Filed Under Geography

Interstate 95

Cutting Providence in Half

After World War II, Providence's fortunes were shifting. Textile jobs had moved south. Industry was leaving. Jewelry manufacturing went offshore. Between 1950 and 1980, the population of the city declined by a third. These western neighborhoods were hit hard. As part of the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System and urban redevelopment efforts, I-95 was cut through here. The redevelopment of the high school campuses also meant significant demolition, leaving few traces of the neighborhood that was. Take a look at the two postcards, one looking eastward into downtown from Cathedral Square, just behind McVinney Auditorium, and the other looking westward up Westminster Street, to get a sense of how these streets and neighborhood once appeared.


Aerial Photo of I-95's Construction Around 1960, demolition began to clear the old neighborhoods and make way for the new interstate highway.
Postcard of Cathedral Square This postcard shows the vantage point from Cathedral Square, approximately where the Bishop McVinney Auditorium stands now across Westminster Street, looking west toward Canonicus (Hoyle) Square. Source: Taylor M. Polites Private Collection
Postcard of Westminster and Weybosset Converging Standing in approximately the same spot, if you turned around and looked east into the city and down the hill, you would have seen this cityscape. Source: Taylor M. Polites Private Collection


43 Dave Gavitt Way, Providence, RI 02903


Taylor M. Polites, “Interstate 95,” Rhode Tour, accessed October 1, 2023,