5 July 2011
This year, as part of our family’s annual R+R trek, we paused at Providence, Rhode Island before we headed to Maine. We made a trip to Providence fourteen years ago and couldn’t wait to return. Yet on this return we found the city to be even better and remembered what a great sense of community this pearl of Roger Williams really is. A few spots that caught our attention years ago were included on our list. With our son on this trip (he is nine…obviously too young to have made the first trip), a return to the zoo and catching a Paw Sox game in Pawtucket were part of our relaxing, nomadic vacation plans. Of course dinner on Federal Hill’s Atwells Street (Providence’s “little Italy”) was also part of the plan.
What is really beautiful about this city is the eclectic mix of old world traditional and modern architecture. As in Europe, these New Englanders have captured the magic of allowing their history to shine with some of the most beautiful (authentic) historic and traditional architecture I have seen in this country side by side with modern architectural insertions. The inner Waterplace Park is an appropriately scaled space now that the Providence Place mall, under construction during our last trip, shields this area from the harshness of I-95 to the west. The mix of architecture and landscaping make this center an intimate space within the urban core with the beauty of the river.
A trip to Brown University campus reminded me of another example of the historic and contemporary playing nice together. One of the “original eight” Ivy League universities with its classic collegiate flavor sits high on the hill overlooking the Bohemian shops of Thayer Street where trendy restaurants (all with outdoor seating), tattoo shops, coffee shops and tea cafés complete each corner. The color splash of this street along with Diller Scofidio & Renfro’s new Granoff Center for the Creative Arts provide refreshing respites from the formal canvas of handmade brick and painted wood siding of the surrounding campus and residential area. Don’t get me wrong, this neighborhood would be great to live in as it appears everyone cares about their property and nothing is an eyesore. Ok, maybe since I’m a visitor, my critical eye has been dialed back a bit. Regardless, it is a wonderful area with a clear sense of community. I’d visit often if I could.
The tour de force of our brief stay here was the “WaterFire” night which we were fortunate to experience. Here urban living meets the arts community with a amazing treat for the senses. According to the Waterfire web site, “this award-winning sculpture by Barnaby Evans installed on the three rivers of downtown Providence, has been praised by Rhode Island residents and international visitors alike as a powerful work of art and a moving symbol of Providence’s renaissance. WaterFire’s over eighty sparkling bonfires, the fragrant scent of aromatic wood smoke, the flickering firelight on the arched bridges, the silhouettes of the firetenders passing by the flames, the torch-lit vessels traveling down the river, and the enchanting music from around the world engage all the senses and emotions of those who stroll the paths of Waterplace Park.” We were amazed at the performance artists surrounding the area, the jazz music heard everywhere, the street-fair food and the thousands of people that lined the river in this non-profit community explosion. Every potential seat in the downtown area was taken with anticipation to experience this night. Many thanks are owed to the countless volunteers that make this event happen. I really wish I remembered my camera…had to use my cell phone…sheesh. No, the good photos weren’t taken by me **blushing**.
Roger Williams considered it God’s providence that he found this land. I consider it the same as we had yet another wonderful but brief trip to our friends in Rhode Island. It’s high on my list of places to visit. What do you think? Have any of you taken a trip to Providence?
The really cool photos are from bbcamericangirl’s photostream on Flickr (used under the Creative Common License)
The Waterfire photos are from Emily Penguin’s photostream on Flickr (used under the Creative Common License)
The remainder…are mine.