Roger Williams National Memorial
Roger Williams National Memorial, 282 N Main St, Providence, RI 02903, USA
The 10 properties on this tour were created from 1700. 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.
The dedication of formal open space came late to Rhode Island settlements, where separatist leanings hindered communal activities such a religious assembly or burial of the dead. Roger Williams and his followers allotted common ground, in the area northwest of today’s State House, but chiefly for grazing cattle. They had no church or burying ground until 1700. Apart from the North Burial Ground, formal open spaces, such as Abbott Park or The Parade at 150 Benefit Street, were few.
Providence’s significant development of public and private open spaces parallels its industrial development and should be understood in that context. As the city became more densely built and as factories filled more and more land in the city, landscaped retreats provided escape from industrial urbanism. In the 1840s, just as steam-powered mills began to appear in the city, three significant landscapes were created, Downtown’s Cove Park (gone now for more than a century), the grounds for Butler Hospital, and Swan Point Cemetery. While the latter two are privately held, both have long encouraged appropriate public visitation. By the mid-1860s, when development of New York’s Central Park was just beginning, Mayor Thomas Doyle began to advocate for a large public park for a city’s citizens. Roger Williams Park fulfilled that need and continues to develop as one of the region’s handsomest and most varied outdoor recreational facilities.
In the twentieth century, the Metropolitan District Plan of 1906 guided significant increases in parks and connecting open spaces. Blackstone Boulevard, completed just before that plan’s publication, anticipated its recommendations. Several other parks and parkways were added to the public realm as the result of the plan, the most distinguished of them outside the City of Providence. Inner-city redevelopment in the late twentieth century added two handsome new parks to the city’s collection.
Like the industrial tour of the previous chapter, this tour includes properties at considerable distance from one another and requires an automobile.
– 2003 Guide to Providence Architecture