2018 City as Text

City as Text refers to structured explorations of environments and ecosystems. Designed as on-going laboratories through which small teams investigate contested areas and issues in urban environments, or competing forces in natural ones, these exercises foster critical inquiry and integrative learning across disciplines. Please note that these are NOT guided tours. Students will be given instructions, maps, and reflection questions to consider when exploring different areas of Providence.

Please read the descriptions below and choose your City as Text excursion when you register for the conference.

On Friday April 13th, we will gather for the City as Text Orientation, divide into destination groups, receive assignments, maps, and suggestions for where to eat. The larger cohorts will be grouped into teams of 4-5. Please note that some of these destinations (denoted by *) involve entrance fees, depending on what you choose to do in each of the neighborhoods. You will need to purchase your lunch on your excursion. You should come to the CAT Orientation Session promptly at 9:00 am, wearing good walking shoes, dressed appropriately for the weather, and armed with exact change for public transportation if needed. Depending on distance of route, public transportation may not be necessary and easily walked within a 3 mile radius.

City as text Schedule Friday, April 13th :

  • 9:00am: City as Text Orientation and keynote Address
  • 10am-3:00pm: City as Text Excursions
  • 3:30pm-4:30pm: Wrap-Up and Reflection

Local Websites and General Information

Go Local Prov – A website with resources and information on Providence  

Go Local Prov  – Arts Section

Visit Rhode Island – Providence Section

Artisan Food Producers in Rhode Island


Founded in 1636, Providence’s downtown neighborhood is bordered by the Providence River and Interstate 95. You can see the renaissance of the city through the revitalization of old buildings juxtaposed with modern construction. Central to this revitalization is Waterplace Park, which boasts “Providence’s world-renowned WaterFire, an art installation of nearly 100 bonfires along the Providence River” (waterfire.org). Examples of things you can see in Downcity: Kennedy Plaza, Providence City Hall, Industrial National Bank Building (Superman building), Providence Arcade (first indoor mall), Westminster Street, Providence Performing Arts Center, Johnson and Wales University, Rhode Island Convention Center, Providence Place Mall, Waterplace Park and River Walk, Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium Arts and Cultural Center, Rhode Island State House.

Suggested Walking Tour:

Downcity Walking Tour (be sure you have the Google Maps App)

Additional Resources:

Downtown Providence Walking Trail Website

Seeking New Roles for Landmarks in Providence, RI

Can the Superman Building Be Saved?

The Arcade Providence

Along the Waterfront

Providence has experienced many waves of immigrants. Most came through the ports at Fox and India Points. Providence’s historic Jewelry District was once a thriving manufacturing area which provided work for the immigrants flooding into Providence. However, the Jewelry District has fought to retain that moniker while revitalization efforts of the river, highway, and buildings have proposed many labels for this area, such as the Design District, Knowledge District, 195 Corridor and Old Harbour District.

Suggested Walking Tour:

Along the Waterfront Walking Tour (be sure you have the Google Maps App)

Additional Resources:

Fox Point Neighborhood: A Walk on the Historic Side

India Point History by Brown University  

College Hill

Providence was founded by Roger Williams in 1636 as a haven for freedom of thought and religion. Colonial Providence was born on the East Side. The city’s historic sites on this strand include: Brown University, Old State House, Fleur-de-Lis Studios, Providence County Courthouse, Athenaeum, Benefit Street, John Hay Library, The Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, Prospect Terrace Park, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Governor Stephen Hopkins House, John Carter Brown Library, The Brick Schoolhouse (Meeting Street School, Providence Preservation Society), John Brown House, Thayer Street. Adjacent to the East Side is Fox Point, containing India Point Park and Wickenden Street.

Suggested Walking Tour:

College Hill Walking Tour (be sure you have the Google Maps App)


Providence was founded by Roger Williams who was fleeing religious persecution. This tour highlights some of the beautiful historic religious landmarks in the city: The First Baptist Church, All Saints Memorial Church, Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, The Gothic First Universalist Church, Beneficient Congregational Church, Grace Church, First Unitarian Church, St. Stephen’s Church, The Cathedral of St. John.

Suggested Walking Tour:

Religion Walking Tour (be sure you have the Google Maps App)


Providence has been dubbed the “Creative Capital.” In this strand, you can visit Rhode Island’s top design school’s RISD Art Museum, which houses over 100,000 objects. RISD will waive admission charges to NRHC conference attendees who present their ID badges. Additionally, there are many other galleries and studios, including: The Providence Art Club (2nd oldest art club in the country), located in Fleur-de-Lis Studios, Sol Koffler Graduate Student Gallery at RISD, Above Providence Optical Gallery, ArtProv gallery, Bank Rhode Island Gallery in the Turk’s Head Building, New Urban Arts, AS220.

Suggested Walking Tour:

Art Walking Tour (be sure you have the Google Maps App)


Among its many historic libraries, Providence also has ties to Edgar Allan Poe and HP Lovecraft. Lovecraft was born and lived the majority of his life on the East Side of Providence. As you walk the areas of Benefit and Prospect streets, you can see the Athenaeum, John Hay Library, John Carter Brown Library, Samuel B. Mumford House, Old Court Bed and Breakfast, Hamilton House, Sarah Helen Whitman House/John Reynolds House, residences and haunts of H.P. Lovecraft, Prospect Park, Providence Public Library, Brown University library buildings.

Suggested Walking Tour:

Literature Walking Tour (be sure you have the Google Maps App)

Federal Hill / West End

In the 19th century, Providence became a manufacturing city requiring mill workers. By the turn of the century, the city saw global migrations and many nationalities contributed to the life of the multilingual city. Today the West Side is a dynamic community that still has roots in the vast immigration to the city. La Pigna (The Pine Cone) is the entrance to Federal Hill which extends down Atwells Avenue and Broadway. Here, you can eat and sit in DePasquale Square or see some of the more colorful locations in Providence’s lore. The West End continues down Dean Street and Westminster Street to the Providence Armory.

Suggested Walking Tour:

Federal Hill/West End Walking Tour (be sure you have the Google Maps App)

History and Architecture

Providence is home to many well-preserved American landmarks each with unique architecture. Explorers in this strand can find architectural wonders all around the city. Prominent areas include: Benefit Street (be sure to visit the Benefit Street Arsenal). The Armory of Mounted Commands on North Main Street is also a piece of architectural beauty. And the Providence Armory (on Dexter and Promenade Street) is perhaps the finest piece of architecture in the state. These historic buildings represent the sacrifices made for freedom. Additional landmarks for important Providence history include: Old State House, Fleur-de-Lis Studios, Providence County Courthouse, Old Stone Bank, Athenaeum, John Hay Library, The First Baptist Church, Governor Henry Lippitt House, Rhode Island State House, Governor Stephen Hopkins House, The Brick Schoolhouse (Meeting Street School, Providence Preservation Society) and John Brown House.

Suggested Walking Tour:

History and Architecture Walking Tour (be sure you have the Google Maps App)

Additional Resources:

Historic Attractions in Providence

The Historic Armories of Rhode Island

WaterFire Arts Center

The renovation of the US Rubber Company building is now WaterFire Arts Center [https://artscenter.waterfire.org/] the a multi-purpose arts facility and headquarters of Providence’s world-renowned WaterFire, a “multi-sensory art installation of nearly 100 dancing bonfires that wind along the Providence River.” During the time of NRHC in Providence, it will house Rosa Park’s house, despite setbacks arising related to funding. Participants on this strand will view the building, talk to members of the WaterFire leadership team, including Barnaby Evans who is giving the Friday evening keynote talk, and volunteer service by helping create wishing stars and torches to be used throughout the 2018 WaterFire season.

Suggested Walking Tour:

WaterFire Arts Center Walking Tour (be sure you have the Google Maps App)

Additional Resources:

Waterfire Schedule of Events