About Providence’s Historic Districts
Providence’s rich, diverse and remarkably unspoiled collection of historic buildings, structures, and sites represent the full spectrum of American architectural development. Historic houses, churches, schools, public buildings, commercial blocks and factories, along with landscape features and elements of their settings, offer tangible links to the people who lived and worked here in the past and who shaped the city as it is today. They create a special sense of time and place that contributes to Providence’s unique identity.
Our historic properties are a part of our heritage — a legacy to be safeguarded. In 1960 the City of Providence established a local historic district zoning ordinance to protect and preserve special areas of historic and architectural value. In a local historic district, a design review process guides development and change in a way that preserves important elements of the past for the benefit of future generations.
Local historic district designation differs from listing in the National or State Registers of Historic Places. Those listings only provide a review process for projects using public funding or licensing; otherwise there is no protection against alterations which may diminish or destroy historic resources. In contrast, properties located within one of eight locally designated districts cannot be altered without the review and approval of the Providence Historic District Commission.
To date, Providence has designated eight local historic districts. An Acrobat file with all of the district’s maps is located here (11 MB). See below for a brief description and maps of the individual districts:
Armory Historic District map
Designated 1989. Expanded 2004. Approximately 509 properties.
The fortress-like Cranston Street Armory (1907) and adjacent Dexter Parade ground (a large open space formerly used as a military training field) are the focal points of the Armory District, a residential neighborhood located in Providence’s West End. Most of the one- and two-family houses were built on the mid to late 19th century; the district contains examples Greek Revival, Queen Anne, and the Second Empire styles. The neighborhood is the focus of concerted and successful private-sector preservation efforts by the Providence Revolving Fund and the Armory Revival Company.
Broadway Historic District map
Designated 1982. Approximately 164 properties.
Located in the Federal Hill neighborhood west of downtown, Broadway widened to 80 feet in 1854, making it the broadest street in the city. With its ample lots and easy access to downtown, it quickly became one of Providence’s most fashionable addresses. By the end of the 19th century, Broadway was line with a procession of large elaborate mansions in a variety of architectural styles (Greek Revival, Second Empire, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival and others), erected by Providence’s increasingly wealthy merchants and manufacturers. Many of these buildings have since been divided into apartments or converted to professional and commercial use, but Broadway retains much of its Victorian character.
College Hill Historic District map
Designated 1960; expanded 1990. Approximately 945 properties.
College Hill is the site of Providence’s original settlement in 1636, and it contains the most distinguished historic architecture in the city. Its name derives from the steep hill rising from the east bank of the Providence River, the district is primarily residential, with commercial uses lining its western edge along the river; institutions such as Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design have also played a major role in the neighborhood’s development. The College Hill Historic District contains a wide range of architectural styles, from early colonial to early 20th-century triple-deckers.
Providence Landmarks District map
Designated 2001; expanded 2004, 2014. Approximately 339 properties [ICBD (284) ; Residential (55)].
The creation of the Providence Landmarks District (PLD) in 2014 used the of the template of the City’s Industrial & Commercial Buildings District (ICBD). The City’s ICBD is considered to be the region’s first non-contiguous, thematic local historic district. The ICBD is comprised of mid 19th to 20th century industrial and commercial buildings throughout the city. The buildings in the ICBD are reviewed by the Historic District Commission for Demolition and Major Alterations only. The landmark status provides various city, state & federal incentives for rehabilitation and development of these landmark buildings.
In 2014 revamp, the Providence Landmarks District was created as an umbrella with two sub-categories: Residential and Industrial & Commercial Buildings.
The Residential district is composed primarily of individually listed National Register properties (approx. 33 buildings).
The City also invited owners of historically/architecturally significant properties to request inclusion in the district (approx. 22 buildings).
Each district has separate Standards & Guidelines.
For the PLD-Industrial & Commercial Buildings Standards & Guidelines click here.
For the PLD-Residential Standards & Guidelines, click here.
Jewelry Historic District
Designated 1991. Approximately 25 properties.
The Jewelry District is a small but intact fragment of a once-larger manufacturing center that today is exclusively commercial and industrial in use. The district includes industrial structures and factories ranging in date from 1830 to 1930.
As of December 2014, the Jewelry District is no longer under the purview of the PHDC. The Jewelry District is now under the purview of the Downtown Design Review Committee (DDRC).
The Elmwood neighborhood, on the West Side of Providence, developed in response to Providence’s booming industrial development in the late 19th century. With easy access to both the factories in the West End and downtown businesses, it was home to artisans, clerks, managers, merchants, industrialists and business people. It’s building stock consists primarily of one- and two-family houses set on large lots; commercial development occurred along the main thoroughfares of Elmwood Avenue and Broad Street. Both Elmwood districts contain distinguished examples of varying architectural designs from the late Victorian era.
Stimson Avenue Historic District map
Designated 1981. Approximately 32 properties.
Stimson Avenue is a quiet residential enclave located on the City’s East Side, east of Hope Street. Its collection of Queen Anne and Colonial Revival single-family homes, built predominantly in the 1880s and 1890s, is largely unaltered in appearance or use, making this district one of the finest and most intact late-19th-century residential areas in the city.