Mashapaug Pond

Providence's Mashapaug Pond has been forgotten and overlooked for decades, contaminated by industrial pollution and separated from the communities that surround it. Now, the pond comes alive as an imagined place, present in memories of former residents, in the bonds that tie together current neighbors, and in the visions of pond activists. Discover the pond’s engaging social history and understand the natural forces that have shaped the pond over the centuries. Learn about current efforts to ensure that Mashapaug Pond is preserved as an urban oasis.

Where Did West Elmwood Go?

Staring at the endless concrete in the Huntington Expressway Industrial Park, it seems impossible that this was once a vibrant neighborhood. Laughing children ran across neighbors’ yards, caught up in games of hide and seek. The smell of coffee,…

Industrial Legacies: Environment and Economics

In 1980, up to $1.5 million worth of silver flowed from Providence factories into the Narragansett Bay, giving new meaning to the phrase “a waste of money.” Much of this silver originated from the electroplating firms located in the Huntington…

Geology and Topography of Mashapaug Pond

What did Mashapaug Pond look like five years ago? Fifty years ago? Five hundred years ago? Five hundred million years ago? How was that terrain different from today? The physical appearance of the pond today has slowly evolved through the dual…

Playing Around the Pond

On a frigid February in 1904, fifty riders and horses gathered at frozen Mashapaug Pond for an afternoon of racing on the ice. Beyond the pleasure of competition, the races gave local residents a chance to admire each other’s horses and to…

“Mashapaug Pond is Sick”: Polluting the Ecosystem

Mashapaug Pond is at the center of a complex freshwater ecosystem. Underneath the pond’s calm green surface is a strange world of toxic carp, three-eyed frogs, and rusting refuse. Many people think of cities and the wilderness as completely…

Saving Murphy-Trainor Park

When Liz Camp, a resident of the Reservoir Triangle neighborhood, heard that developers wanted to build over two dozen townhouses on an open plot of land near Mashapaug Pond, she knew she had had to do something to halt the construction. After years…

Spiritual Cleansing: Religion at Mashapaug Pond

In the summers, Providence residents waded into Mashapaug Pond to get clean – or, more precisely, for spiritual cleansing. "The choir would sing and the Word was preached before the candidate entered the water to have his sins washed away,"…

Building a School, Building a Community

A school did not always stand on this ground. For nearly a century, the Gorham Manufacturing Company operated an extensive factory on the banks of Mashapaug Pond. Gorham left a complex legacy. While it brought thousands of well-paying jobs to the…

Gorham’s Toxic Legacy

Rhode Island has a long history of industrial manufacturing. Slater Mill, on the banks of the Blackstone River in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, is considered  the “birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution.” By the early 1800s, that fervor for…

Work, Welfare, and Resistance

Imagine walking around this site in 1899, when the Gorham Manufacturing Company was the most famous producer of silver utensils, tea services and decorative items in the world. In the central building, you could find offices, a museum of silverwork,…

Arepa to Zeppole

Walking down Resevoir Avenue today, the sweet fragrance of Popeye's Chicken and Biscuits mixes with the aroma of traffic. Strolling through Reservoir Triangle and the surrounding neighborhoods, the scent of Cambodian and Spanish food wafts out of…

From Silver Spoons to Shell Casings

In 1873, an economic depression gripped the country and threatened the future of the Gorham Manufacturing Company. The company’s skilled metalworkers and innovative designers had a reputation for creating quality goods, but none of these things…