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The 23 properties on this tour were built from 1790. 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 any photo to learn more.

Industry played a crucial role in Providence’s economy and development for more than a hundred and fifty years, from the last decade of the eighteenth century until the middle of the twentieth. In the early years of industrialization, however, the influence of industry on Providence was largely secondary. Industrialization created great wealth and required far more complex financial and business institutions, and Providence became the center of commerce and culture, but not of industry itself. The earliest mills were water powered and therefore located in outlying areas at strategic falls along the precipitous rivers that empty into the northern Narragansett Bay. Only after the development of steam power in the second third of the nineteenth century did significant industrial complexes begin to appear within the city itself. By the early twentieth century, the City of Providence had become very industrialized.

While industrial activity occurred in a number of locations across the city, it concentrated itself in several areas. The Moshassuck, West Branch, and Woonasquatucket Rivers became heavily industrialized; their attraction in Providence was not for power, but for processing, especially in the textile industry. The Woonasquatucket River is lined almost exclusively with industrial buildings from northwest of Olneyville to its confluence with the Providence River. Throughout Rhode Island, railroads followed industrial development, and in Providence they paralleled the industrialized river corridors and attracted other industries not reliant on water. The chief exception to these industrial corridors is the presence immediately south of Downtown Providence of the Jewelry District, where the large buildings with centralized power supplies provided quarters for the production of jewelry by the many small-scale firms that characterized the organization of this particular industry.

This tour is divided into three components, the Moshassuck and West Branch River corridor, the Woonasquatucket corridor, and the Jewelry District. Because properties on the first two tours include complexes at some distance from one another, driving between sites is highly recommended. The Jewelry District, on the other hand, is easily walkable.

– 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.