Discover Providence, Rhode Island

Providence RI skyline

Providence is indeed the best of both worlds: in both size and scale it is eminently manageable, livable, even walk-able. And yet, there is a remarkable diversity and multiculturalism that you would typically expect from a much larger city. Providence’s history can be charted through its immigrant communities, from the Irish and Italian laborers of the nineteenth century to the Asian and Latin communities of today, each has brought its own flavor to this wonderful city.

Downtown Providence – also known as “Downcity” – was settled in the mid-1700’s in the area immediately around Westminster Street, and soon surpassed Newport as the most important port in the state. This was soon followed by Providence’s rise as the financial center of Rhode Island. The 1800’s saw continued growth and the influx of retail – including The Arcade, America’s first mall, dating to 1828. The turn of the century saw the arrival of several hotels and theaters, including the landmark Biltmore hotel and the Loews Theater – now enjoying new life as the Providence Performing Arts Center.

Downcity has undergone a true renaissance in recent years, with new development projects happening alongside historic restoration and preservation. Providence’s downtown arts and entertainment district is evolving into a vibrant mixed-use community, and the rerouting of the rivers that bisect the downtown also led to both commercial and residential development along its banks. With new upscale residential opportunities at the 903 Apartments, The Residences at the Westin, and Waterplace Luxury Residences, you can truly be home in the center of it all.

Providence’s Federal Hill developed initially as a community of working-class Irish, but the arrival of a wave of Italian immigrants in the first part of the 20th century dramatically changed the flavor of the neighborhood. It quickly became one of the largest and most vibrant Italian-American communities in the U.S., and it hasn’t looked back.

Atwells Avenue, the hub of the neighborhood and its main thoroughfare, naturally developed as a mixed-use community, with residences occupying space above the commercial street level. Today that street level is dominated by some of the finest restaurants in Rhode Island – or anywhere, for that matter. While Italian is not the only type of cuisine to be found along Atwells, it still predominates, and on weekend nights the streets bustle with well-satisfied foodies.

Running somewhat parallel to Atwells is Broadway, which developed initially as a highly fashionable address for Providence’s well-heeled merchant class. They built grand Victorian mansions along this boulevard, but they moved on in the 20th century, leaving many of these fine homes to suffer from neglect. Happily, the area has been rediscovered and is well on its way to full revitalization.

The West End of Providence emerged as a vibrant middle-class residential community at the end of the 19th century, with many one- and two-family homes, particularly in the area around the Cranston Street Armory, and along Westminster Street and Elmwood Avenue. Like much of Providence, the neighborhood sustained some tarnish during the 20th century but historic preservation efforts are breathing new life into this ethnically diverse neighborhood.

Due to its relatively late development as a residential neighborhood, Elmhurst boasts an abundance of 20th century, single-family homes with mature, well-landscaped lots. The open space attracted a good deal of institutional development in the neighborhood over the years, and is now most notably the home of LaSalle Academy and Providence College.

The Jewelry District was already enjoying a renaissance of its own when the Iway plan, which removed the elevated highway that divided the district from Downcity, was conceived. This center of jewelry manufacturing now contains the Providence Jewelry Manufacturing Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Providence’s Jewelry District is noted for its residential loft-style housing, primarily in former industrial buildings dating to the late 1800’s. The Jewelry District has become a magnet for artists, students, graphic designers, and tech entrepreneurs, many of whom both live and work in the neighborhood.

The District supports a robust nightlife, with dozens of fine restaurants and clubs, drawing visitors from across Rhode Island. The Providence Children’s Museum, the developing Heritage Harbor Museum, and Davol Square all add to the quality of life in this unique neighborhood.

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