In Providence's history, there is a “golden century” from about 1830 through 1930 when the city flourished. Settled originally on the East Side, Providence expanded to the west, first into our present-day downtown and then further outward as factories expanded, needing more space. Neighborhoods were settled around these growing industries, and then trolley lines were installed, allowing workers to travel easily between homes and jobs if they were at a distance. With an abundance of industries needing employees, neighborhoods being newly settled, and easier access to transportation, came an explosion in the city's population, especially of those relocating from other countries.
Smith Hill, slightly north and west of the State House, grew enormously. This area, thickly settled, became the home to a robust, diverse immigrant population, who settled into a variety of dwellings built with the express intention of housing people in the city's workforce. The buildings here -- from small "cookie cutter" cottages to triple-deckers -- exemplify the speedy development of Providence in just a few decades. Beyond domesticities, neighborhoods past and present require additional resources for their communities to thrive: churches, schools, libraries, green spaces -- all of which were (and are still) found here.
While there are several locations (like the State House or Veterans Memorial Auditorium) that are a part of this neighborhood, this map focuses specifically on the where and how people lived in the area from the 1850s through today. These are locations, either homes or public buildings, that are vestiges of Smith Hill’s great expansion during the “golden century” or just after -- and are still as important today to the community and our shared Rhode Island history.
Locations for Tour
Tour PostscriptThank you to Providence Department of Art, Culture + Tourism for sponsorship of this tour's research and development.
Special thanks to Scott Alexander, Katrina Avery, Shawn Badgley, Renee Boyce, Rachel Brask-Hutchinson, Michelle Chiles, Ann Dionne, Geralyn Ducady, James Frutchey, Jennifer Galpern, Logan Hinderliter, Talya Housman, Rachel Jeffers, James Kabala, JD Kay, Dana-Signe Munroe, Jennifer Wilson, and Catherine Winters.