Market Square, Providence, Rhode Island


Market Square is a
market square The market square (or sometimes, the market place) is a square In Euclidean geometry, a square is a regular The term regular can mean normal or in accordance with rules. It may refer to: People * Moses Regular (born 1971), America football p ...

market square
Providence, Rhode Island Providence is the capital and most populous city of the U.S. state In the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, prima ...

Providence, Rhode Island
. It is located at the intersection of present-day North Main Street and College Street at the base of College Hill. Market Square has historically functioned as a commercial, civic, and cultural locus of Providence.


Colonial era

In the 17th century the land comprising modern day Market Square was originally owned by Chad Brown, progenitor of the Brown family, later affiliated with
Brown University Brown University is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty Springfield, after an absence of nearly two de ...

Brown University
. The square's origin lies in a 1738 order by the Providence Town Council, which established a highway 123 feet in width, extending from Towne Street (now South Main Street) to the Great Bridge. At the time, the area was known as the Town Parade. In 1744, a Haymarket was organized at the site, establishing the square as a local center of commerce. The square's focal structure,
Market House A Market House is a covered space historically used as a marketplace fa:بازار A market, or marketplace, is a location where people regularly gather for the purchase and sale of provisions, livestock, and other goods. In different part ...
, was constructed between 1773 and 1775. On March 2, 1775, Providence residents, inspired by the then-recent
Boston Tea Party The Boston Tea Party was an American political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, making decisions in Social group, groups, or other forms of Power (social and political), power relati ...

Boston Tea Party
, gathered in Market Square to protest the
Tea Act The Tea Act 1773 (13 Geo 3 c 44) was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain The Parliament of Great Britain was formed in May 1707 following the ratification of the Acts of Union 1707, Acts of Union by both the Parliament of England an ...
. The colonists heaped a large pile of English tea in the center of the square, covering the mound with a barrel of tar and lighting it ablaze.

Black history

As the commercial hub of colonial Providence, Market Square has been suggested as the likely site of slave sales, which constituted a significant portion of commerce in the 18th century city. The identification of the site as a slave market, however, has not been confirmed by primary sources. Historical references to slave sales in Providence suggest that these transactions traditionally occurred in private, commercial establishments rather than in a central, public space. Enslaved black laborers contributed to the 1775 construction of Market House. Among these laborers was Pero Paget, a stonemason who also worked to built nearby University Hall at Brown University In the 18th and 19th centuries, Market Square served as an important commercial venue for free Black entrepreneurs in the city.

19th century

In June 1843, President
John Tyler John Tyler (March 29, 1790January 18, 1862) was the 10th president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state A head of state (or chief of state) is the public persona A persona ( ...

John Tyler
toured New England while considering a potential third-party bid for re-election. One of Tyler's several Providence stops was at Market Square. The president enjoyed a meal at the Franklin House, an inn across from the Market House. The 1847 construction of
Union Station A union station (also known as a union terminal, a joint station in Europe, and a joint-use station in Japan) is a railway station Rail transport (also known as train transport) is a means of transferring passengers and goods on wheeled ...
effectively shifted the city's commercial center to in
Downtown Providence Downtown is the central economic, political, and cultural district of the city of Providence, Rhode Island. It is bounded on the east by Canal Street and the Providence River, to the north by Smith Street, to the west by Interstate 95 in Rhode Isla ...
. During the
Civil War A civil war, also known as an intrastate war in polemology, is a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine publis ...
, Market Square was the site of several public "war meetings" presided by mayor Jabez C. Knight. During these meetings, public officials and dignitaries made public announcements and attempted to build up enlistment and support for the Union side during the war. One such meeting was held in August 1862 to announce the Militia Act of 1862, which gave the state authority to draft. The act also allowed African-Americans to participate in the war as soldiers and war laborers. The announcement was received with "loud cheers." Governor William Sprague IV called for "colored citizens" to form a regiment, and promised to personally accompany this regiment into battle. In July 1863, after the Enrollment Act established a national draft, a blindfolded official selected names of conscripted men from a wheel in Market Square. In 1882 the first electric Arc lamp, arc lights in Providence were installed by the Rhode Island Electric Lighting Company on Market Square and Westminster Street. On September 7 (or September 8), 1897, the anarchist and feminist Emma Goldman was arrested for "unlawful open air speaking" and "attracting a crowd" when she attempted to speak in at Market Square, during a four-month lecture tour. The Edwin D. McGuinness, mayor of Providence had warned Goldman that she would be arrested if she spoke in Providence. She had been traveling to lecture on topics such as "Why I am an Anarchist-Communist," "Woman", "Marriage", the recent assassination of the Spanish Premier, and a speech "Berkman's Unjust Sentence," about Alexander Berkman's imprisonment for the murder of Henry Clay Frick. After jailing Goldman overnight, the Providence authorities ordered her to leave town within 24 hours, or else face three months imprisonment.


Market House was acquired by Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 1948; Market Square is currently surrounded by the school's urban campus. In 2016 Market Square was the site of a student organized protest 'Not Your Token' decrying racism and elitism on campus. Student organizers from Black Artists and Designers, created a list of mandates, which included increased hiring and retainment of faculty of color, faculty trainings and curricular changes. Protestors also demanded a memorial be erected in Market Square, acknowledging the site's purported associations with slavery and honoring victims of slavery in Rhode Island.


File:View of Market Square, Providence.jpg, Market Square in 1844 File:Market House, between 1857-1867.jpg, Market Square c.1860 File:Market Square, 1883.jpg, Market Square in 1883 File:Market Square looking E. c. 1890.jpg, Market Square c. 1890 File:Market Square and river.jpg, Market Square in 2021

See also

* Market House (Providence, Rhode Island) * Kennedy Plaza


External links

* {{coord, 41.8261, -71.4082, type:landmark_globe:earth_region:US-RI, display=title Squares in Providence, Rhode Island