Created as Exchange Place in the 19th century, Kennedy Plaza stands out in a neighborhood defined by change. It’s served same role for over a century: the city’s central transportation hub. Today, as many as 69,000 people move through the site daily! In addition to being the geographic center of downtown and the main transportation hub, the plaza also serves as the city’s gathering point for civic events. The steps of City Hall make Kennedy Plaza an ideal spot for oration. Thousands of people stood here to listen to President Theodore Roosevelt in 1902, to witness the magical acts of Harry Houdini in 1914, and to see presidential candidate John F. Kennedy in 1960. Following his assassination, Exchange Place was renamed to honor the President in 1964.
Kennedy Plaza is also home to several statues and monuments honoring Rhode Island veterans. The large Soldiers and Sailors Monument recalls Rhode Island’s involvement in the Civil War, including the 14th Rhode Island Heavy Artillery Regiment, an African-American unit. The Hiker Statue commemorates Rhode Islanders’ involvement in the Spanish American War. Today, Kennedy Plaza remains a gathering place for the community, anchored by the Alex and Ani City Center, which features arts and music programming, as well as seasonal roller derby and ice-skating.