Saturday, November 1, 2008

Afternoon in Providence With The Ewens

Sunday, September 28, 2008: Afternoon Tour of Providence Neighborhoods with the Ewens

Bill and Sue came by in early afternoon, and we climbed into their Honda SUV and took off. Their itinerary took us to several neighborhoods they knew to be interesting.

First was Historic Pawtuxet Village, located in the suburbs of Warwick and Cranston at the mouth of the Pawtuxet River. The drive took us along Narragansett Parkway that crossed the Pawtuxet River, which was running high due to the recent rains. The most picturesque part of the Village was the Fon/Seaview Avenue Peninsula, lined with Victorian homes, with spectacular views on Narragansett Bay. Bill pointed out how vulnerable this spit of land was to hurricanes.

Our route next took us past Providence Piers where we had disembarked yesterday. Bill and Sue indicated major revitalization projects are proposed for Providence Point, part of Providence’s Jewelry District. The most furthest along was Dynamo House at Providence Point, the conversion of the decommissioned South Street Station powerhouse once operated by the Narragansett Electric Company. Plans call for a mixed-use project, including a future Heritage Harbor Museum, offices, a hotel and restaurant, which would occupy this 350,000-square foot cathedral-like structure. There are other projects in the Providence Point area on the drawing boards, but due to the economy, the timing of their realization was uncertain.

The next area of interest was Wickenden Street, a Bohemian neighborhood known for its quirky shops and restaurants. We then turned onto Benefit Street that took us into the heart of the College Hill Historical District.
Bill and Sue lived for a time in the Burnside House (left), one of the more unusual residential buildings on Benefit Street.

Our drive continued north onto Blackstone Boulevard, a major access road to the Swan Point Cemetery in the north end of Providence. Blackstone Boulevard was constructed in 1894 as a linear parkway, with a trolley rail line down the center. Famed landscape architects Frederick Law and John Charles Olmsted designed the center median strip. The trolley stopped operating in 1948, and the rail line was replaced with a walking path created from the trolley bed. The Blackstone Parks Conservancy is focusing its preservation efforts on restoring the linear park to its original Olmsted design. Of particular concern is the Swan Point Trolley Shelter that dated from 1905. We saw this tiny building that needed lots of TLC.

We then backtracked to Prospect Terrace Park that overlooks the Statehouse. This park features a statue of Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. The remains of Roger Williams are buried here.

Our next point of interest was Federal Hill, home to Providence’s vibrant Italian community. The Ewens took us down the main drag, Atwells Avenue with its restaurants, boutiques and art galleries. In recent years, the district has diversified with establishments run by other ethnic groups.

After this fascinating tour, enhanced by Bill and Sues’ wonderful background information, it was time to head back to our hotel. Another great day!

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