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The First Baptist Church in America is quite literally the primogenitor of all the subsequent congregations across the nation for this particular denomination of Protestantism. It was constructed in 1775 and like many other buildings in College Hill, it played a significant part in the development of both Colonial America as well as Providence. The church was also the impetus behind Brown University and its relocation from nearby Warren in 1770 (even though the building did not exist, the clerical bureaucracy still had considerable clout). In fact, the university still holds undergraduate commencement ceremonies inside the church's Meeting Hall every Fall. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966 and today its open to the public for services on Sunday as well as more tourist-oriented visits during the week.
From Main Street in the northern part of College Hill to Alves Way in the neighborhood of Fox Point, this street also called the 'Mile of History', truly is. In fact, Benefit Street had been a catalyst in the history of the city and state. Along the way visitors will see many Victorian and Colonial homes as well as the campus of Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design. The street is filled with other historical attractions like the Providence Athenaeum, the First Baptist Church in America (literally) and the anachronistic John Brown and Nightingale Houses. If you choose to walk yourself, the Providence Preservation Society provides free pamphlets in order to guide you down the street.
The Providence Athenaeum is one of America's oldest member-supported libraries and it has functioned as such since 1753 (though the present structure was built in 1838). According to 19th-century legend, the poet Edgar Allen Poe courted Sarah Whitman in the stacks of this granite Greek Revival building. Some of the collections include documents and books from the original Providence Library, rare editions from American authors like Louisa May Alcott and Herman Melville along with the Robert Burns collection, which has more than 400 items. Today, the Athenaeum hosts events throughout the year with a focus on education for both adults as well as children.
The Providence Performing Arts Center is the second largest theater in New England. It seats 3200 people and it originally opened as a Loew's movie theater in 1928. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places after its 1977 renovation. In this baroquely elegant space, the stage is set for Broadway musicals and concerts. Events as diverse as a Jackson Browne concert or The Sound of Music can be found on this venerable establishment's schedule. Located downtown on Weybosset Street, PPAC (pronounced Pea-Pac, as it is known locally) is close to many downtown hotels as well as other attractions.
Rhode Island State House is a neoclassical white marbled beauty with an imposing dome dominating the skyline of the downtown area. It is considered to be among the fourth largest self-supporting domes in the world. Built between 1895 through 1904, it is the state's seventh state house and the capital's second. Bedecked ornately, the gilded State Library, arresting rotunda and Governor’s State Room are some of its architectural masterpieces.
This very handsome and elegant Renaissance Revival mansion is the former home of one of Rhode Island's most influential politicians, Henry Lippitt. It's massive, with 30 rooms spread over three-floors, the mansion displays American Victorian opulence at its best. All of the rooms are finished in filigreed woodwork and the light through the stained-glass windows is amazing during Autumn. Since its construction in 1865, the mansion harbored generations of Lippitt's descendants until they finally donated it to Preserve Rhode Island in 1981. The society hosts tours (on Friday only during Summer) and it also rents the estate along with the first-floor museum for events.
Federal Hill has one of the most varied, historic and notorious reputations as a neighborhood could have in any city. Today it's filled with ritzy bars, restaurants, shops, apartments and entertainment, though it was not always this way. Throughout its history it has been a hotbed of rebellious activity. After the Revolutionary War, local Rhode Island constituents didn't want to ratify the constitution in 1788, but received the name from the fledgling Federalist nation anyway. Over the next two centuries, Irish and Italian immigrants moved to the hill; the latter proved to be more powerful and they indelibly marked it as the city's de facto Italian-American community. As you walk down Atwells Avenue, you'll definitely know where you are when you see La Pigna (the pine cone) under the gateway arch.
Swan Point was established in 1846 as one of the first garden cemeteries of its kind in the United States. The cemetery allows visitors in to the mausoleum and Columbarium (a place for funerary urns) and it has interred many important locals. Some of the deceased include Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, Civil War Generals, state governors and the famous horror author H.P. Lovecraft. The massive estate combines historical architecture and interesting sculpture among the flora and fauna near the Seekonk River. It truly is a place of tranquil beauty.
Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum is a vast estate spread across 33 acres (13.35 hectares) of land. Established in the late 19th Century, this sprawling estate was the summer home of the Van Wickle family. The grounds feature over 250 varieties of native and exotic plants. The mansion, perched in the center of the property, occupies around 10 acres (4.04 hectares) of the land. It is designed in the Queen-Anne style and houses 45 rooms. The gardens can be used to host private celebrations. Take home souvenirs of your trip from the gift shop located within the visitors center. The mansion is open only from April to mid-October; check the website for further details.