Providence, Rhode Island

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Providence, Rhode Island
Official flag of Providence, Rhode Island Official seal of Providence, Rhode Island
City flag City seal
City nickname: "Beehive of Industry"
Location of Providence, Rhode Island
Location in Rhode Island
United States
  Rhode Island
Mayor David N. Cicilline (Dem)
Physical characteristics
20.5 sq. miles / 53.2 km²
     18.5 sq. miles / 47.8 km²
     2.1 sq. miles / 5.3 km²
     Total (2000)

     173,618 (city proper)
Latitude 41°49'25" N
Longitude 71°25'20" W
Time zone
     Summer (DST)
     EDT (UTC-4)
Official website:

Providence is the capital and largest city in Rhode Island, a state of the United States of America. As of the 2000 census, it has a population of 173,618, but a July 1, 2004 Census estimate put the city's population at 178,126. It is located in Providence County and is the second largest city in New England. Providence is nicknamed the "Beehive of Industry", while the downtown area is nicknamed "Downcity".

Providence was named by Roger Williams in honor of "God's merciful Providence" in his finding this spot to settle when expelled by the Puritans from Massachusetts. The official name of the state includes the name of the city, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.



This area was first settled in 1636 by Roger Williams, and was one of the original Thirteen Colonies. Williams secured a title to the land from the Narragansett natives around this time, renaming the area "Providence," because of "God's merciful providence." Williams cultivated Providence as a refuge for persecuted religious dissenters, as he himself had been exiled from Massachusetts. Shortly after being settled, much of Providence was burned down in King Philip's War, which lasted from 1675 to 1676.

Providence in the mid-20th century
Providence in the mid-20th century

Providence's growth was slow during the next quarter-century. The first census of the colony, taken in 1708, recorded 1,446 residents. Howver, in the second census taken in 1730, the colony's population had almost tripled to 3,916 people. The Providence territory would become smaller as more and more of the land would become part of different towns, including Scituate and Johnston.

In the mid-1770s, Providence joined the other colonies in renouncing allegiance to the British Crown. Providence's population had exceeded 4,300 citizens by 1776, and Providence was able to avoid occupation by British soldiers during the American Revolutionary War, though the city did suffer major interruptions in education and trade as a result of its location and facility as quarters for many troops passing through the area.

Following the war, Providence's main focus on its economy shifted from maritime endeavors to manufacturing. Samuel Slater is credited as having begun the shift in about 1790, and historians mark the transformation's completion at about 1830. Manufacturing would be the city's major industry for the next one hundred years.

In April 2001 Mayor Vincent Cianci, Jr, often credited with Providence's 1990s renaissance, was indicted on federal charges of racketeering, conspiracy, extortion, witness tampering, and mail fraud. Cianci was ultimately convicted of conspiracy and is currently serving his sentence in federal prison. In 2002, David N. Cicilline was elected Mayor in a landslide, making him the first openly homosexual Mayor of an American state capital.

Geography and climate

Providence is located at 41°49'25" North, 71°25'20" West (41.823550, -71.422132)1. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 53.2 km² (20.5 mi²). 47.8 km² (18.5 mi²) of it is land and 5.3 km² (2.1 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 10.03% water.

Waterplace Park
Waterplace Park

Providence is located at the head of Narragansett Bay, with the Providence River running into the bay through the center of the city. The Waterplace Park amphitheater and riverwalks line the river's banks through downtown. Constitution Hill (near downtown), College Hill (east of the Providence River), and Federal Hill (west of downtown and is the city's Italian district) are the most prominent of the city's seven hills. The downtown area (Downcity) is the location of the city's tallest buildings, with the tallest being the Bank of America Building at 426 feet (130 m). The building imitates the Art Deco skyscrapers of New York City.[1] Downcity is also the location of the Providence Biltmore and Westminster Arcade, the oldest enclosed shopping mall in the U.S. that was built in 1828. The city's waterfront, the location of many oil tanks and a power plant, is primarily industrial. Downcity primarily consists of modern structures as well as buildings in the Federal and various Victorian architectural styles. The rest of the city consists of small commercial districts and old mills interspersed amongst single-family and multi-family homes, and apartment buildings.

Providence's climate is humid continental, with hot summers, cold winters, and high humidity year-round. The USDA rates the city at Zone 6, which is an "in-between" climate. The influence of the Atlantic Ocean keeps Providence, and the rest of the state of Rhode Island, warmer than many inland locales in New England. Average precipitation ranges from 3.38 inches (8.05 cm) in June to 4.43 inches (10.57 cm) in March, with the heaviest precipitation occurring from November to April. Average temperatures range from 20 °F (-6.7 °C) in January to 83 °F (27.2 °C) in July. The lowest recorded temperature was -13 °F (-25 °C) on January 23, 1976, while the highest recorded temperature was 104 °F (40 °C) on August 2, 1975.[2] Though not frequent, Providence's location at the head of Narragansett Bay makes it vulnerable to Atlantic hurricanes.


Providence Skyline
Providence Skyline

As of the census2 of 2000, there were 173,618 people, 62,389 households, and 35,873 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,629.4/km² (9,401.7/mi²). There were 67,915 housing units at an average density of 1,419.7/km² (3,677.7/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 54.53% Caucasian, 14.54% African American, 1.14% Native American, 6.01% Asian, 0.16% Pacific Islander, 17.55% from other races, and 6.08% from two or more races. 30.03% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. Providence receives refugees in cooperation with the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement. The 2000 US Census estimate for the metropolitan statistical area (MSA) including Providence, Fall River, Massachusetts, and Warwick was 1,188,613.

There were 62,389 households out of which 32.3% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 31.9% were married couples living together, 20.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 42.5% were non-families. 32.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.1% had someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.56 and the average family size was 3.33.

In the city the population was spread out with 26.1% under the age of 18, 18.9% from 18 to 24, 28.6% from 25 to 44, 15.9% from 45 to 64, and 10.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 28 years. For every 100 females there were 91.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $26,867, and the median income for a family was $32,058. Males had a median income of $28,894 versus $23,472 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,525. 29.1% of the population and 23.9% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 40.1% of those under the age of 18 and 19.0% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.


Providence was one of the first cities to industrialize in the U.S. By 1830, the city had manufacturing industries in metals, machinery, textiles, jewelry, and silverware. Though manufacturing has declined, the city is still one of the largest centers for jewelry and silverware design and manufacturing. Services, particularly education, health care, and finance, also make up a large portion of the city's economy. Since it is the capital of Rhode Island, Providence's economy also consists of government services. The conglomerate Textron is headquartered in the city.

The city is home to the Rhode Island Convention Center, opened in December 1993. Along with a hotel, the convention center is connected to the Providence Place Mall through a skywalk. The Providence Place Mall is a major retail center in the city.


The Rhode Island State House (north facade)
The Rhode Island State House (north facade)

Providence has a mayor-council form of government. There are fifteen city councilors, one for each of the city's wards. The city council is tasked with enacting ordinances and passing an annual budget. Providence also has probate and superior courts. The U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island is located downtown on the opposite end of Kennedy Plaza from City Hall.

Vincent Cianci, Jr, who was often credited with Providence's 1990s renaissance, was the city's longest serving mayor and a major presence in Providence politics. Nevertheless, Cianci was indicted in April 2001 on various federal criminal charges including racketeering, conspiracy, and extortion. He was ultimately convicted of conspiracy and is currently serving his sentence in federal prison. In 2002, David N. Cicilline was elected Mayor in a landslide, making him the first openly homosexual Mayor of an American state capital.


Providence is the home of Brown University, an Ivy League university, and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), a very well respected art college. Several other institutions of higher learning include Johnson and Wales University, Providence College, Rhode Island College, the Community College of Rhode Island (Providence campus), and the Providence campus of the University of Rhode Island.

The Providence Public School District serves about 26,000 students from pre-Kindergarten to grade 12. The district has 25 elementary schools, nine middle schools, and thirteen high schools. There are also two centers for students with special needs.


Providence Cathedral and environs
Providence Cathedral and environs

Providence is one of the most culturally diverse cities for its size. Because of the presence of Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design, the city attracts many intellectual minds. Much of the cultural awareness of the city arose after the Providence Renaissance, which was started by former mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci Jr..

The East Side neighborhood of Providence includes the largest contiguous area of National Historic Society-designated buildings in the U.S. The nearby Blithewold Mansion, Gardens and Arboretum has a collection of trees and plants, including the largest sequoia on the East Coast. Roger Williams Park in the southern part of the city contains a zoo and the Museum of Natural History and Planetarium, while the main art museum is the RISD Museum. In addition to the Providence Public Library and its nine branches, the city is home to the Providence Athenaeum, which is one of the oldest lending libraries in the world. Edgar Allan Poe, a longtime Providence resident, was a regular fixture there.

The city is the home of the Tony winning theater group Trinity Repertory Company and the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra. Providence is also the home of several performing arts centers such as the Veterans Memorial Auditorium and the Providence Performing Arts Center.

The Bank of America Skating Center, formerly the Fleet Skating Center, is located near Kennedy Plaza in the downtown district. During the summer months, there are multiple WaterFire events on the downtown rivers. The public art displays, most notably sculptures, change on a regular basis.

Providence and the surrounding area have been used as a backdrop for movies and television series. The animated television series Family Guy takes place in Quahog, a fictional suburb of Providence. The city and its name were used in the television series Providence. The Farrelly brothers used the city as a backdrop for several of their movies, notably Dumb and Dumber and There's Something About Mary.


The city is served by the daily newspaper The Providence Journal, which is also available throughout Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts. The alternate newspaper Providence Phoenix also serves Providence and the surrounding area.

Providence is the center of Rhode Island's broadcasting market, which also encompasses New Bedford, Massachusetts. The city is served by television stations representing every major American television network as well radio stations originating from Providence and Boston. The major network-affiliated television stations based in Providence are WLNE-TV (ABC and licensed to New Bedford), WJAR (NBC), WPRI-TV (CBS), and WNAC-TV (FOX). Other stations serving the Providence market include WLWC (UPN/The WB and licensed to New Bedford), WRIW-LP (Telemundo), and WPXQ (i). WSBE-TV is Rhode Island's PBS member station.


Providence has hosted the Gravity Games alternative sports tournament during several recent summers. The city is also the home of the American Hockey League team Providence Bruins, which plays at the Dunkin' Donuts Center. Providence has its own roller derby league. Formed in 2004, it currently has two teams: the Providence Mob Squad and Sakonnet River Roller Rats. The NFL's New England Patriots and MLS's New England Revolution play in Foxborough, Massachusetts, which is situated halfway between Providence and Boston. Providence was formerly home to two major league franchises: the NFL's Providence Steam Roller in the 1920s and 1930s, and the NBA's Providence Steamrollers in the 1940s.

The city's defunct baseball team, the Providence Grays, won a national championship in 1884, and was later Babe Ruth's first professional team. Today, professional baseball is offered by the Pawtucket Red Sox, the AAA affiliate of the Boston Red Sox which plays in nearby Pawtucket. Most baseball fans — along with the local media — tend to follow the Boston Red Sox.

Major colleges and universities fielding NCAA Division I athletic teams are Brown University and Providence College. The latter is a member of the Big East Conference. Much local hype is associated with games between these two schools or the University of Rhode Island.


Health and medicine

Providence is home to Rhode Island Hospital, one of the largest medical centers in Rhode Island. The hospital is located in a complex along I-95 that includes Hasbro Children's Hospital and Womens and Infants Hospital. The city is also home to the Roger Williams Medical Center and Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island, which is associated with Brown University. A VA medical center is located in Providence.


RIPTA buses in front of Providence City Hall
RIPTA buses in front of Providence City Hall

Providence is served by T. F. Green Airport, which is located in nearby Warwick. The railroad station, located between the Rhode Island State House and the downtown district, is served by Amtrak and MBTA commuter railroad services.

I-95 runs from north to south through Providence while I-195 connects the city to eastern Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts, including New Bedford, Massachusetts and Cape Cod. I-295 encircles Providence while RI 146 provides a direct connection with Worcester, Massachusetts.

The city's Kennedy Plaza, in downtown Providence, is a public transportation hub for the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority, or RIPTA. RIPTA also operates the Providence LINK, a system of trolley buses in downtown Providence, as well as a ferry to Newport between May and October.

See also


External links

Flag of Rhode Island The State of Rhode Island



Blackstone Valley | Block Island | East Bay | Newport County | Providence | South County | Warwick/West Bay


Central Falls | Cranston | East Providence | Newport | Pawtucket | Providence | Warwick | Woonsocket


See List of towns in Rhode Island


Bristol | Kent | Newport | Providence | Washington

Indian Tribe Reservations

Narragansett Indian Tribe

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