New installations recognize history of Roger Williams Park and celebrate the Park’s advancements
November 17, 2022
PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, Providence City Council President John Igliozzi (Ward 7), Providence Parks Department Superintendent Wendy Nilsson, Roger Williams Park Conservancy Board Chair Joe Pari, Roger Williams Park Zoo Executive Director Stacey Johnson, and students today unveiled a new play structure and announced the completion of two additional art installations in Roger Williams Park.
“Roger Williams Park is home to 150 years of fascinating history,” said Mayor Jorge O. Elorza. “As we remember that history, we are also excited about new investments and the future of the Park through projects like the Gateway Center and our new play structure. These installations are the perfect way to honor the Park’s history in a creative way that will benefit visitors for years to come.”
The new 7,000 pound “Bear Ground” play structure, located on Maple Avenue, honors the bears that were kept for public display in Roger Williams Park in the early to mid-1900s. The play space is designed for children and includes a picnic area, natural play elements and a play structure in the shape of a bear that traveled to Providence from Canada. This project is a creative collaboration funded by the Providence Parks Department, the Roger Williams Park Conservancy and the Providence City Council.
In addition to the “Bear Ground” play structure, the City and its partners recently completed the installation of two art installations, “Sheep Hill” and “Monkey Island.” “Sheep Hill” is a tribute to the flock of sheep that grazed on the Park’s grass in the early 1900s. The sheep and their herding pup are laser cut from steel and were designed and produced in collaboration with Providence’s own The Steel Yard. “Monkey Island” honors the many animals, like monkeys, that were previously located in habitats throughout the Park’s landscape. The mechanical monkeys were designed and developed by The Steel Yard as well.
“It has been a longtime goal of the City and Conservancy to share the history of the menagerie that once existed Park-wide in a new and creative way,” said Joe Pari, Roger Williams Park Conservancy Board Chair. “These new art projects, along with the sea lion sculptures, tell their stories and honor the animals that once were housed throughout this sacred place.”
“Roger Williams Park Zoo congratulates Roger Williams Park on opening the Bear Ground playground, providing today’s visitors a window to the past,” said Stacey Johnson, executive director of the Roger Williams Park Zoo. “The Zoo is very proud of the history it shares with Roger Williams Park. From the Park’s first animal residents in the late 1800s, including baboons, a bear, peacocks, monkeys and raccoons, the Park and the Zoo have been inextricably linked throughout the decades.”
The “Sheep Hill” display will move throughout Roger Williams Park periodically. Currently, visitors can see the flock on F.C. Greene Boulevard, just after Wentworth Street. Optimal viewing of “Monkey Island” is from the Big Lake Trail, the community garden bridge, or via a swan boat or kayak in Pleasure Lake.
These new installations complement the Sea Lion sculptures that found their home in Roosevelt Lake in 2019. All three installations include interpretative signage to help visitors learn about the Park’s history and transformation into the modern-day Park and Zoo.