Elmwood, Providence, Rhode Island
Elmwood Historic District
|Location||Providence, Rhode Island|
|Architectural style||Late 19th And 20th Century Revivals, Late Victorian|
|NRHP Reference #|||
|Added to NRHP||January 7, 1980|
Prior to the 1850s, the region had been used primarily as farm land. Then, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, as the city began to expand south and west with the development of manufacturing and shipping interests, the area began to develop. In the 1840s through 1860s, as the city of Providence expanded from a population of 23,000 to past 50,000, development crept southwestward along Broad Street. As areas began to be densely populated, the remaining farms were subdivided.
The neighborhood takes its name from one of its principal developers, Joseph J. Cooke, who in 1843 purchased a large tract of farm land and named the estate "Elmwood". He and other developers sought to build a model suburban community with wide streets and shade-giving elm trees.
As public transportation improved from omnibuses (horse-drawn carriages) to horse-drawn tracked cars, and finally to electrified streetcars, development began to quicken pace. A number of manufacturers moved to Elmwood, while the area near Public St, Elmwood Ave, and Potters Ave began to develop as a middle to upper class residential neighborhood.
As the automobile came to increase in popularity, businesses in the form of car dealerships, garages, and service stations would proliferate along Elmwood Avenue. As trolley service was bustituted, Elmwood Ave was widened significantly and the elm trees Cooke planted had to be removed. These changes in streetscape change the character of the neighborhood irrevocably.
When the 1950s came, Interstate 95 was constructed, and many single-family homes were converted into apartments. Combined with the aging housing stock and traffic congestion, the neighborhood became less appealing to the middle-class, who left in large numbers during this time. By the early and mid 1970s, spot demolition on dilapidated houses became common and Elmwood fell into disrepair.
In more recent years, there have been many efforts to restore many older mansions and revitalize the neighborhood. In 1980, two large, predominantly residential areas of Elmwood were added to the National Register of Historic Places as the Elmwood Historic District, with emphasis on their nineteenth century revival and Victorian houses. Additionally, the City of Providence has established local (municipal level) historic districts as North Elmwood and South Elmwood, which protect historic properties and the neighborhood's historic identity by restricting exterior modifications of architectural items such as windows, porches, slate roofs, etc. Restoration efforts in Elmwood were featured on 'Season 11 of Bob Vilia's Home Again' when he helps 11 neighbors with various projects over the course of 13 episodes highlighting the historic nature of homes in the neighborhood.
The neighborhood remains one of the most ethnically, culturally, and racially diverse in the city. As of March 2007, 56.7% of the population was Hispanic, 23.3% Black or African-American, 23.6% White (10.5% Non-Hispanic White), 9.3% Asian, and 1.8% Native American. 70% of children under the age of six spoke a language other than English as their primary language. Median family income rates were well below the citywide average. Nearly 28% of families lived below the poverty line while nearly 17% received some form of public assistance. Nearly one in four children had been exposed to high amounts of lead, mostly from lead paint in older homes.
At the municipal level of government, most of Elmwood is within Ward 9, though the area of Elmwood north of Potters Avenue falls within Ward 11. Carmen Castillo and Mary Kay Harris represent Wards 9 and 11, respectively, in the Providence City Council. Both are Democrats.
At the state level, nearly all of Elmwood falls within Rhode Island House District 11, with the exception of the area of Elmwood which lies west of Elmwood Avenue to the south of Columbus Square, which is in House District 10. Grace Díaz serves as the state representative for District 11; she was first elected in 2004. Scott Slater serves as the state representative for District 10; he was first elected in a special election in November, 2009. All of Elmwood falls within Rhode Island Senate District 2; Elmwood is represented by Ana Quezada, who was elected to the seat in 2016.
Parks, Green Space, and Urban Tree Canopy
Elmwood has five small parks: Sackett Street Park and Amos Earley Park south of Sackett Street, Jennifer Rivera Memorial Park on Niagara Street at Potters Avenue, Peace and Plenty Park at the intersection of Peace Street and Updike Street, and Columbus Square at the intersection of Elmwood and Reservoir Avenues.
There are several community gardens in Elmwood, including Cadillac Drive Community Garden, Laura Street Community Garden, and Peace and Plenty Community Garden.
Additional green space in Elmwood is provided by two historic cemeteries along Elmwood Avenue: Grace Church Cemetery at the northern tip of Elmwood, and Locust Grove Cemetery, which is adjacent to the South Elmwood Local Historic District. Immediately to the south of the neighborhood lies Roger Williams Park, the city's premier public park.
The urban forest in Elmwood is composed of trees in parks and cemeteries, trees on private property, and street trees which line the sidewalks of the neighborhood. As of 2006, Elmwood's Urban Tree Canopy was estimated at 16.3% of total land area. Elmwood's urban tree canopy was below the citywide average, which was 23% of total land area.
Schools and Libraries
Elmwood has several schools within its neighborhood borders. The Sackett Street School is a public elementary school. Charter Schools operating in the neighborhood are Highlander Charter School and Paul Cuffee Upper School. Sophia Academy is an independent middle school for Providence residents. The Montessori Community School of Rhode Island offers a Montessori education.
The Knight Memorial Library on Elmwood Avenue services Elmwood, the West End, and other south side neighborhoods.
Arts and Culture
In northern Elmwood, Teatro ECAS is a Spanish-language performing arts space. At the northern tip of Elmwood Avenue, and at the nexus of the Elmwood, Upper South Providence, and the West End neighborhoods, the Southside Cultural Center of Rhode Island hosts a number of arts and cultural organizations and offers performance space.
St Joseph's Hospital for Specialty Care was a Catholic hospital located at 21 Peace Street in the northern portion of Elmwood. It once completed a line of four hospitals on the South Side that to the east includes Rhode Island Hospital, Women and Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, and Hasbro Children's Hospital.
- National Park Service (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
- Providence Neighborhoods: Elmwood
- Providence Historic District Commission, Local Historic District Info
- North Elmwood Historic District Map
- South Elmwood Historic District Map
- Providence Neighborhoods: Elmwood
- Providence Plan: Elmwood Neighborhood Profile
- State of Rhode Island Department of Health: Lead Poisoning
- "Ward 9 Map" (PDF). City of Providence. Retrieved 2017-02-15.
- "Ward 11 Map" (PDF). City of Providence. Retrieved 2017-02-15.
- Rhode Island House Districts Map 2012
- Rhode Island Senate Districts Map 2012
- Rhode Island's US Congressional Districts Map 2012
- Citywide Green
- Southside Community Land Trust: Community Gardens
- State of Providence's Urban Forest
- Providence Public Schools: Sackett Street School
- Highlander Charter School webpage
- Paul Cuffee Upper School webpage
- Sophia Academy webpage
- Montessori Community School of Rhode Island webpage
- Providence Community Library: Knight Memorial
- RI Latino Arts
- Southside Cultural Center of Rhode Island website