Smith Hill Neighborhood

In Providence's history, there is a “golden century” from about 1830 through 1930 when the city flourished. Settled originally on the East Side, Providence expanded to the west, first into our present-day downtown and then further outward as factories expanded, needing more space. Neighborhoods were settled around these growing industries, and then trolley lines were installed, allowing workers to travel easily between homes and jobs if they were at a distance. With an abundance of industries needing employees, neighborhoods being newly settled, and easier access to transportation, came an explosion in the city's population, especially of those relocating from other countries.

Smith Hill, slightly north and west of the State House, grew enormously. This area, thickly settled, became the home to a robust, diverse immigrant population, who settled into a variety of dwellings built with the express intention of housing people in the city's workforce. The buildings here -- from small "cookie cutter" cottages to triple-deckers -- exemplify the speedy development of Providence in just a few decades. Beyond domesticities, neighborhoods past and present require additional resources for their communities to thrive: churches, schools, libraries, green spaces -- all of which were (and are still) found here.

While there are several locations (like the State House or Veterans Memorial Auditorium) that are a part of this neighborhood, this map focuses specifically on the where and how people lived in the area from the 1850s through today. These are locations, either homes or public buildings, that are vestiges of Smith Hill’s great expansion during the “golden century” or just after -- and are still as important today to the community and our shared Rhode Island history.

Pleasant Valley Parkway

As part of a nationwide “City Beautiful” movement in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Providence’s civic leaders envisioned the creation of numerous parks through the city as a means to provide refuge and beauty for its…

Davis Park

Thomas Davis, the namesake of Davis Park, was born in Ireland in 1806, and came to the United States in 1817. Unlike most of the Irish immigrants who would come to Providence, Davis was not Catholic, but instead a member of the Westminster Unitarian…

Dickhaut Cottages

Between 1860 and 1880, Providence’s population doubled in size. With this flood of newcomers seeking employment in rapidly expanding industrial and manufacturing sectors came the high demand for housing. Areas to the the west and northwest of the…

Saint Patrick Academy

An increasing Irish-Catholic immigrant population occupying Providence in the 1840s necessitated the need of both a parish and school. Saint Patrick’s Church was established in 1841 and, within two years, the school followed. Opened on November 1,…

Saints Sahag and Mesrob Armenian Apostolic Church

In 1847, the Eighth Baptist Church of Providence was founded at the corner of Davis and Common Streets. It was one of many Baptist churches in the city to be founded by former members of the First Baptist Church in America, located on the East Side,…

Smith Hill Library

The Smith Hill Library was built in 1932 as part of a Providence Public Library campaign beginning in the mid-1920s to create branch libraries throughout the city. Designer Albert Harkness was a renowned Providence architect of the time who also did…

Admiral Packaging

When Alfred Augustus Reed of Providence formed the Oriental Mills Manufacturing Company for the production of cotton sheet goods, he and his associates also formed the Oriental Print Works, located in Warwick, RI.  Although the printworks failed…

Triple Deckers on Oakland Avenue

The urban landscape of southern New England displays an iconic form of domestic architecture seldom found elsewhere: stacked three-unit apartment house commonly called a “triple decker.” Thousands of such structures were built between 1880 and…

Charles Dowler House

Charles Dowler was born in Birmingham, England in 1841, and came to America in 1863 to make munitions for the Union effort during the Civil War. After the war ended, Dowler embraced the “American Dream,” deciding to abandon his profession as a…
Thank you to Providence Department of Art, Culture + Tourism for sponsorship of this tour's research and development.

Special thanks to Scott Alexander, Katrina Avery, Shawn Badgley, Renee Boyce, Rachel Brask-Hutchinson, Michelle Chiles, Ann Dionne, Geralyn Ducady, James Frutchey, Jennifer Galpern, Logan Hinderliter, Talya Housman, Rachel Jeffers, James Kabala, JD Kay, Dana-Signe Munroe, Jennifer Wilson, and Catherine Winters.