Why is Providence the Capital of Rhode Island?

Why is Providence the Capital of Rhode Island?
Why is Providence the Capital of Rhode Island?

The small state of Rhode Island boasts over 400 miles of beautiful New England coastline. Known as the Ocean State, Rhode Island is a state rich with history dating back to the mid-17th century. And the capital of Rhode Island holds so much of that history.

What is the capital of Rhode Island?

Providence is the capital of Rhode Island, and it has both the feel of a small town and the fast pace of a large city. 

Read on to learn more about this amazing city that is dear to my heart as a New Englander. There isn’t much you can’t find to do in lovely Providence.

Where is Providence Located?

Where is Providence Located
Where is Providence Located

Providence is one of the oldest cities in New England, founded in 1636. Providence has a very small geographical area with only 20.5 square miles, with 10 percent of that being water. Providence sits at the top of Narragansett Bay, and the Providence River runs through the city center.  

Providence boasts seven hills. Constitution Hill is located downtown, and College Hill is east of the Providence River. West of downtown is Federal Hill, and Tockwotten Hill is located in the east side neighborhood of Fox Point. 

Smith Hill holds the location of the State House, Christian Hill is settled at the cross section of Westminster and Cranston Streets, and Weybosset Hill is at the lower end of what used to be Weybosset Street.

A Brief History of Providence

Providence, Rhode Island was one of the first cities established in the United States.
Providence, Rhode Island was one of the first cities established in the United States.

In 1636, Massachusetts preacher Roger Wiliams was forced to flee the state because of religious persecution. He came to Rhode Island, where after purchasing land from the Narragansett Indians, he started a new settlement where he could have both political and religious freedom.

Because he believed God had protected him from his troubles in Massachusetts, he called his new settlement Providence. This seaport town enabled craftsmen and merchants to deliver goods to the French and Continental armies during the Revolutionary War.

Because trade was so prevalent, brick buildings such as the Providence Library and The Rhode Island State House were constructed. After the Revolution, Providence became a populous city with an economy built on manufacturing. 

In 1831, the city became officially incorporated with more than 17,000 people. As the population grew, the City Council built a new municipal building in 1878.

By the beginning of the twentieth century, Providence was one of the richest cities in the country. Immigrants who worked in manufacturing plants made a plethora of supplies, including silverware, screws, and textiles.

When Did Providence Become the Capital of Rhode Island?

Aerial panorama of Providence skyline and Rhode Island capitol building at dusk.
Aerial panorama of Providence skyline and Rhode Island capitol building at dusk.

Rhode Island’s government rotated between Bristol, Newport, East Greenwich, Kingston, and Providence, with it being narrowed down to Newport and Providence in 1854. But in 1901, Providence officially became the capital of Rhode Island.

Why is Providence the Capital of Rhode Island?

Because it has such a deep history, it’s not hard to see why Providence became the capital of Rhode Island. Beginning in 1680, a pier that became a major trading hub was built.  Trade between not only the colonies but the West Indies and Africa was booming. 

The city’s economy was thriving. The historical significance of Providence also plays a part in why it is the capital. Its residents were some of the first to join the events leading to the Revolutionary War. 

Since being named the capital and even after, Providence has remained a center for trade, manufacturing, and finance.

The Best Places to Visit in Providence

Providence has many things to do, whether you like history, fashion, or music. Let’s look at some of the best places to visit in Providence.

Roger Williams Park Zoo

Named after the founder of Providence, the Roger Williams Park Zoo stretches out over 40 acres. The zoo is home to more than 100 different kinds of animals, such as red pandas, zebras, elephants, giraffes, and more. 

At the zoo, you can feed the animals, take a train ride through the woods, get ice cream, and stroll through, looking at all of the beautiful creatures. 

WaterPlace Park

WaterPlace Park is said to be the heart of downtown Providence. It boasts public art, Venice-inspired bridges, a riverwalk, and the infamous Waterfire. Waterfire takes place in the summer, and a string of fires covers almost a mile of public space.

Visitors can listen to music and watch entertainment. Firelight and flames light up the arched bridges and flotillas of performers travel down the river. It is truly something to see as it involves all the senses with the smells of pine and the lively music from street performers. 

Providence Flea

Much more than a flea market, these amazing grounds are full of vendors selling art, food, and music. The Providence Flea does not sell anything mass-produced or licensed; the goods are all homemade, handpicked, and handcrafted. 

The Flea has been host to over 2,000 local vendors and groups raising money for animals, the LGBT community, and other important issues. 

The Providence Flea loves to help the local community by encouraging people to buy locally.

Swan Point Cemetery

Established in 1846, Swan Point Cemetery is not only a beautifully maintained 200-acre cemetery, but it also serves as a green space. It is beautiful to stroll through, with twisting paths and places to reflect on nature quietly. 

You will also find the gravesite of H.P.Lovecraft. If you are a fan, be sure to make a trip to visit. 

The Providence Athenaeum

Don’t dare call it a library because it is so much more than that. Founded in 1836, this member-supported, independent library is one of the oldest places in Rhode Island. It has welcomed engaged writers and thinkers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edgar Allen Poe, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. 

More than 175,000 collections are present, including very rare books and artwork. 


It goes without saying that Providence, Rhode Island, is one of the nation’s most interesting cities. Rich in history, it holds a diverse number of things to entertain you and your family. The above list is just the beginning of all this beautiful city has to offer. 

See Also

Capital Cities 

Hi and welcome to my travel blog! Based in London, I work in investment banking in a quantitative field and although I am not part of the travel industry, I have a ton of passion for travel. My blog is a reference guide for my fellow travelers with the same passion as me. Hopefully the blog is easy to navigate and my aim is to bring the most relevant and interesting information before you begin your journey!