This nine-acre park was a gift from one of the greatest philanthropists in Providence’s history, a man whose charitable giving still has an impact on city life. Ebenezer Knight Dexter (1773-1824) descended from land-rich colonial Rhode Islanders. In addition to this park, dedicated in Dexter’s will to military purposes, a forty-acre tract on the East Side was donated for the support of the poor and indigent. This public space played an important role in the Dorr War (see 138 Atwells) and was a mustering and encampment site during the Civil War and World War I. The 14th Rhode Island Heavy Artillery (Colored), the first African-American company from Rhode Island to serve in the Civil War, was raised in Providence and bivouacked here. Historic reenactors can still be found leading an encampment now and then. The park on a summer day is as diverse as the neighborhood. Strollers walk the long sycamore allées and watch soccer or kickball games; children fill the playground. Dexter himself watches over it all, cast in bronze by Gorham Manufacturing in 1893.
The West Side's Public Space