Olneyville, Providence, Rhode Island

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Providence neighborhoods with Olneyville in red

Olneyville is a neighborhood in Providence, Rhode Island bordered by Atwells Avenue to the north, U.S. Route 6 to the south and Rhode Island Route 10 to the east. The Woonasquatucket River runs through the southern portion of the neighborhood. The area is roughly triangular.

Olneyville Square is a major traffic intersection in Olneyville, defined by the intersection of Westminster Street, Broadway, Hartford Ave, Plainfield Street, and Manton Avenue.

The Woonasquatucket River in the Olneyville neighborhood of Providence, Rhode Island


Aboriginal people were the first people to live on the land that is now Olneyville. The Narragansett tribe established their presence on the land long before Roger Williams consulted them and founded Providence Plantations, which came to be known as Providence, RI.[1][better source needed] Nonetheless, settlement in Olneyville began at Olneyville Square in the early 18th century as a center of trade with a nearby Narragansett village. The settlement grew significantly around 1785, after Christopher Olney, for whom Olneyville is named, founded a grist mill and a paper mill on a wide part of the Woonasquatucket River. Olney was a captain during the Revolutionary War and owned a 95-acre farm in the area. By the end of the American Revolutionary War, a forge and foundry and other small industries operated in Olneyville.[2]

Through the mid-19th century, Olneyville developed as a railroad junction and a mill district, with lots of work available. This helped attract many immigrants from overseas, including Guatemalans, Mexicans, Irish, Italians, Dominicans, Africans, Chinese, Vietnamese, and many others. However, the mill industries declined after World War II causing economic decline. The construction of the Route 6 - Route 10 connector in the 1950s exacerbated these problems by separating Olneyville and other neighborhoods from the rest of the city. In the two decades that followed, Olneyville witnessed a substantial drop in its population.

On May 15, 1900, Olneyville was the site of one of the few occasions of "raining fish", when a late afternoon thunderstorm brought perch and bullspouts falling from the skies.[3]

In the 1990s, Olneyville became nationally recognized as the home of the Fort Thunder artists collective and the Providence noise rock scene that included groups such as Lightning Bolt, Black Dice and Arab on Radar.


Former warehouses and mill buildings in Olneyville were home to a number of artist collectives including Fort Thunder in the 1990s. Since 2000, many vacant lots and abandoned buildings have been purchased by developers who hope to rejuvenate the area.

However, proposals to redevelop the Olneyville area have met some local opposition, caused by fears of gentrification. In March 2007, the Olneyville Neighborhood Association (ONA) declared its opposition to plans from the United Way to move their headquarters from the East Side to 50 Valley Street in Olneyville.[4] In July 2007, during a meeting of the Providence City Council, the ONA declared a "tax strike" to protest a proposed property tax increase. Residents of Olneyville and Silver Lake expressed concerns that the proposed tax increase would force poorer residents from their homes and declared that they would not pay the amount of any property tax increase.[5]

And yet, it is clear that the neighborhood benefits from the increase in activity.[citation needed] Abandoned buildings and brownfield land, which are magnets for illicit activity, continue to be renovated along The Woonasquatucket River and Valley Street, creating new life in the area.[citation needed]

Redevelopments at places like United Way, Calender Mills, The Plant, Rising Sun mills (former National and Providence Worsted Mills), Eagle Square, US Rubber Lofts, American Locomotive Company, The WaterFire Arts Center, The Foundry (also known as Brown and Sharpe Manufacturing Company Complex, The 903, and more, though not all technically being located in Olneyville, have helped create greater means for the improvement of all aspects of the neighborhood, while maintaining its precious character and diversity. Local businesses are getting more work, improving their services, expanding their offerings, and hiring more people, and local homeowners are seeing values rise as a result of the improvement in their quality of life. The neighborhood is rising together.

Also, parks are being improved[6] the Woonasquatucket River and Greenway are being revitalized,[7] and the neighborhood is getting safer.[8]

Church groups, including Puerta de Refugio, Church of the Pentecost, King's Cathedral, other non-profits such as Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council, ONE Neighborhood Builders, and other neighbors and local activists work collaboratively on neighborhood vision planning and action initiatives alongside city planners and the City of Providence.[9]


Olneyville's population, 6,495 in the 2000 US Census, is very diverse. As of the 2010 US Census, the racial and ethnic breakdown of Olneyville was

61% Hispanic; 16% White; 13% Black or African American; 4% Asian; 6% Other [10]

63% of public school children speak a language other than English as their primary language.[11]

The housing stock is 18% owner-occupied and 12% single-family housing units, compared with 35% and 26%, respectively, for Providence overall (US Census 2000)[12]

The median family income is $19,046, well below the citywide average of $32,058. 41.1% of families live in poverty while nearly one in four families receives some form of public assistance.

Rates of lead poisoning 14% of children younger than age 6 had elevated blood lead levels, some of the highest in Providence (2004–2008 RI Department of Health, KIDSNET data).[13]

41% of households report not owning a car (US Census 2000)[14]

Only 3% of total births were less than 2500g, one of the best rates in Providence (2007 RI Department of Health, KIDSNET data)[15]

88% of total births from 2006–2008 were to mothers with public insurance, which is one of the highest rates in Providence (1997–2008 RI Department of Health, KIDSNET data).[16]


Olneyville is divided west to east between Ward 6 and Ward 15. They are represented in the Providence City Council by Democrats Sabina Matos and Council President Pro Tempore.[17]


Olneyville is home to several unique fast-casual dining establishments, as well as common fast-food restaurants.

One such establishment is New York System. The Hot wiener is a Rhode Island specialty food created in 1927 at the still operating, New York System on Smith Street (U.S. Rt. 44) in the nearby Smith Hill neighborhood, however the Olneyville New York System, in Olneyville, is often cited as the "definitive"[18] or "quintessential"[19] vendor and dates to its opening by Greek immigrant Anthony Stevens in 1946.

Other unique, yet well-known food establishments in Olneyville include El Rancho Grande, La Lupita, Panederia Maya, La Hacienda, Wes' Rib house, Kennedy's Fried Chicken, La Chama, Easy Entertaining Café, and Crugnale Bakery, to name a few.


Olneyville is home to many great art galleries and artists' studios, including Yellow Peril and GRIN, both of which are contemporary art galleries at The Plant, 60 Valley Street, as well as performance venues like Fete Music Hall, Arcade Bar, and The Dirt Palace.

The Wilbury Theatre Group moved to its new space in Olneyville in the summer of 2017, where they perform a season of new and established plays.[20]

Olneyville Square, a city hub during the industrial years, is, again, a high-traffic area with lots of entertainment opportunities, including art and performance venues, retailers like Recycle-a-Bike and Christian Thomas Designs furniture store, restaurants, bars, churches, the Music Research Library, and the Olneyville Community Library. Olneyville Square is also home to a number of auto shops, a car wash, salons, and more. Olneyville Square is located between the intersections of Manton Avenue, Hartford Avenue, Planfield Street, Valley Street, Broadway, and Westminster Street.


Olneyville has three parks, connected by the Woonasquatucket River Greenway and Bike Path. The three parks are: John Donigian Memorial Park on Valley Street, Riverside Park on Aleppo Street, and Joslin Park & Recreational area, on Florence Street.[21]

Olneyville also has at least three community gardens and one school garden. Locals plan to organize a regular, seasonal farmer's market, as well.


Messer Street Grounds was home to the Providence Grays baseball team of the National League from 1878-1885.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rhode Island
  2. ^ Providence Neighborhoods: Olneyville
  3. ^ "Rained Fish"AP report in the Lowell (Mass.) Sun, May 16, 1900, p4
  4. ^ Rhode Island news | Rhode Island news | projo.com | The Providence Journal
  5. ^ Residents revolt over tax hike | Providence | Rhode Island news | projo.com | The Providence Journal
  6. ^ [1] Two Providence Parks Get Boost | The Providence Journal | projo.com | November 10, 2016
  7. ^ [2] Fish counts in Woonasquatucket booming | The Valley Breeze | www.valleybreeze.com
  8. ^ [3] City of Providence Crime Statistics
  9. ^ [4] Woonasquatucket Vision Plan Community Picnic
  10. ^ [5] Healthier Olneyville Assessment Report | ONE Neighborhood Builders | About Olneyville
  11. ^ Olneyville
  12. ^ [6] Healthier Olneyville Assessment Report | ONE Neighborhood Builders | About Olneyville
  13. ^ [7] Healthier Olneyville Assessment Report | ONE Neighborhood Builders | About Olneyville
  14. ^ [8] Healthier Olneyville Assessment Report | ONE Neighborhood Builders | About Olneyville
  15. ^ [9] Healthier Olneyville Assessment Report | ONE Neighborhood Builders | About Olneyville
  16. ^ [10] Healthier Olneyville Assessment Report | ONE Neighborhood Builders | About Olneyville
  17. ^ http://local.provplan.org/profiles/oln_main.html
  18. ^ Lukas, Paul. "The Big Flavors Of Little Rhode Island." The New York Times. November 13, 2002.
  19. ^ Ellis, Jonathan. "Top Hot Wiener."[permanent dead link] Brown Daily Herald. November 27, 2005.
  20. ^ Journal, Susan McDonald Special to The. "New season, new spaces for 2 R.I. theater companies". providencejournal.com. Retrieved 2018-02-13. 
  21. ^ /neighborhoods.php?neighborhoods=15 Citywide Green

External links[edit]