Providence A walking tour

Matt and I took the train to Providence. The train is the way to go, you can read, look out of the window, or if you are as lucky as we were, run into a friend of yours that sits on the seat in front of you . It was a pleasant surprise, specially since I had been saying that I wouldn't mind being her travel companion for her business trips to NY. Anyway, we arrived rested and I was ready for my adventure in town. Unfortunately Matt was busy so I walked alone.

As you can see the weather was gorgeous, cold but sunny! I walked across the Providence River to get into the College Hill neighbourhood.

Providence River

As I walked along the streets of College Hill I noticed all these fantastic doorways. To beautiful as not to share a few. It is nice to see that Providence has a great historical society that is very much working on keeping as many of these houses in good shape and upkeep by the owners. I love the blue door on the yellow contrast and the woodwork on all of them was spectacular.

Doors of Providence

After all these beautiful doors I arrived at the Brown House Museum. Just when I arrived there the historical walking tour was about to start, it was 90 interesting minutes long but did just span a 1/2 mile stretch in this neighbourhood.

I don't have a good picture of the Brown House (1788), but it is quite an impressing building. Considering that the Brown family made their fortune in Privateering ( what a fancy name for Pirates), Slave trade and China Trade (Opium I assume) it is not surprising that they had literary the biggest house on the block. They built a stunning Brownstone up on the Hill, at that time the only house there. It was built in the Federal Style, with its square shape and more then 3 stories high, up on the hill definitely an statement.

More interesting than the Brown House I found the Nelson W. Aldrich House. It was build 1821 by Robert S. Burroughs. He hired John Holden Greene to built this House right in front of the Brown House, blocking Browns view on the river and his Docks. If I remember correctly he was another merchant and my believe is that he wanted to spite him. He bought the lot, probably with most of his money, to built his house in the view of the most powerful man in town. He then had to build in wood, which was unusual for that time. This didn't hinder him to make it look like stone though. It is built on a stuccoed brick foundation and has corner quoining, resembling interlocking corner stones. It had different owner through the years before Aldrich bought it. He moved in around 1900 and his grandson deeded the house to the Rhode Island Historical Society in 1974.

The Aldrich House

The First Unitarian Church, ca 1818 is a stunning Church, the inside however was the surprise. From its outer shape I imagined a square inside as well but the pews were arranged almost in a circle and the inside ceiling was a adorned cupola. It was built by Providence Architect John Holden Green and combined the federal building style with classical arches and gothic style windows.

First Unitarian Church

Another famous Providence Church is the First Baptist Church. It is the oldest Baptist Church in the United States built by the Cities Founder Roger Williams. In 1775, when the Church was build the population was maybe a 1000 people but he planned it with the economic growth of the city in mind. The town at that time had maybe a few hundred inhabitants at the time but the church seats already a few hundred. It was modeled after St. Martins in the Fields on Trafalgar Square.

First Baptist Church

The Athenaeum ( 1838) is a gem of the city as well, its greek temple style is met by its warm interior of wooden floors, comfortably leather chairs and high ceilings. The Athenaeum is a private library, however it is open to the public to research and read books, as long as they don't take them out. Historically it was a great meeting point for artists and writers. Edgar Allen Poe fell in love with the Providence Poet, Sarah Helen Whitman in this greek style library. She accepted his proposal, but later called it off because he could stop drinking. Despise his promise he was found drunk on the night before the wedding so that was that. The picture shows the drawer System for the decimal Cards. About 50000 of them handwritten by one Librarian over decades.

Decimal card drawers

This is the Old Brick School House ( ca. 1769) By 1800, Rhode Island had one of the earliest public education systems, housed in this building. In its long history as host to innovative educational initiatives, it served as a school for African American student, an early fresh air school for children suffering for tuberculosis, and site of the Meeting Street School, a pioneering organization for children of all mental and physical abilities.

Old brick schoolhouse

Providence Art Club, this fun building is slightly of balance and is the first thing you see at this Square. It's a club created by the tight-knit artist and collector community. It gives them a space to congregate, create and display their art. Fun fact: it's the second oldest Art Club in the country. The club occupies 4 Buildings but the on on the picture is the most interesting to me. The flour-de-lys Style and colour make it worthy of an Art Club. H.P. Lovecraft however found it revolting and set his horror story "The Call of Cthulhu" ( 1926) there.

Providences other creative side is the Rhode Islands School of Design, and is housed in one beautiful Building.

Roger Williams, founder of Providence, cast out of Massachusetts for his "new and dangerous ideas" . He was a strong believer in religious freedom and the separation between State and Church. He received the land to found Providence from the Narragansett Indians that settled in that area. They gave him winter camp after he left Boston to find new land to settle.As far as I learned he lived in good relations with the natives and was a student of Native American languages. His wish was to build a community where a person could think, worshipping act in accordance with their own conscience without fear of persecution by the government. This spiritual and intellectual paradise to some was considered a hotbed of heresy to others. Rhode Island was in the midst of states that prosecuted this kind of thinking. Just a few hours north people were being hung for this mindset.

Roger Williams

The Rhode Island State House, on Capitol Hill, was build by the Architect Firm of McKim, Mead and White who also build the Boston Library and renovated the White House (1902). It seems to me that the smallest State has something to compensate... The self supporting Dome is the 4th largest in the world after St. Peter's Basilica, the Taj Mahal and the Minnesota State Capitol. On the top of the Dome is a gold Stature called Hope. The Independent Man represents freedom and independence and alludes to the independent spirit which led Roger Williams to settle and establish Providence and later Rhode Island.

State House

I found this curious adornment on a Building, maybe a homage on Providnce's sea merchant days?

The oldest (1828) indoor mall in America. Housing a locally owned coffee shop, a P.H. Lovecraft bookshop, a Vintage shop and maybe 2 or 3 more.

I walked all day and enjoyed myself immensely. In the evening I met up with Matt and some more for dinner. On the way there a sketchy character stopped us and offered us cockles fresh from the boat. Did not expect that. More Adventures await me tomorrow.

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