Filed Under Parks

Garibaldi Park and the Welcome Gateway

Women, Sledgehammers, and Urban Revitalization

In the spring of 1975, women with sledgehammers marched on what was then called Franklin Park to attack a dilapidated bathhouse. Built in 1911 to serve the crowded Italian immigrant community, the bathhouse had outlived its usefulness. The women threatened to call the site “Mayor Cianci Park” after Providence’s first Italian-American mayor, Vincent “Buddy” Cianci. Federal Hill had been the epicenter of the Italian immigrant experience in Rhode Island. Tens of thousands of new arrivals in the late 19th and early 20th centuries got their start in America on Federal Hill. Their children and grandchildren wanted their neighborhood revitalized. Buddy turned the PR disaster into a coup. The bathhouse was demolished. The park rehabilitated and renamed Giuseppe Garibaldi Park. “This is the gateway to Federal Hill,” the mayor said at the rededication ceremony the following October. Within a few years, the gateway arch decorated with “La Pigna,” a symbol of hospitality, welcomed visitors into the hometown of the Italian diaspora, a neighborhood dedicated to the celebration of Italian culture and contributions to Rhode Island.

Watch a video featuring Taylor Polites, Curator of the West Side of Providence Rhode Tour, sharing his inspiration and insights on the development of this tour: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hTkBitQ5sM.

Images

Public Bathhouse in Franklin Park
Public Bathhouse in Franklin Park This is the 1910 design proposal for a public bathhouse in Franklin Park (today's Garibaldi Park). Source: Providence Journal, June 26, 1910.
Former Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci
Former Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci Vincent “Buddy” Cianci (1941-2016) was the grandson of Italian immigrants. He served as mayor from 1974 to 1984 and 1991 to 2002, breaking Thomas Doyle (1827-1886) for longest time as mayor. Both terms ended in felony convictions. Source: Rhode Island Collection, Providence Public Library
Bust of Giuseppe Garibaldi
Bust of Giuseppe Garibaldi This beautifully patinated bronze bust of Italian patriot Giuseppe Garibaldi is the work of Italian sculptor and medalist Filippo Sgarlata (1901-1979) and was donated to the city in 1932. Source: Taylor M. Polites Private Collection

Location

97 Atwells Avenue, Providence, RI

Metadata

Taylor M. Polites, “Garibaldi Park and the Welcome Gateway,” Rhode Tour, accessed June 13, 2024, https://rhodetour.org/items/show/149.