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Encyclopedia > Providence, RI
Location of Providence in Rhode Island

Providence is the capital and largest city in Rhode Island, a state of the United States of America. As of the 2000 census, it has a population of 173,618, but a July 1, 2002 Census estimate put the city's population at 175,901. It is located in Providence County and is the second largest city in New England. Providence is nicknamed the "Beehive of Industry", while the downtown area is nicknamed "Downcity".

Providence was named by Roger Williams in honor of "God's merciful Providence" in his finding this spot to settle when expelled by the Puritans from Massachusetts. The official name of the state includes the name of the city, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

Providence is the home of Brown University, Johnson and Wales University, Providence College, and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). The East Side neighborhood of Providence includes the largest contiguous area of National Historic Society-designated buildings in America. Providence also has a huge new shopping mall in the center of the city called the Providence Place Mall.

Providence has hosted the Gravity Games alternative sports tournament during several recent summers. Also during the summer months, there are multiple WaterFire events on the downtown rivers.

Providence is served by T. F. Green Airport, which is located in nearby Warwick, Rhode Island. The railroad station is served by Amtrak and MBTA commuter railroad.



The area was first settled in 1636 by Roger Williams, and was one of the original Thirteen Colonies. Williams secured a title to the land from the Narragansett Indians around this time, renaming the area "Providence," because of "God's merciful providence." Williams cultivated Providence as a refuge for persecuted religious dissenters, as he himself had been exiled from Massachusetts. Shortly after being settled, much of Providence was burned down in King Philip's War, which lasted from 1675 to 1676.

Providence's growth was slow during the next quarter-century. The first census of the colony was taken in 1708, and numbered 1,446 residents at that time. The next twenty-five years would prove to be a growth spurt, however. In the second census, taken in 1730, the colony's population had almost tripled to 3,916 people. The Providence territory would become smaller, though, as more and more of the land would become part of different towns, including Scituate and Johnston.

In the mid-1770's, Providence joined the other colonies in renouncing allegiance to the British Crown. Providence's population had exceeded 4,300 citizens by 1776, and Providence was able to avoid occupation by British soldiers during the Revolutionary War, though the city did suffer major interruptions in education and trade as a result of its location and facility as quarters for many troops passing through the area.

Following the war, Providence's main focus on its economy shifted from maritime endeavors to manufacturing ones. Samuel Slater is credited as having begun the shift in about 1790, and historians mark the transformation's completion at about 1830. Manufacturing would be the city's major industry for the next one hundred years.

In April 2001 Mayor Vincent Cianci, Jr, often credited with Providence's 1990s renaissance, was indicted on federal charges of racketeering, conspiracy, extortion, witness tampering, and mail fraud. In 2002, David Cicilline was elected Mayor in a landslide, making him the first openly homosexual Mayor of an American state capital.

Notable people born or living in Providence


Providence is located at 41°49'25" North, 71°25'20" West (41.823550, -71.422132)1.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 53.2 km˛ (20.5 mi˛). 47.8 km˛ (18.5 mi˛) of it is land and 5.3 km˛ (2.1 mi˛) of it is water. The total area is 10.03% water.


As of the census2 of 2000, there are 173,618 people, 62,389 households, and 35,873 families residing in the city. The population density is 3,629.4/km˛ (9,401.7/mi˛). There are 67,915 housing units at an average density of 1,419.7/km˛ (3,677.7/mi˛). The racial makeup of the city is 54.53% White, 14.54% African American, 1.14% Native American, 6.01% Asian, 0.16% Pacific Islander, 17.55% from other races, and 6.08% from two or more races. 30.03% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race. Providence receives refugees in cooperation with the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement.

The 2000 US Census estimate for the metropolitan statistical area (MSA) including Providence, Fall River, MA, and Warwick, RI is 1,188,613.

There are 62,389 households out of which 32.3% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 31.9% are married couples living together, 20.5% have a female householder with no husband present, and 42.5% are non-families. 32.3% of all households are made up of individuals and 10.1% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.56 and the average family size is 3.33.

In the city the population is spread out with 26.1% under the age of 18, 18.9% from 18 to 24, 28.6% from 25 to 44, 15.9% from 45 to 64, and 10.5% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 28 years. For every 100 females there are 91.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 87.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $26,867, and the median income for a family is $32,058. Males have a median income of $28,894 versus $23,472 for females. The per capita income for the city is $15,525. 29.1% of the population and 23.9% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 40.1% of those under the age of 18 and 19.0% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

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External links

  • Maps and aerial photos
    • Street map from Mapquest (http://www.mapquest.com/maps/map.adp?latlongtype=decimal&latitude=41.82355&longitude=-71.422132&zoom=6)
    • Topographic map from Topozone (http://www.topozone.com/map.asp?lat=41.82355&lon=-71.422132&s=200&size=m&layer=DRG100)
    • Aerial photograph from Microsoft Terraserver (http://terraserver.microsoft.com/map.aspx?t=1&s=14&lon=-71.422132&lat=41.82355&w=750&h=500)

  Results from FactBites:
EPA Brownfields Grants, Providence, RI (459 words)
Providence, RI EPA's Brownfields Program empowers states, communities, and other stakeholders in economic development to work together to prevent, assess, safely clean up, and sustainably reuse brownfields.
Providence (population 173,618), the second largest city in New England, sits at the head of Narragansett Bay at the confluence of the Woonasquatucket, Moshassuck, and Seekonk Rivers.
Grant Recipient: City of Providence, RI The cooperative agreement for this grant has not yet been negotiated; therefore, activities described in this fact sheet are subject to change.
  More results at FactBites »



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