Orphanages, Asylums, and Almshouses

Tour curated by: The Rhode Tour Team

Explore the history and development of social welfare in Rhode Island. From the early nineteenth century until the present, numerous institutions throughout the state have provided care to infants, orphans, delinquents, those with disabilities, and other underserved portions of the population. Operated by private organizations - secular and religious - as well as by public entities, these institutions tell a unique part of Rhode Island's history.

Locations for Tour

Willie Owens, a sturdy boy of 12 years, in cap, reefer and gray knickerbockers, stood in the Providence and Worcester Railroad station Friday afternoon. Tears glistened in his eyes, and he said he had no money. He wanted to find his way to the State…

In 1876, a well-dressed young lady in her early twenties joined Alexander Graham Bell on the stage of the old Providence Theatre. Bell, the noted teacher of vocal physiology and inventor of the telephone, had invited Jeanie Lippitt and her parents to…

It was September 21, 1938. Strong winds ripped across the landscape of Starvegoat Island, tearing up bushes, destroying trees, and obliterating the summer cottages and dormitories perched precariously on the edge of Narragansett Bay. The…

In 1861, five young ladies, attendees of a prominent Providence academy for girls, met together for an afternoon of sewing. Unlike many of their classmates, they were concerned with more than the latest fashions, juicy local gossip, and their future…

In the early 1900s, Rhode Island was in the grip of a deadly epidemic – the great white plague. Each year, thousands of Americans died from tuberculosis; for children under the age of five, the disease was one of the top ten causes of death. Highly…

In June 1830, the residents of Tiverton gathered for the annual town meeting, an opportunity for the freemen of the town to participate in local government. Included on the day’s agenda was a proposal to create a town farm as a refuge for the…

By the early 1900s, race relations in the United Sates had grown increasingly tumultuous. Despite the abolishment of slavery, post-Civil War America was laden with barriers for people of color. Prominent Black leaders disagreed about how best to…

Within the granite and brownstone walls of Providence’s imposing Gothic courthouse, Manuel shifts nervously from foot to foot. For the second time this year, Manuel stands alone before a judge, awaiting his sentencing. The son of Portuguese…

In nineteenth-century America, there were few laws and regulations regarding child welfare. Destitute parents neglected and abandoned their responsibilities. Unscrupulous guardians profited from child labor with little concern for their charges'…
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