Only a stub of Pond Street remains, tucked between Interstate 95 and the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul. Before the interstate was built in the late 1950s, Pond Street stretched west up the hill and across the Central and Classical High School campuses to Pearl Street. Today, the void of the interstate and the wide-open playing fields and parking lots give no sense of the densely built web of narrow back streets and broad avenues that once existed here.
In the mid-20th Century, redevelopment programs demolished large stretches of historic Providence, devastating communities and disrupting our collective memory. This tour tries to reconstruct some of that lost city, to look back to what once was, who lived here, and what their struggles and achievements were. This neighborhood tells the story of the city of Providence, and the story of Providence is the story of our country. Without memory and story, we lose a sense of who we were and the ability to imagine who we want to be.
Pond Street tells us of the many things that Providence was: the city of slavery and the cotton trade, the industrial boom city with towering brick smokestacks, the city of the clanging trolley and vaudeville theaters, the city of immigrants as well as the city of tradition and assimilation, the dynamic city of change and progress and turmoil, searching for its future, rebuilding itself layer by layer.
This tour is one piece of a much larger puzzle. I am proud to work with the Providence Public Library to create a web archive that gathers much of the information, census data, and primary source materials that inform this tour into a project that makes accessible more stories from the past--and to look for ways to engage the community in the rediscovery of our common history.
Explore the layers of that historic city. Imagine what Providence was and what it could be.