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Best Historic Locations in Providence

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The Providence Athenaeum is one of America's oldest member-supported libraries, and it has functioned as such since 1753 (although the present structure was built in 1838). According to a 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 the likes of Louisa May Alcott, Herman Melville and other American authors, along with the Robert Burns collection, which has more than 400 items. Today, the Athenaeum hosts events round the year focusing on education for both adults as well as children.

Federal Hill has one of the most varied and historic 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. Situated in the heart of the city, this neighborhood is known for its rich Italian-American population. The Italian-Americans here have contributed immensely over the centuries to the development and betterment of the city. The many Italian restaurants here offer delectable food to patrons throughout the year. 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Stretching from Main Street in the northern part of College Hill to Alves Way in the neighborhood of Fox Point, this street is also called the 'Mile of History'. Benefit Street has 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 dotted with other historical attractions like the Providence Athenaeum, the First Baptist Church in America 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.

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