Riverside, Rhode Island
Riverside is a suburban neighborhood of Providence. Adjoining Riverside are the town of Barrington in Bristol County to the south, Narragansett Bay to the west, the rest of East Providence to the north, and the Runnins River and Seekonk, Massachusetts to the east.
Riverside, known as Cedar Grove until 1878, was originally a farming and fishing area. The streets south of the Maze are named for trees.
Riverside most notably became a tourist attraction in the late 19th and early 20th century due to the presence of Crescent Park Amusement Park, known as the “Coney Island of the East”. The 50 acre park operated from 1886 until 1979, and was famous for its Rhode Island Shore Dinners as well as the Alhambra Ballroom, where famous Big Bands played, and the bustling midway which included roller coasters, kiddie land, rides and games. Although the park in now gone, the famous 1895 Crescent Park Looff Carousel has been preserved and continues in operation every summer. The Carousel is nationally recognized as a true masterpiece of wood sculpture. Originally built as a showcase for prospective buyers, it is the largest and most elaborate of Looff's works.
Two other amusement parks sprung up in the early 1900s in Riverside. Boyden Heights and Vanity Fair each had a short run before closing down due to low attendance.
Many hotels, guest houses and shore dinner halls operated in Riverside in the late 19th century to accommodate the influx of summer visitors escaping the big city. Also available were several tent sites like Camp White and Camp Fuller. The Vue de l'Eau Hotel was built around 1860. The four-story Riverside Hotel boasted its own wharf and a huge ballroom overlooking the bay. After a few years, it was dismantled and shipped by barge to Nantucket. Pomham House opened in 1867 with its own wharf. The popular Silver Spring Hotel was opened two years later by developer, Hiram Maxfield. In addition to the hotel, it included a shore dinner hall and summer cottages.
The Lyric Theater opened on Maple Avenue around 1920 and featured silent movies until 1928 when the theater became the second in the state to have talking pictures. Later named the Gilbert Stuart, it eventually closed as a theater. The Riverside Girl Scout House on Willett Avenue, built around 1870, is the oldest school still standing in East Providence. It was known as Public School #6.
Hockey star and NHL / U.S. Olympic hockey coach Ron Wilson lived in Riverside, at 47 Lottie Drive, from the ages of 12 until he was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The historic Little Neck Cemetery contains the grave of Thomas Willett, the first mayor of New York City and Elizabeth Tilley Howland (d.1687) who was a passenger as a child on the Mayflower.
The exclusive Squantum Club and clam bake building was built overlooking the bay in 1872. The all-male club still operates today.
Riversidians were known for harvesting clams, quahogs and oysters from the beaches and surrounding waters. They became known as "Clam-diggers".
Narragansett Terrace, in the extreme south of town, was the site of many summercottages for wealthy residents including Governor Case. This peninsula afforded a grand view of Narragansett Bay. Bullock's Cove, nestled between the Terrace and Bay Spring, offered mooring sites for small boats.
It the past decade, East Providence has considered many redevelopment projects. The largest landowner in Riverside is ExxonMobil. There are also banking call centers for Bank of America and Citizens Bank. It is also home to Bradley Hospital and the Silver Spring Golf Course.
The major roads through Riverside are the Wampanoag Trail connecting East Providence to Bristol County, RI and Willett Ave, named after Captain Thomas Willett, the first English mayor of New York City (1665). Willett is buried in Riverside at the Little Neck Cemetery.
- St. Mary Academy – Bay View
- Alice Mary Waddington Elementary School
- Oldham Elementary School
- Riverside Middle School
- Meadowcrest Elementary School
- Arthur E. Platt Elementary School
"Images of America - East Providence" - published by East Providence Historical Society, 1997. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 0-7524-0271-4 "Our Heritage - A History of East Providence" 1976 Monarch Publishing, Inc. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 75-27782
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