College Hill, Providence, Rhode Island
The Fleur-de-lys Studios (1885) and Deacon Taylor House (1785)
Location of College Hill within Providence
|• Total||0.770 sq mi (1.99 km2)|
College Hill is a historic neighborhood of Providence, Rhode Island, and one of six neighborhoods comprising the city's East Side. It is roughly bounded by South and North Main Street to the west, Power Street to the south, Governor Street and Arlington Avenue to the east and Olney Street to the north. The neighborhood's primary commercial area extends along Thayer Street, a strip frequented by students in the Providence area.
College Hill is the most affluent neighborhood in Providence, with a median family income of nearly three times that of the city as a whole.
Portions of College Hill are designated local and national historic districts for their historical residential architecture. In 2011, the American Planning Association designated the neighborhood one of the Great Places in America.
College Hill's name refers to the neighborhood's numerous higher educational institutions: Brown University, Rhode Island School of Design, Pembroke College and the since relocated Bryant University. Prior to their development, the area was known as Prospect Hill.
In 1635, religious dissenter Roger Williams established the settlement of Providence Plantations near the confluence of the Moshassuck and Woonasquatucket Rivers. By 1644, this settlement had taken root around a natural spring at the base of what is now College Hill.
In 1638, the settlers allotted home lots. Roughly six acres each, these narrow tracts extended from Towne Street (now Main Street) to Hope Street, falling largely within the bounds of modern College Hill. Back Street—originally a series of paths running parallel to Towne and Hope—developed into what is now Benefit Street.
By the time of the American Revolution, the foot of the hill was densely populated with wharves, warehouses, shops, public buildings, and residential houses. Benefit Street was home to several hotels, including the Golden Ball Inn which hosted such guests as George Washington.
In the nineteenth century, precious metals and jewelry trading drove much business on North Main Street.
In 1893, the Rhode Island School of Design moved from a space leased in Downtown Providence to its current home on College Hill.
In 1935, Bryant College of Business Administration moved from Downtown Providence to College Hill.
Beginning in 1922, Brown University began expanding its property holdings in an attempt to increase on-campus housing for its growing student body. These efforts culminated in the 1949-1957 construction of Keeney and Wriston Quadrangles, which involved the demolition of 59 historic homes.
Through the middle of the 20th century, the area nearer to the waterfront and Statehouse became a working class neighborhood. Subdivided houses inhabited by these low-income communities became targets for demolition under one of the city's proposed urban renewal projects, spurred by slum clearance funds guaranteed by the Housing Act of 1949.
Brown's expansion coupled with urban renewal proposals catalyzed the establishment of local preservationist organizations which sought to maintain the dominance of historic structures in the neighborhood.
In the mid 1950s, the newly founded Providence Preservation Society (PPS) and the City of Providence together solicited $50,000 in research and renewal funds from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. This grant financed the development of a study and plan entitled "College Hill: A Demonstration Study of Historic Area Renewal." Published in 1959 the report recommended the use of both public and private investment to restore and re-historicize North Benefit street with the goal of raising property values. The subsequent preservation efforts spearheaded by the PPS rehabilitated existing buildings, demolished decrepit structures, and relocated historic houses from other portions of Providence to the area.
This process, while lauded as a victory for historic preservation, directly resulted in the gentrification of the area, displacing the neighborhood's working class African-American and Cape Verdean communities. These efforts also resulted in the conversion of the formerly mixed-use area surrounding Benefit Street to an almost purely residential neighborhood.
College Hill boasts architectural styles from the 18th century forward, including residences and institutional structures located along tree-lined streets with sidewalks. Some of the elegant homes include the Georgian-style John Brown House built in 1786 and the Renaissance Revival Governor Henry Lippitt House built in 1865. Both are National Historic Landmarks and museums. College Hill also has numerous churches built in the Baroque, Romanesque, Gothic, Greek Revival, and Renaissance architectural styles. The Fleur-de-lys Studios is also part of the collection of historic buildings on College Hill. This cultural institution is inspired by the half-timbered stucco houses of Chester, England. The Providence Athenaeum built in 1838 is one of the nation’s oldest libraries and is an example of Greek-Revival architecture.
the area matured, the area was once home to both many wealthy business families in the 1700s, and black Americans in the 1900s. Today, the neighborhood forms one of the best examples of Colonial and Federal period Architecture on the continent.
Nearly all of the buildings situated near historic Benefit Street have been rehabilitated in some form. Preservation guidelines ensure that period specific new construction can be woven into the existing collection of buildings. As the area is home to one of the finest cohesive collections of restored 18th- and 19th-century architecture in the United States the College Hill neighborhood experiences significant infrastructure and building reinvestment dollars compared to other regions throughout the state.
Corliss-Carrington House (1812)
John Brown House (1786)
Dr. George W. Carr House (1885)
The Thomas P. Ives House (1803)
Governor Henry Lippitt House (1862)
As of the 2006 elections, Ward One is represented in the Providence City Council by Seth Yurdin and Ward Two by Cliff Wood. Both are Democrats. The most prominent public building is the Providence County Courthouse which has entrances both on South Main Street, at the foot of College Hill and Benefit Street further uphill. The building houses the Rhode Island Supreme Court, the state's highest court of appeal, as well as the Superior Court of Providence County and the Rhode Island Office of the Attorney General. Several blocks north along Benefit Street is the Old State House (Providence, Rhode Island), originally built as the Colony House in 1762. Another public building on Benefit Street is the State Arsenal (Providence, Rhode Island) designed by Russell Warren (architect) in 1839.
75.6% of College Hill residents are white while 13.6% are Asian, both well-above the citywide averages of 54.5% and 6.2% respectively. African-Americans and Hispanics each comprise about 5% of the population. A sizable portion of the population are seasonal students attending the local academic institutions and residing in collegiate housing or leases.
Median family income on College Hill is $121,521, well above the citywide average. About 5% of households live below the poverty line. Fewer than 1% of households receive any public assistance.
Universities and schools
College Hill is home to Brown University's main campus, and most of the Rhode Island School of Design, whose buildings are adjacent to Brown, along the western slope of College Hill.
The Moses Brown School, on Lloyd Avenue (the summit of College Hill) and the Wheeler School, on Hope Street, are notable private schools in the neighborhood. Hope High School is located at the corner of Hope and Olney Streets, is one of Providence's major public high schools.
The Rhode Island School of Design's Waterman Building (1893)
Entrance to the Wheeler School
A sign at the front of the Moses Brown School
The 1936 building of Hope High School
Shopping and restaurants
Numerous cafes, restaurants, and shops are located along Thayer Street, adjoining Brown University at Soldier's Arch. Both streets are home to numerous small and independent shops, though Thayer Street has a few chain stores. Brown University's bookstore is located on Thayer.
- Prospect Terrace Park is a park located on top of College Hill that allows for a scenic view of downtown Providence and the city and county beyond.
- Riverwalk, located along the Providence River, is where part of Waterfire is held.
- Roger Williams National Memorial on North Main Street.
- Veterans' Memorial Park and Market Square between South Main Street and Canal Street.
The base of College Hill is the oldest area of the city. The College Hill Historic District includes much of the area and has been recognized as a National Historic Landmark District by the Department of the Interior. The Providence Preservation Society and the Rhode Island Historical Society have preserved numerous historic buildings in the College Hill area. Landmarks include:
- The Rhode Island School of Design Museum
- The Old State House
- The First Baptist Church in America
- The First Christian Science Church on Meeting Street - A domed church on Meeting Street.
- The Central Congregational Church
- The Providence Athenaeum - The fourth oldest library in America, located on Benefit Street.
- State Arsenal - An armory in service during the American Civil War and the original headquarters of the Rhode Island State Police
- The Shunned House
- Dr. Willett house, 10 Barnes Street
- Ward house, 140 Prospect Street
- Birthplace of H.P. Lovecraft, 456 Angell Street, (formerly 194 Angell Street)
- Market House
The Old State House
College Hill in popular culture
- The Shunned House, a novel by H. P. Lovecraft
- The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, a novel by H. P. Lovecraft
- The Devil Wears Prada a novel by Lauren Weisberger
- Underdog, a superhero film
- Family Guy scene locations, including Brown University, Roger Williams National Memorial Park, John Brown House, Providence Fire Station No. 5, and North Main vantage
- Providence Athenaeum, location where Sarah Helen Whitman broke off her relationship with Edgar Allan Poe
- Ambrose Burnside (Military Officer, Politician, Firearms, Railroad Exec.)[circular reference]
- Stephen Hopkins (politician)
- Sarah Helen Whitman
- "Great Places in America | American Planning Association". Archived from the original on 2012-03-10. Retrieved 2012-03-27.
- Providence, Mailing Address: 282 North Main Street; Us, RI 02903 Phone: 401-521-7266 Contact. "Roger Williams: In Providence - Roger Williams National Memorial (U.S. National Park Service)". www.nps.gov. Retrieved 2020-10-16.
- "Letter: Barry Bayon: It's true — George Washington slept here". providencejournal.com. Retrieved 2020-11-28.
- "Infinite Radius: Founding Rhode Island School of Design | Archives | Rhode Island School of Design". digitalcommons.risd.edu. Retrieved 2020-09-29.
- Li, Sophia (2009-10-23). "When building Brown meant burning bridges". Brown Daily Herald. Retrieved 2020-10-18.
- Gast, Frances M. (2011-04-01). "A half-century of change on College Hill: institutional growth, historic preservation, and the College Hill Study". Planning for Higher Education. 39 (3): 139–149.
- Breitbart, Myrna Margulies (2016-05-13). Creative Economies in Post-Industrial Cities: Manufacturing a (Different) Scene. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-317-15832-5.
- Rymsza-Pawlowska, M. J. (2017-10-03). History Comes Alive: Public History and Popular Culture in the 1970s. UNC Press Books. ISBN 978-1-4696-3387-9.
- Tardif, Elyssa. "The Stephen Hopkins House". Rhode Tour. Retrieved 2020-09-28.
- Providence, Rhode Island | Neighborhood Services | College Hill
- ward1.jpg Archived 2006-11-15 at Archive.today
- ward2.jpg Archived 2006-11-15 at Archive.today
- College Hill Archived 2007-09-28 at the Wayback Machine
- Hope High School Arts Community Archived 2007-04-13 at the Wayback Machine
- Brown University Bookstore
- Avon Cinema
- Providence Preservation Society
- First Baptist Church in America
- Welcome to College Hill, the historic heart of Providence
- Benefit Street, an enduring elegance | Providence | Rhode Island news | projo.com | The Providence Journal
- Rhode Island State Police: History Archived 2007-08-04 at the Wayback Machine
- Ambrose Burnside