Market House

From Colonial Providence to Now

Boston wasn’t the only place to throw a tea party! Here, on March 2, 1775, Providence residents protesting the Tea Act threw 300 pounds of British East India Company tea into the Providence River. Finding inspiration in Rhode Island’s founder Roger Williams, residents sent their tea into the river and their spirit of protest across the Atlantic Ocean to King George. The Market House changed that day and hasn’t stopped. Following the event, the Market House quartered French soldiers during the Revolutionary War, and by the middle of the 19th century, it served as Providence’s City Hall before overcrowding necessitated a larger space in present day downtown.

Over the years, the Market House also witnessed the largest natural disasters to hit Providence: the Great Gale of 1815 and the Great Hurricane of 1938. The Great Gale brought an eleven-foot storm surge, memorialized on the side of the Market House, that was unsurpassed until the Great Hurricane of 1938. The Great Hurricane of 1938 was the largest modern disaster to affect downtown Providence. On September 21, the hurricane hit high tide and a tidal wave flooded the business district seven feet above street level. The storm hit at rush hour and hundreds of people eager to make their journeys home did not know they were stepping into one of the deadliest modern storms to ever strike New England. In all, 311 Rhode Islanders died, and the storm is remembered through hurricane markers located around downtown today.

Today the Market House is owned by the Rhode Island School of Design. The building has been renovated to provide studio and classroom space, just one more iteration of the Market House being repurposed to suit “modern needs.”

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1 North Main Street, Providence, RI 02903