This year Providence, the capital of Rhode Island, turned 375. One of the oldest cities in the Union, Providence has a rich cultural history that spans over four centuries. While squished between other appealing cities like Boston and New York, Providence is an enriching city that hardly gets the attention it deserves.
Founded in 1636, Providence started off as a city of heretics and outlaws. During the abrasive reign of the Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, a minister named Roger Williams began preaching ideas of freedom of religion and treating Native Americans with respect, which began to infuriate Puritan leaders. Williams was banished into the American wilderness, but was rescued by Narragansett Indians. Williams bought a parcel of land from the natives, which he named Providence.
While most European encounters with “New World” natives were cruel and appalling, the foundation of Providence was a beacon of hope for humanity. Williams, who was disgusted with the action of his Puritan counterparts, founded Providence on the ideas of religious freedom and mutual respect for natives, and Providence quickly became a haven for religious dissenters.
Providence became a city noted for its individuality and expression, as almost all of its inhabitants could not fit into the rigid Puritan lifestyle. As a charted colony of England, Providence Plantations became the first sovereign land where people could practice religious freely in human history, and this idea became a staple in the formation of the United States.
Three hundred and seventy-five years later, Providence is still a distinctive city that stems from admirable roots. The brilliant culture of this city can be seen in its bars, clubs and theaters, from Trinity Rep to Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel and countless hotspots in between. There isn’t a night where there isn’t something to do in the city dubbed as the “Creative Capital.”
Granted, not everything is flowers and sunshine in the capital of the smallest state. The history of Providence is tainted with slavery and corruption, and even today the city is tarnished by financial woes. Nevertheless, Providence has a proud artistic and creative culture and has been founded on ideals of freedom that built this nation.
On Tuesday, Nov. 22, The Providence Performing Arts Center hosted a “Happy Birthday Providence” party to celebrate the city’s rich history. Mayor Angel Taveras was present and local music acts Deer Tick, the ‘Mericans, and TropiGals performed, and the event finished with a glorious display of fireworks display. Making it to 375 is a big deal for any city, and the pathway that Providence has taken to 375 is one that set the tone for the nation.