Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau

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Market Square and the Market House

  • Approx. 8 North Main Street
  • Providence, RI 02903

Designed by Joseph Brown in a restrained Georgian
manner, the Market House (1775) was intended as a
magnificent landmark to the wealth of the colonial city
at the heart of the bustling waterfront. The groundlevel
arcades originally provided open stalls for
fishmongers, butchers, and produce vendors, while the
upper floor housed government functions. A Masonic
Hall occupied the third floor, added in 1797. During the
19th century, Market House served as City Hall during
a 30-year debate (1845-75) over the construction of
a new City Hall. It has housed classrooms for RISD
since the 1950s. Market Square, always a site for news,
gossip, and shopping, was the site of a colonial tax
protest against the British on March 2, 1775 when the
people of Providence burned tea. On September 7,
1897, Emma Goldman, a noted anarchist and feminist,
was arrested for unlawful “open air speaking” and
charged with attracting a crowd in Market Square.
Nowadays you are more likely to encounter a RISD
student’s art installation.