Nearly a century and a half after its settlement by English colonists, Providence finally acquired a civic center, located at the heart of the community, at a time when settlement extended only about half a mile north, south, and west of here. This location seemingly emulates the central town square found in theocratic Massachusetts and Connecticut communities, minus, of course, the church. The open space and Market House are the only historical constants here, but this is the center from which Downtown Providence emanated. Market Square and its immediate environs have been reworked many times, most recently and – remarkably – most attractively in the late 1970s, a time when many lamentable street “improvements” were inflicted on American cities.
– 2003 Guide to Providence Architecture