Providence Walks: Self-Guided Historic Walking Tours

Immerse yourself in Providence's fascinating history, local lore and quirky tales by taking a self-guided walking tour. Learn about the historic East Side, the rich culture of the West Side, the evolution of the Jewelry District, the reinvention of Downtown, and the city's early Black history. 

Downtown Historic Walking Tour

Providence became a bustling manufacturing town and by the late 19th century, the city was the transportation hub of southeastern New England due to the extensive railroad network. The 20th century was an era that started with optimism, followed by the harsh reality of the depression and, ultimately, a transition for downtown. This era also saw the creation of Providence's modern skyline with new Art Deco structures, now icons of the this prosperous time in Providence's history.

Early Black History Walking Tour

Providence history is Black history, from the early days of the colony to today. Roger Williams founded Providence in 1636 on land inhabited by the Narragansett, Wampanoag and other tribes. In 1737, British colonizers turned to the business of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery to support themselves. They imported captive Africans who helped to build this colony and others throughout the Western Hemisphere.

East Side Historic Walking Tour

Providence is and always was a place for the fiercely independent. The visionary leader Roger Williams established the city in 1636 as a haven for freedom of conscience, where all people could practice their own religious beliefs, a place where they were not merely tolerated, but enjoyed the right of true equality. Freedom of thought reigned, which opened the way for freedom of action.

Jewelry District Historic Walking Tour

How did Providence, Rhode Island become the “Jewelry Capital of the World”? The first steps by Nehemiah Dodge and Jabez Gorham in the late 18th century happened outside of the Jewelry District, but set the pace for what was to come. Jewelry made in Providence was going to be affordable, mass produced and based on innovative technologies, particularly electro-plating. After the Civil War, most of the state’s jewelry manufacturing moved into the Jewelry District south of downtown.

West Side Historic Walking Tour

Beyond Interstate 95 lies Providence’s West Side. A bridge arching over the interstate takes you into the city of immigrants and strivers, of industrialists in Broadway mansions and mill workers in cramped triple-deckers. The Colonial town, built on shipping and the slave trade, huddled along the Providence River. By the early 19th century, textile mills had changed the economy, the result of Eli Whitney’s cotton gin and Samuel Slater’s industrial espionage. The new manufacturing city spread across the low-lying flats of the Weybosset side and climbed the hills south of the Woonasquatucket River.

Rhode Tour App

Rhode Tour is a free mobile app and website that tells stories by and about Rhode Islanders. A joint initiative of the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, Brown University’s John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage, and the Rhode Island Historical Society, Rhode Tour brings mapping technology, sound, images, videos and well-told stories together to engage us in learning about the places we live, work, visit — or perhaps simply pass by — in Rhode Island.

Visit to take a thematic tour sitting at your computer, or download the app for free from the Apple Store or Google Play to experience Rhode Island in a whole new way.