Monday, August 28, 2017

Roger Williams, Founder of Providence, 8/13/2017

The Roger Williams National Memorial is located in Providence, RI, about 40 minutes from the RV park where were staying. We decided to visit on a Sunday, so traffic was light. 

The memorial is a 4.3 acre site with free parking. Our first stop, as always, was the Visitor Center located in the 300-year old Antram-Gray House (

A short video about Roger Williams is shown in the visitor centerExhibit panels also provide information about his life and settlement of Providence. 

Banished from Massachusetts for his beliefs, Roger Williams founded Providence in 1636. He was a champion of religious freedom and believed that the government should not dictate your personal convictions. The concept has been called liberty of conscience and is represented in the First Amendment of the US Constitution

Baptists banned from Massachusetts were welcomed in Providence. After Quakers were hanged in MA, they, too found their way to Providence. As long as newcomers obeyed civil laws, all citizens could "walk as their consciences persuade them." Then Jewish settlers were accepted into the community. 

Williams extended his ideas to Native Americans by respecting their rights and condemning imposed Christianity. These were all considered "radical" ideas in the 1600s. I loved this banner that encapsulates Williams' fundamental concept. 

The park has a picnic area and lots of lovely open space

Two gardens are planted at the National Memorial: The Native American diet consisted primarily of corn, beans; and, the Colonial Kitchen Garden has plants for medicine, food, and seasoning in a raised bed (typical of 17th century New England and still common today). 

Williams built the original settlement her around the site of a fresh water spring. It was very close the Salt Water Marsh. Of the first nine lots (all close to the same size), two were allocated to women (very unusual for the times). 

Eventually Rhode Island bustled with maritime trade and played a pivotal role in the Industrial Revolution (1760-1830). The Blackstone Canal linked Providence seaport to Worcester, MA (45 miles north). Goods were hauled by horse-drawn barges to Worcester and workers used handcarts/wagons to transport cargo to the Providence deep-water port a half-mile away. 

As we began our walk around town, we saw the Rhode Island State House in the distance. It has one of the largest marble domes in the world and is home to the state's General Assembly. This modern sculpture and architecture is in sharp contrast to the historic buildings here.

We walked to Waterplace Park  (over Waterplace Bridge) where we saw these metal "baskets" in the water of Waterplace Basin. They are part of the fire sculpture installed on three rivers in downtown Providence. Known as Firewater, nearly 100 bonfires are lit at dusk on specific dates (see for dates). The event features music, street performers, and musicians. There were none scheduled during our stay, but this sounds like a really cool attraction to see.

The Wall of Hope was a community response to the events of September 11. The mosaic was created with tiles painted by 10,000 Rhode Island residents.

We continued our urban walking tour of Providence and came across the Soldiers & Sailors Monument in Kennedy Plaza. It is a 40' high granite sculpture that memorializes the 1,727 Rhode Islanders who died in the Civil War.

Sadie meets a lot of kids and dogs in our travels, but on this day this cat was most interested in making her acquaintance. They cautiously approached and were very curious about each other! The cat's owner runs this theatre prop site (lots of crazy stuff inside)!

We made our way to Providence Memorial Park enjoying the sights along the way. 

At the park are the World War I Memorial (1926), Korean War Monument and Memorial Walkway, and the World War II Memorial.

ceremony was in progress honoring WWII veterans at the WW II Memorial (dedicated in 2007).

Brown University, the 7th oldest college in the US, was founded in 1764. An Ivy League institution, it has 6,200 undergrad and 2,000 graduate students ( From the beginning, students were admitted regardless of religious affiliationWomen were first admitted in 1891. University Hall, built in 1770, is on the National Register of Historic Sites.

Manning Hall (built in 1834) houses the Museum of Anthropology and a chapel. Carrie Tower (1904) was a gift from Paul Bajnotti as a memorial to his wife (Caroline) who was the granddaughter of Nicholas Brown (founder). 

Below is a view of the quad on the lovely campus. Check out the sculpture (rock in a tree!) and a sculpture given to Brown by alumni and undergrads to symbolize strengthcourage, and endurance.

Sayles Hall, built in 1881, has been used for classes, concerts, parties, and lectures. The largest Hutchins's Votey pipe organ in the world is housed here.

Robinson Hall (1878) was originally built as the library. Today it is home to the Department of Economics.

We walked past the famous Rhode Island School of Design but did not visit their  museum (we had our doggie, Sadie, with us). Nearby was this 1769 brick school house. I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of the old and new in Providence.

Below is the First Baptist Church (oldest in the US) founded by Roger Williams in 1638. This building was erected in 1775 and has been in continuous operation since the 1600s. 

We made our way back to the Roger Williams National Monument where our car was parked. Across the street from the park is the Cathedral of StJohn founded as King's Church in 1722. This church was built in 1801.

We thoroughly enjoyed learning about Roger Williams and "radical" beliefs. Strolling around the lovely city of  Providence was delightful on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I know there are many more historic sites here, but these are the ones we saw during our short visit.

For additional information about Providence, click on 

No comments:

Post a Comment