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Providence, Rhode Island
Top: Downtown Providence skyline and the Providence River from the Point Street Bridge; Middle: Federal Hill, University Hall at Brown University, Roger Williams Park, and the First Baptist Church in America; Bottom: WaterFire at Waterplace Park, and the Rhode Island State House.
Top: Downtown Providence skyline and the Providence River from the Point Street Bridge; Middle: Federal Hill, University Hall at Brown University, Roger Williams Park, and the First Baptist Church in America; Bottom: WaterFire at Waterplace Park, and the Rhode Island State House.
Official seal of Providence, Rhode Island
The Creative Capital, Beehive of Industry, the Renaissance City, the Divine City, PVD, Prov
"What Cheer?"
Location in Providence County and the state of Rhode Island.
Location in Providence County and the state of Rhode Island.
Country United States
State Rhode Island
County Providence
Settled 1636
Incorporated (city) 1832
 • Type Providence City Council
 • City 20.6 sq mi (53 km2)
 • Land 18.5 sq mi (48 km2)
 • Water 2.1 sq mi (5 km2)
75 ft (23 m)
 • City 178,042
 • Estimate 
 • Rank US: 134th
 • Density 9,676.2/sq mi (3,736.0/km2)
 • Urban
1,190,956 (US: 39th)
 • Metro
1,604,291 (US: 38th)
Time zone UTC−5 (EST)
ZIP code
02901–02912, 02918, 02919, 02940
Area code 401
FIPS code 44-59000
GNIS feature ID 1219851

Providence is the capital of and most populous city in the U.S. state of Rhode Island, founded in 1636, and one of the oldest cities in the United States. It is located in Providence County and is the third most populous city in New England, after Boston and Worcester. Providence has a city population of 179,154; it is also part of the Providence metropolitan area which extends into southern Massachusetts. The Providence metropolitan area has an estimated population of 1,604,291, which exceeds that of Rhode Island as a whole by about 60%. This can be considered, in turn, to be part of the Greater Boston commuting area, which contains 7.6 million people.

Providence was founded by Roger Williams, a 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 to settle. 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 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. The city was once nicknamed the "Beehive of Industry"; it began rebranding itself as the "Creative Capital" in 2009 to emphasize its educational resources and arts community.


First Baptist Church Providence
First Baptist Church in America, founded 1638, present building occupied in 1776, is the oldest Baptist congregation in America


The area that is now Providence was first settled in June 1636 by Roger Williams and was one of the original Thirteen Colonies of the United States. Williams and his company felt compelled to withdraw from Massachusetts Bay Colony. Providence quickly became a refuge for persecuted religious dissenters, as Williams himself had been exiled from Massachusetts.


Providence residents were among the first Patriots to spill blood in the leadup to the American Revolution during the Gaspée Affair of 1772. 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 colonies 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.

Market Square Providence in 1844
Market Square was the center of civic life in the 19th Century, and Market House was home to the city council before City Hall was built.

Incorporation as a city

Following the war, Providence was the country's ninth-largest city 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 boasted some of the largest manufacturing plants in the country, including Brown & Sharpe, Nicholson File, and Gorham Silverware.

City Hall was built in 1878

City Government

Providence residents ratified a city charter in 1831 as the population passed 17,000. From its incorporation as a city in 1832 until 1878, the seat of city government was located in the Market House, located in Market Square, which was the geographic and social center of the city. The city offices quickly outgrew this building, and the City Council resolved to create a permanent municipal building in 1845. The city offices moved into the City Hall in 1878.

Civil War

During the Civil War, local politics split over slavery as many had ties to Southern cotton. Despite ambivalence concerning the war, the number of military volunteers routinely exceeded quota, and the city's manufacturing proved invaluable to the Union.

20th Century

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 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 textile company were based in or near Providence.

N3419822 37931820 6163Providence
People gathering in Waterplace Park, opened in 1994, just before a WaterFire event. On the left can be seen the Waterplace condominiums, constructed in 2008. The entire area had been covered in railroad tracks, and the river was covered with paved bridges until the late 1980s.

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, ultimately resulting in uncovering the rivers (which had been covered by paved bridges), relocating a large section of railroad underground, creating Waterplace Park and river walks along the river's banks, and constructing the Fleet Skating Rink (now the Alex and Ani City Center) downtown and the 1.4 million ft² Providence Place Mall.

21st Century

Despite new investment, poverty remains an entrenched problem as it does in most post-industrial New England cities. 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.

The city is recovering from the real-estate slump, with a proposed residential skyscraper project called Hope Point Towers announced in mid-November, 2016.


Providence Rhode Island (1)
Astronaut photograph of Providence, Rhode Island taken from the International Space Station (ISS)

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 and Woonasquatucket 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.


Providence Neighborhoods Map
Providence neighborhoods with major highways shown, (Technical Note, this map has been deprecated because of relocation of Interstate 195)
Textronside from college hill
The Providence skyline viewed from College Hill

Providence has 25 official neighborhoods, though these neighborhoods are often grouped together and referred to collectively:


Perspective of Westminster Street
Providence big three
Downtown Providence at Burnside Park
Providence RI skyline2
The Downtown Providence skyline, viewed from College Hill on the city's East Side
See also: List of tallest buildings in Providence
Downtown Providence, Rhode Island
Downtown Providence and the East Side, 2010. Note the demolition of the previous I-195 as part of the Iway project.

The city of Providence is geographically very compact, characteristic of eastern seaboard cities that developed prior to use of the automobile. It is among the most densely populated cities in the country. For this reason, Providence has the eighth-highest percentage of pedestrian commuters. The street layout is irregular; more than one thousand streets (a great number for the city's size) run haphazardly, connecting and radiating from traditionally bustling places such as Market Square.

Downtown Providence has numerous 19th-century mercantile buildings in the Federal and Victorian architectural styles, as well as several post-modern and modernist buildings located throughout the area. 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 newer area, sometimes called "Capitol Center", includes Providence Place Mall (1999), the Omni Providence Hotel (1993) and The Residences Providence (2007), GTECH Corporation (2006), Waterplace condominiums (2007), and Waterplace Park (1994). The area tends toward newer development, since much of it is land reclaimed in the 1970s from a mass of railroad tracks referred to colloquially as the "Chinese Wall". This part of Downtown is characterized by open spaces, wide roads, and landscaping.

The historic part of downtown has many streetscapes that look as they did eighty years ago. Many of the state's tallest buildings are found here. The largest structure at 426 feet (130 m) is the art deco styled 111 Westminster Street (formerly Industrial Trust Tower). By contrast, nearby to it is the second tallest One Financial Plaza, designed in modern taut-skin cladding, constructed a half-century later. In between the two is 50 Kennedy Plaza. The Textron Tower is also a core building to the modest Providence skyline. Downtown is also the home of the Providence Biltmore and Westminster Arcade, the oldest enclosed shopping mall in the U.S., built in 1828.

The city's southern waterfront, away from the downtown core, is the location of many oil tanks, a docking station for a ferry boat, a non-profit sailing center, bars, clubs, and power plants. The Russian Submarine Museum was located here until 2008, when the submarine sank in a storm and was declared a loss. The Fox Point Hurricane Barrier is also found here, built to protect Providence from storm surge like that which it endured in the 1938 New England Hurricane and again in 1954 from Hurricane Carol.

The majority of the cityscape comprises abandoned and revitalized industrial mills, double- and triple-decker housing (though row houses are rare, found so commonly in other Northeast cities), 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.


Waterplace Park

Providence has a humid continental (Köppen Cfa or Dfa) with warm summers, cold winters, and high humidity year-round. The USDA places the city in Hardiness zone 6b, with the suburbs falling in zones 6a – 7b. The influence of the Atlantic Ocean keeps Providence, and the rest of 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 (−27 °C) on February 9, 1934 to 104 °F (40 °C) on August 2, 1975; the record cold daily maximum is 1 °F (−17 °C) on February 5, 1918, while the record warm daily minimum is 80 °F (27 °C) on June 6, 1925. Temperature readings of 0 °F (−18 °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 (38 °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.

As with the rest of the northeastern seaboard, Providence receives ample precipitation year-round. Monthly precipitation 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 lesser in the summer months than the winter months, when powerful storms known as Nor'easters can cause significant snowfall and blizzard conditions. Although hurricanes are not frequent in coastal New England, Providence's location at the head of Narragansett Bay makes it vulnerable to them.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1790 6,380
1800 7,614 19.3%
1810 10,070 32.3%
1820 11,767 16.9%
1830 16,833 43.1%
1840 23,171 37.7%
1850 41,513 79.2%
1860 50,666 22.0%
1870 68,904 36.0%
1880 104,857 52.2%
1890 132,146 26.0%
1900 175,597 32.9%
1910 223,326 27.2%
1920 237,595 6.4%
1930 252,981 6.5%
1940 253,504 0.2%
1950 248,674 −1.9%
1960 207,498 −16.6%
1970 179,213 −13.6%
1980 156,804 −12.5%
1990 160,728 2.5%
2000 173,618 8.0%
2010 178,042 2.5%
Est. 2015 179,207 0.7%
Largest Cities and Other
Urban Places in the United
States: 1790 to 1990.
2013 Estimate
Demographic profile 2010 1990 1970 1950
White 49.8% 69.9% 90.0% 96.5%
 —Non-Hispanic 37.6% 64.5% 89.5% N/A
Black or African American 16.0% 14.8% 8.9% 3.3%
Hispanic or Latino (of any race) 27.8% 15.5% 0.8% N/A
Asian 6.4% 5.9% 0.5% 0.1%

As of the census of 2000, the population comprised 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 comparatively older cities in New England such as New Haven, Connecticut; Springfield, Massachusetts, and Hartford, Connecticut. Also like these cities, its 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, historically predominant in the city, were 37.6% of the total population, down from 89.5% in 1970. Providence has had a substantial Italian population since the start of the 20th century, with 14% (a plurality ) of the population claiming Italian ancestry. Italian influence manifests itself in Providence's Little Italy in Federal Hill. Irish immigrants have also had considerable influence on the city's history, with 8% of residents claiming Irish heritage. The city also has a sizeable, active and important Jewish community, estimated at 10,500 in 2012 or roughly 5% of the city's population.

Race and ethnicity 2010- Providence (5560421430)
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 comprised 27.8% of the city's population and currently form a majority of city public school students. of Providence's population. The largest Hispanic groups are those having origins in Puerto Rico, Colombia, Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, and Guatemala. Hispanics are most concentrated in the neighborhoods of Elmwood, the West End, Upper, and Lower South Providence. The city elected its first Hispanic mayor in 2010, Dominican-American Angel Taveras.

African Americans constitute 16% of the city's population, with their greatest concentrations found in Mount Hope and Upper and Lower South Providence neighborhoods. Asians are 6% of Providence's population and have enclaves scattered throughout the city. The largest Asian groups are Cambodians (1.7%), Chinese (1.1%), Asian Indians (0.7%), Laotians (0.6%), and Koreans (0.6%). Another 6% of the city has multiracial ancestry. Native Americans and Pacific Islanders make up the remaining 1.3%. With Liberians comprising 0.4% of the population, the city is home to one of the largest Liberian immigrant populations in the country.

Providence, like some nearby Massachusetts communities, has a considerable community of immigrants from various Portuguese-speaking countries (especially Portugal, Brazil, and Cape Verde), living mostly in the areas of Washington Park and Fox Point. Portuguese is the city's third-largest European ethnicity, (after Italian and Irish) at 4% of the population; Cape Verdeans comprise 2%.

The Providence metropolitan area, which includes Providence, Fall River, Massachusetts, and Warwick 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 fifteen 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, according to the 2000 census. 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 in 2000, the largest concentrations being 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, concentrated in particular west of downtown in the neighborhoods of Hartford, Federal Hill, and Olneyville.


The Providence Performing Arts Center
See also: Media in Providence metropolitan area

Much of Providence culture is synonymous with Rhode Island culture. 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, as the former has the most coffee/doughnut shops per capita of any city in the country. Providence, like many other towns, is also reputed to have the highest number of restaurants per capita, many of which founded and/or staffed by its own Johnson & Wales University graduates.

The gateway arch over Atwells Avenue is a Federal Hill landmark. A sculpture of a pignoli cluster hangs from the center.

Providence has several ethnic neighborhoods, notably Federal Hill and the North End (Italian), Fox Point (Portuguese), West End (mainly Central American and Asians), and Smith Hill (Irish with miscellaneous enclaves of other groups). There are also many dedicated community organizations and arts associations located in the city.

The city gained the reputation as one of the most active and growing gay 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".

20060703 Providence State House Fireworks
Fireworks at the State House during the 2006 July 4 celebration

During the summer months, the city regularly hosts WaterFire, an environmental art installation that consists of about 100 bonfires that 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 public art displays, most notably sculptures, change on a regular basis.

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 like The American Band, once associated with noted American composer D. W. Reeves. Providence is also the home of several performing arts centers such as the Veterans Memorial Auditorium, the Providence Performing Arts Center, and the Providence Festival Ballet. The city's underground music scene, centered on artist-run spaces such as the now-defunct Fort Thunder, 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.

Sites of interest

See also: List of Registered Historic Places in Providence, Rhode Island
Old Stone Bank and Unitarian Church

Providence is home to a 1,200-acre (4.9 km2) park system, notably Waterplace Park and Riverwalk, Roger Williams Park, Roger Williams National Memorial, and Prospect Terrace Park, the latter featuring 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 the country, 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 East Side is also home to the First Baptist Church in America, which was founded by Williams in 1638, as well as the Old State House which served as the state's capitol from 1762 to 1904. Nearby is Roger Williams National Memorial. The dome of the State House is the fourth-largest self-supporting marble dome in the world and the second-largest marble dome after St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, as well as the Westminster Arcade, which is the oldest enclosed shopping center in the U.S.

The main art museum is the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, which has the 20th-largest collection in the country. The city is home to the Providence Athenæum, the fourth oldest library in the country, in addition to the Providence Public Library and the nine branches of the Providence Community Library. Edgar Allan Poe met and courted a love interest here named Sarah Helen Whitman on one of his many visits to Providence. Poe was a regular fixture here, as was H. P. Lovecraft (who was born in Providence), both influential writers of gothic literature.

The Alex and Ani City Center (formerly the Bank of America Skating Center, and Fleet Skating 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.

The southern part of the city is home to the famous roadside attraction Nibbles Woodaway (also known as the "Big Blue Bug"), the world's largest termite. Roger Williams Park contains a zoo, a botanical center, and the Museum of Natural History and Planetarium.

Another well-known site is the Providence Biltmore Hotel located downtown near Kennedy Plaza, a historic location built in 1922. The hotel is still a very popular site for travelers going in and out of the state every day. The Biltmore closed in 1974. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, and it reopened in 1979.


New York City, Southern RI and CT, illuminated at night
Providence, Rhode Island and region at night, as seen from space.

The city is home to the American Hockey League team Providence Bruins, which plays at the Dunkin' Donuts Center (formerly the Providence Civic Center). From 1926 to 1972, the AHL's Providence Reds (renamed the Rhode Island Reds in their last years) played at the Rhode Island Auditorium. In 1972, the team relocated to the Providence Civic Center, where they played until moving to Binghamton, New York, in 1977.

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 NFL's New England Patriots and MLS's New England Revolution play in Foxborough, Massachusetts, which is situated halfway between Providence and Boston. Providence was formerly home to two major league franchises: the NFL's Providence Steam Roller in the 1920s and 1930s, and the NBA's Providence Steamrollers in the 1940s. The Rhode Island Auditorium also hosted won 29 of the 49 boxing fights of Rocky Marciano.

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. Today, professional baseball is offered by the Pawtucket Red Sox, the AAA affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, which plays in nearby Pawtucket. 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. Providence is also home to the headquarters of the American Athletic Conference (The American).

Sister cities

As of 2008, Providence had three official sister cities:

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