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The 55 properties on this tour were built from 1828. Click on a map marker to see the property name, then click the name to see more. Or, scroll down to see a gallery of all properties. Click on any photo to learn more. 

Downtown Providence is the result of a westward expansion from Market Square, the town’s first commercial center, which emerged as such in the last quarter of the eighteenth century. The gradual transition of the business activity across the Providence River in the early years of the nineteenth century resulted in extensive land filling, gradual at first but much accelerated by the insertion of the rail lines along the north edge of the city’s center in the late 1840s. The presence of the railroad reinforced and consolidated the importance of the precinct as the city’s commercial center.

Historically Downtown Providence has divided itself into three distinct functional areas, not so evident in the early twenty-first century as they were just a quarter century ago. South of Kennedy Plaza and east of Dorrance Street (and today the most intact district, both visually and functionally) is the financial district, home to banks, brokerages, and insurance companies. West of Dorrance is the historic retail district, originally home to large department stores and small specialty shops that fled the inner city, as they did in the most middle-size cities in the late twentieth century. This is an area now largely in flux, with its best hope for the future thought to be, and becoming so as of writing, the locale for loft apartments. The institutional acquisition of neglected commercial buildings for dormitories and classrooms, initiated by Johnson & Wales University in the 1970s, has invested the heart of Downtown Providence with new, round-the-clock life.

Kennedy Plaza, situated north of the financial district and east of the traditional retail district, is the city’s civic center, with City Hall and the Federal Building anchoring the west and east ends of the city’s grandest public space. The tour culminates with a building historically a visual part of Downtown Providence, but not physically within the historical neighborhood – the Rhode Island State House.

– 2003 Guide to Providence Architecture

© 2023 Guide to Providence Architecture. All rights reserved. Design by J. Hogue at Highchair designhaus, with development & support by Kay Belardinelli.