Neighborhood Spotlight: Fox Point

Nov 9, 2020 | 0 comments

“I know I’m a bit biased when I say this, but I believe Ward 1 has the best of what the City of Providence has to offer. Whether it’s the historic vibrancy of Fox Point or College Hill or the green space of India Point Park or The Mile of History on Benefit Street, Waterfire, the Pedestrian Bridge, the Universities including Brown and RISD, the restaurants and businesses in Wayland Square, Wickenden Street, and on South Main Street, including the new Plant City, and of course all of the bustling activity of the Innovation District and Downtown. Ward 1 is the economic engine of Providence and a truly special place that has it all, marked by a diverse constituency of people who ultimately make it one of the most dynamic and vibrant Wards in the city.”-Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1)

In the spring of 1636, Roger Williams and his fellow proprietors crossed the Seekonk River and landed on Slate Rock – in what would become the cornerstone of Providence. Both the rock and original shoreline are gone, but a monument currently stands in its place, located in Roger Williams Square (aka Slate Rock Park) between Gano, Power, Roger, and Williams Street. There they were greeted by members of the Narragansett Indian Tribe who exclaimed to them, “What Cheer Netop!” – meaning “hello, friend!” Sachems Canonicus and Miantonomi and the Narragansett Tribe oversaw Fox Point, and much of Rhode Island for 30,000 years before Williams. Roger and his followers acquired land use rights to Providence from the Narragansett Sachems

Fox Point became a port neighborhood by 1680 with India Point – Providence’s first port. Tea and spices from the East Indies; goods from Europe; Spermaceti oil from the whaling New England whaling industry; and the notorious Triangle Trade occurred there for most of the 18th century. During the advent of the Industrial Revolution, Fox Point became the hub of Providence’s industry. By 1817, steamboats would carry passengers between Providence, Newport, and New York, and in 1821, the Providence Steam Engine Company opened on South Mainstreet (current day Corliss Landing Condominiums). In 1835, the Boston and Providence Railroad constructed a line that carried goods and people to and fro, and later in 1837 to Stonnington, Connecticut. Many of these developments were guided much under the auspices of Mayor Samuel W. Bridgham (1832-1840), Providence’s first mayor. In 1840, The Fuller Iron Works Company appeared on Pike Street. The Providence Tool Company soon followed pursuit and was established on Wickenden Street in 1844, and the company most notably manufactured firearms, particularly during the American Civil War (1861-1865).

Many Irish immigrants made Foxpoint their home after leaving Ireland during the Great Potato Famine of 1847. There was a particular section of the Fox Point neighborhood where the Irish lived called Cork Hill, primarily the current Brook Street neighborhood. By the turn of the 19th century, Italian, Portuguese, Eastern Europeans, and Cape Verdeans began to populate Fox Point. Many of them sailed across the Atlantic on the Fabre Line, which docked and unloaded on RI State Pier No.1 on Public Street, which borders Downtown and the Washington Park neighborhood/waterfront. Cape Verdeans were among the largest demographics around South Main Street, Wickenden, and along the waterfront by the 1920s. Most of them were longshoremen. Many Cape Verdeans built Liberty Class cargo ships during World War II at the Walsh-Kaiser Co. shipyard at Fields Point. Unfortunately, many Cape Verdeans were displaced during the urban redevelopment and highway projects of the 1950s and 60s.

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