 2000 was $26,867 and the per capita income for the city was $15,525. Providence has one of the highest poverty rates in the USA, with 29.1% of the population living below the poverty line.
Providence was once one of the first major industrial centers in the USA. Today the situation is significantly different, except for jewelry and silverware manufacturing, which remain dominant in the economy of the city. Main economy sectors are government and services (healthcare, education and finance). The largest employers in Providence are Rhode Island Hospital, Brown University, Bank of America, Women and Infants Hospital, Miriam Hospital, Roger Williams Medical Center, Citizens Bank, Verizon, Johnson & Wales University and Pinkerton.
Education in Providence
Five of the Rhode Island’s universities and colleges have flagship campuses in Providence: Brown University, Providence College, Rhode Island College, Johnson and Wales University and Rhode Island School of Design. Other institutions, such as the Community College of Rhode Island, University of Rhode Island and Roger Williams University have satellite campuses in Providence.
Interresting Facts and Landmarks
Providence is home to one of the largest and most active gay communities in the Northeast and its former mayor, David Cicilline, was the first openly gay mayor in the USA.
The city is also home of the Trinity Repertory Company, Providence Black Repertory Company, Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra and The American Band. Providence hosts an environmental art installation called WaterFire with various accompanying events.
Some of the sites of interest in the city include Waterplace Park, Roger Williams National Memorial, First Baptist Church in America, Old State House, Westminster Arcade, Rhode Island School of Design Museum and Providence Athenaeum.
Providence is famous for being the birthplace of H.P. Lovecraft, the famous horror and fantasy author. Edgar Allan Poe also used to spend a lot of time in the city.
Providence currently does not have a major league professional sports franchise but it used to be the home of the Providence Steamrollers (NBA) and the Providence Steam Roller (NFL). Rocky Marciano won 29 of his 49 fights in Providence.
The largest highways in the city area include I-95, I-195, I-295 and RI 146.
Passenger rail service is provided by Amtrak and MBTA Commuter Rail. The primary airport for the city area is T.F. Green Airport in Warwick. Public transit in the city is provided by Rhode Island Public Transit Authority and intercity bus service is offered by Greyhound and Peter Pan.