Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau

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Italian Heritage Center Exhibit

  • 286 Atwells Avenue
  • Second Floor for the Heritage Center
  • Providence, RI 02903
  • Phone (401) 273-2652
  • Dates: August 8, 2017 - May 3, 2020
  • Recurrence: Recurring daily
  • Time: 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM
  • Price: $ 5 per person. Proceeds offered to Chef Walters Children Diabetes Foundation

The only photographic collections of early Italian immigration in Rhode Island! Since 1886 Federal Hill in Providence Rhode Island has been one the centers for Italian immigration in the United States. Italian settlers replaced the Irish settlers which were inhabiting this territory immediately after the Irish famine. We decided to undergo a campaign of collecting photos and important documents that justly represent this hub of history and culture intended for the preservation of Federal Hill, Providence while honoring the richness of Italian - American immigration history. Many are continuously contributing in this endeavor which creates a palette of information for future generations. I owe this project to myself but most of all to those who crossed the oceans before me seeking a better future. Walter Potenza


The Federal Hill neighborhood is very significant in the history of Providence due to its central location within the city. The gateway arch over Atwells Avenue near Downtown is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Providence. Federal Hill is bounded by Westminster Street to the south, the Amtrak railroad tracks and Route 6 at the foot of the hill to the west and north, and Interstate 95 to the east. The area shares boundaries with six other neighborhoods: Downtown to the east, Smith Hill and Valley to the north, Olneyville to the west, and the West End and Upper South Providence to the south. The area now known as Federal Hill was originally the land separating the Narragansett and Wampanoag Indian tribes.

The early settlers were attracted to this area during the 18th century by the array of highways and turnpikes that already served the area. In 1788, Amos Maine Atwells and several other businessmen formed a syndicate to improve and develop the West Side of the city. Because of his active involvement in real estate and development near the Atwells Avenue area, he is credited with shaping the physical appearance of Federal Hill and with giving his name to that major thoroughfare. As with many other neighborhoods, growth was largely dependent on the improvement of bridges and the extension of roads and highways. In 1809, a four-rod road, which was the basis for today's Atwells Avenue, was laid out from Aborn Street to the North Providence border at the Woonasquatucket Turnpike. The construction of this network of turnpikes was instrumental in attracting commercial and industrial activity into the downtown area.