Throughout Providence’s colonial and antebellum history, South Providence was a sparsely populated area home to several farms and extremely limited development. In the 1840s however, the subdivision of several large landholdings, including the ancestral farm of the Rhodes Family, resulted in the availability of land for residential and industrial development. It was only after the Civil War that industrialization transformed South Providence into a densely-populated area which supported Providence’s growth as a center of New England commerce. Rhodes Street was considered a pleasant suburban area, a place away from the gritty mills and crowded working class slums.
Nineteen homes lined Rhodes Street at the time of its National Register listing in September 1982. These middle and upper-middle class homes follow the stylistic development of domestic architecture from 1850 to 1895: Greek Revival houses of the 1840s, Italianate cottages of the 1860s, Second Empire houses of the 1880s, and Queen Anne two-family houses of the 1890s. The majority of these homes were set back from the street on the original, subdivided lots of the Rhodes farm.
Despite its textbook architecture and designation as a National Register Historic District, Rhodes Street has fallen into disrepair. The intrusion of I-95 and encroachment of local hospital development in addition to widespread economic hardship have taken a dramatic toll on the architecture. Damage or modifications to many of the structures have removed design elements that made these buildings distinctive. Other buildings have been demolished, leaving gaps in the streetscape. In 2001, 2002, 2017 and 2018, the historic district was included on the Most Endangered Properties list to promote the history and distinctive architecture of the street.