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A Trip Back in Time on Providence’s Historic Benefit Street

The East side of Providence is well-known for being home to Brown University. In the College Hill neighborhood, you will find some of the oldest architecture in the city. On Benefit Street, also referred to as the Mile of History, you will find some of the most beautiful colonial architecture in the country, including restored houses and churches. Benefit Street contains one of the highest concentrations of colonial homes in the country.

Taking a self guided stroll along Benefit Street will enable you to see some of the city’s oldest landmarks, including the John Brown house (built in 1788), The Old State house (built in 1762), and The Athenaeum (the 4th oldest library in the US).

Take a look at some of the highlights along this historic 1.2 mile journey

The Providence Athenaeum

The Providence Athenaeum

The library, which was founded in 1753, stands as the 4th oldest in the US. It is open to the public for relaxing, reading, or just taking a look around. Although small, the space is very cozy and old fashioned with beautiful architecture and floor to ceiling racks filled with old books.

Barker Playhouse

Barker Playhouse on Benefit St. in Providence, RI

The Barker Playhouse, founded in 1909, is the oldest running little theater in the US. This year marks the 105th season. Check The Players website for information regarding this season’s productions.

Thomas F. Hoppin House

Thomas F. Hoppin house on Benefit St. in Providence, RI

This historic house, which was built in 1853,is home to Brown University’s Annenberg Institute for School Reform.

The Nightingale Brown House

The Nighingale Brown House on Benefit St. in Providence, RI

The Nightingale Brown House, built in 1792, is home to Brown University’s John Nicolas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage.

The Rufus Waterman House

The Rufus Waterman House on Benefit St. in Providence, RI

The Rufus Waterman House, built in 1830, now operates at The University Club, a private dining, social & athletic gathering spot.

Frank Licht Judicial Complex

The Providence County Courthouse on Benefit St.

The Frank Licht Judicial Complex, also known as the Providence County Courthouse, was built in 1877. It is one of the largest buildings in the city. As you stroll by, you can see that the width stretches for almost a block. It was difficult to fit the entire building into a picture!

First Unitarian Church of Providence

First Unitarian Church of Providence - Benefit St.

The First Unitarian Church of Providence, built in 1844, is an architectural masterpiece.

The John Brown House

The John Brown House in Providence, RI

The John Brown House, built in 1792, operates as a museum open to the public. The impressive building was once the home of John Brown, the Gammells, and Marsden J. Perry. The house is located on Power Street, however, it can be seen as you are strolling along Benefit St.

Benefit Street is located on the East side of Providence, about a block from the Rhode Island School of Design. Parking can be found on any of the side street, just watch out for the signs. We parked on College Street.



2 comments

  1. Thanks for sharing your story. How exciting! There’s a lot of history in all the towns of New England!

    • James E Bliss
    • April 14, 2015  at  9:19 PM

    My father, Lawrence E. Bliss (actor & lighting director) and my mother, Carolyn A. Bliss (actress) were members from the early 1930’s through into the 1950’s. My later stepmother, Alice (Love) Bliss also acted during the same time period. They performed with some famous people who later gained fame in Hollywood and on the Broadway stage, one I remember was Ruth Hussey. I saw many a play there as a boy, and enjoyed access to the Green room and backstage talking with the actors.
    Also of interest, I was a student at St. Dunston’s Boy’s Chorister School just up Benefit St. from the Barker Playhouse, from 1944 through 1948. What memories!!



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