Archive for the ‘ History ’ Category

filed under: Books | History

Roger Williams Biographer To Speak Wednesday

12PM ON 07/01/2012
BY Beth Comery

colbert with williams Roger Williams has a new biography, Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty by John M. Barry. The new book was reviewed last Sunday for the New York Times Book Review by historian Joyce E. Chaplin. She opens with this astonishing statement,

Should you find yourself in front of the Rhode Island Statehouse in Providence, look up and east, and tip your hat — real or imagined — to Roger Williams. A 35-foot statue of the Protestant theologian (1603?-1683) stands high in Prospect Terrace Park, with right hand extended, as if blessing the city he founded.

Thirty-five feet?! This number sounded a little high so we set out to take our own measurements and the Colbert (One Colbert = 5′9″) seemed as good a unit as any for this purpose. So let’s say that the statue measures roughly three Colberts, that would still only add up to 17 feet or so. (Yes, we know there is some geometry to be performed involving shadows and hypotenuses, but our budget does not allow for such elaborate calculations.)

So not only has The Dose caught the New York Times in a factual error, but an online search produces only one source for that “35-foot”  detail — Wikipedia. Oh for shame.

However, all this has nothing to do with Mr. Barry (I don’t think) who Chaplin describes as a “gifted author.”  In a recent interview with Phoenix scribe David Scharfenberg — “Roger Williams gets his due” — Barry attributes Williams’ powers of persuasion in no small part to his “sincerity and enthusiasm”, able to convince no less than Oliver Cromwell to “stop Massachusetts from forcing [Indians] to convert to Christianity.” Roger Williams actually got Oliver Cromwell to think about Indians.

Reading and reception: John M. Barry will be at the John Carter Brown Library on the Brown University main green (in from George at Brown Street) this Wednesday, January 11, from 5:30pm to 7:30pm.

filed under: History | Music

Providence Birthday Party Tuesday At PPAC

8PM ON 20/11/2011
BY Daily Dose

375 years From the Office of the Mayor,

Mayor Angel Taveras invites you to the Providence 375th birthday celebration at the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC). The night begins with a fireworks display at 6pm. Ticket holders will then enjoy live performances by Providence native Jeffrey Osborne, Deer Tick, Area 401, the Barr Brothers, the ‘Mericans, the Extraordinary Rendition Band, and TropiGals.

AS220’s Photographic Memory booth will provide memories of this milestone. History buffs will have the opportunity to test their knowledge on trivia created by the Rhode Island Historical Society, the City of Providence’s Archives Department will provide historic memorabilia and the Providence Fire Department will offer a look back on its history.

Tickets are $3.75, $13.75, $37.50 and are available at the PPAC Box Office, 401.421.ARTS, or All proceeds will benefit the Providence Community Library.

6pm to 10pm, Tuesday, November 22, PPAC, 220 Weybosset Street

filed under: History | War

Veteran’s Day

3PM ON 11/11/2011
BY Annie Messier

Peter-FegatelliIndiana Military has compiled information on Providence native Peter Frank Fegatelli, who perished in Vietnam at the tender age of 19 while serving with the Army National Guard–including the notification letter to his parents and the family’s reactions in a ProJo article decades later.

Today, his memory lives on in Peter Fegatelli Memorial Square in Providence. Stumbling on this modest sign and plaque with two small, neat American flags tucked into a quiet corner just down the street from Rhode Island College a few years ago, I’d been immediately curious.

I have a number of relatives and family friends both living and dead who’ve served in the military, but somehow, each Veterans Day, I end up thinking of this Rhode Island stranger who died years before I was born so far from home. It helps to put a face on wars that are so removed from normal, everyday life.

filed under: Arts and Crafts | History

The Art Of Roger Williams: Providence At 375 Exhibit

7AM ON 07/11/2011
BY aatticks

Roger Williams porcelainThe Art of Roger Williams: Providence at 375 opens Tuesday, November 8 with a talk entitled, “Picturing Roger Williams: The use of pottery and porcelain to convey an icon of Rhode Island identity” by Al Klyberg, former Executive Director of the Rhode Island Historical Society. The talk begins at 5:30pm in the second floor Lownes Room of the John Hay Library on the Brown University campus and is open to the public. The Art of Roger Williams is funded by the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities. Exhibit includes pottery, rare paintings, commemorative items, illustrations, personal documents and coins.

Exhibit runs through January 31, John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street, 863.3723

filed under: Books | History

Author Tony Horwitz At The Athenaeum Friday

8AM ON 01/11/2011
BY Beth Comery

Midnight Rising Brown alum Tony Horwitz, author of Confederates in the Attic, Blue Latitudes, and A Voyage Long and Strange, will speak Friday about his latest work.

Tony Horwitz joins us to talk about his new book Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War. John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry was a pivotal moment in US history, yet few know the full story of this desperate strike at the slaveholding South. Brown saw slavery as a sin against America’s founding principles and was willing to take up arms. In 1859 Brown led a catastrophic raid on Harpers Ferry, stunning the nation; Robert E. Lee led the counterattack. After Brown’s capture, his defiant eloquence galvanized the North and appalled the South, which thought Brown a terrorist. The raid helped elect Abraham Lincoln, who later began to fulfill Brown’s dream with the Emancipation Proclamation, a measure he called “a John Brown raid, on a gigantic scale.”

You can click here for the New York Times review or just take my word for it that everything this guy writes is superb and wildly entertaining. Copies of Midnight Rising will be available for sale and signing. (There appears to be a bodice-ripper of the same title — accept no substitutes.)

Free and open to the public, 5pm to 7pm, Friday, November 4, Providence Athenaeum, 251 Benefit Street

filed under: History |

Rickman Lecture Thursday — 19th Century Race Riots

8AM ON 26/10/2011
BY H.L. Parker

snowtown riot Another installment of the Inspired Providence lecture series with former President of the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society Ray Rickman — How Providence Became a City: the Impact of the Hardscrabble and Snowtown Race Riots of 1824 and 1831.

Early 19th century Americans viewed their world through the prism of the newspaper. . . . It was the newspapers that spoke about the tensions in the rapidly growing town of Providence between those with wealth and those without; the tensions between those who had steady employment and those that struggled to get steady employment; the tensions between the African-American neighborhoods and the rest of the town. All too often, these tensions played out in violent ways, as was the case with the race riots in Hardscrabble and Snowtown of 1824 and 1831. What was the impact of these uprisings on Providence and its ability to protect its citizens? Join us as Ray Rickman paints a picture of growing Providence, a burgeoning African-American population, and the role of local newspapers in creating divisions around race and class.

Sponsored by the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities.

6pm, Thursday, October 27, Old State House, 150 Benefit Street

filed under: History | Readings & Lectures

The Memorial At Prospect Terrace — Lecture

2PM ON 04/10/2011
BY H.L. Parker

prospect terrace The Providence Athenaeum hosts this installment of the continuing “Inspired Providence” series.

Providence Preservation Society Executive Director James Hall on “Monumental: A Fitting Memorial for the Founding Father: The competition to design the Roger Williams Memorial,” part of “Inspired Providence: A Public Lecture Series.” When 75 years ago Providence celebrated the 300th anniversary of its founding, the 1933 approach to commemoration differed significantly from today’s efforts. Hall examines the architectural competition that led to the creation of the Roger Williams Memorial in Prospect Park on Congdon Street.

Free and open to the public.  Reception from 6pm to 6:30pm. Program at 6:30.

6pm to 7:30pm, Thursday, October 6, Providence Athenaeum, 251 Benefit Street, 421.6970

filed under: Books | History

Melville Salon At The Athenaeum

8AM ON 29/09/2011
BY H.L. Parker

his world and work Who was Herman Melville? Born into a family of declining wealth and status, half New Yorker, half New Englander, he went to sea as a young man and returned to chronicle the deepest crises of his era, from the debates over slavery through the bloodbath of the Civil War to the intellectual and spiritual revolution wrought by Darwin. Learn more at part 7 of the continuing series “Hark! The White Whale!” this Friday at the Providence Athenaeum. Andrew Delbanco will discuss his 2005 biography Melville: His World and Work.

Delbanco charts Melville’s growth from the bawdy storytelling of Typee through the spiritual preoccupations building up to Moby-Dick and later works, creating a vivid narrative of his tragic family life, intense friendship with Nathaniel Hawthorne, bouts of feverish writing, relentless financial pressure, declining critical and popular esteem, and a final, demoralizing customs job. Delbanco uncovers autobiographical traces throughout Melville’s work, illuminating the stunning achievements of a career that, despite being consigned to obscurity long before its author’s death, ultimately shaped American literature.

Very favorable review in the New York Times — Delbanco “has managed to deliver a first-rate biography, shrewd and engaging, that ingeniously tacks back and forth from fiction to fact.”

Free and open to the public.

5pm to 7pm, Friday, September 30, Providence Athenaeum, 251 Benefit Street

filed under: History | providence

Spark It Up

11AM ON 28/09/2011
BY Beth Comery

John McNiff Dude. Roger sure knew how to get the party started. He was also asked to leave with some frequency.

The Roger Williams National Memorial, in conjunction with the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, presents ‘Inspired Providence’ a 7-part lecture series starting with the man himself.

This fall, seven nights of civic discourse and lively debate will take place at cultural institutions across Rhode Island. Come along as we explore the events, individuals, and beliefs that have inspired Providence both past and present!

On Thursday, September 29th at 6pm, please join us for the kick-off event at Roger Williams National Memorial as park ranger and local historian John McNiff revisits 375 years of interpretation and transformation at the memorial site.

I apologize profusely to all the worthy people behind this project for my lame attempts at stoner humor. Sad really.

Free, ‘Interpretation of an Idea’ with John McNiff, 6pm, Thursday, September 29, RW National Memorial, 282 North Main Street (directions)

filed under: History | providence

More 375th Events Coming Up

10AM ON 12/07/2011
BY H.L. Parker

Roger Williams The Roger Williams National Memorial on North Main Street has already started celebrating the settling of Providence with assorted events (sorry we missed the cake). There is no one specific date for our anniversary, but Roger’s 14-week sojourn in Bristol with the Wampanoags would have ended at about this time of year. Coming up this Saturday at 6pm,

Roger Williams’ Providence, a 45-minute walk looks at the changing face of the city from the days of Roger Williams to the present.

More events towards the end of the month include a ‘Trading Post’ and on July 30th meet Colonial rebel Mary Dyer whose Quaker beliefs led to her expulsion from the Massachusetts Bay Colony and to her death by hanging on Boston Common. Historians credit her death as the catalyst for establishing religious freedom. (ProJo 6.1.11)

Recommended beach read: The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell. She loves Roger Williams, warts and all. We should all be pretty proud of this guy.

6pm, Saturday, July 16, Roger Williams National Memorial, 282 North Main Street, 401.521.7266

filed under: History |

Original Declaration Of Independence For Sale

1PM ON 04/07/2011
BY Daily Dose

dunlap broadside The New York Times gift shop took out a full page ad yesterday in its own newspaper announcing that one of the six original July 1776 broadsides known to exist (four are in public collections) can be yours for a mere $1.6 million. (This is not the later signed version familiar to most people.) The Times makes one thing clear,

This genuine Declaration of Independence will be sold to the first qualified bidder.

This suggests that it could end up in the hands of the odious Koch brothers or others of their ilk — people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Click here for more information.

filed under: History | holidays

George Washington Slept Here

10AM ON 04/07/2011
BY H.L. Parker

stephen hopkins museumIn April of 1776, George Washington visited the Hopkins house, then located on South Main Street (early settlers were always dragging their houses around). According to the Gaspee Virtual Archives,

General Washington’s first visit was on April 5, 1776. He was on his way to take command of the Continental Army in Boston. Hopkins himself was in Philadelphia, at the Continental Congress. His daughter-in-law served as host. Her family wanted to lend her better china for the occasion. “What’s good enough for my father,” she is said to have replied, “is good enough for General Washington.”

Over-achiever Stephen Hopkins was the Rhode Island delegate to the Continental Congress. A successful merchant and ship-builder he was Chief Justice during the Gaspee Affair and nine-term Governor. While Rhode Island had already declared its independence in May, some months later Hopkins was signing the Declaration of Independence.

In 1776, at the age of 69, he had the honor of signing his name to the Declaration of Independence, which declared the colonies to be free, sovereign, and independent states. In these later years Hopkins had a shaking palsy, what was probably Parkinson’s Disease, and was noted to have said, as he signed the Declaration of Independence, “My hand trembles, my heart does not.”

Governor Stephen Hopkins House Museum, Hopkins Street at Benefit, open Saturdays and Sundays

filed under: History | art

Rip It Up! Tape Art Closing Celebration Thursday

10AM ON 29/06/2011
BY Daily Dose

tape installation

From the folks at Greater Kennedy Plaza,

Join us for the closing celebration of the Tape Art installation and fun participatory installation removal! Attendees can help to bring the installation full-circle by working together to lift up all the tape for a fun documentary project. Featuring musical performances by AS220 ZuKrewe and the Extraordinary Rendition Band, food by Julian’s Omnibus, and Trinity Beer!

The installation has been in progress for a few weeks now. Artists Michael Townsend, Pamela Baron, and Colin Bliss, covered 14,000 square feet with colored drawing tape as the primary medium. The mural is rooted in Roger Williams’ arrival to RI and part of the city’s 375th birthday party.

Free and open to the public, 4:30pm to 7pm, Thursday, June 30, Tape-Ripping-Off-Eating-Drinking Party (fb), Bank of America Center, Kennedy Plaza

filed under: History |

Celebrate Freedom — Happy Juneteenth

10AM ON 19/06/2011
BY H.L. Parker

Juneteenth In other parts of the country this day is celebrated with festivals and outdoor events that all seem to involve food and music. I can find no such events locally this year — feel free to inform us. Meanwhile the history behind the holiday is explained at the Rhode Island College library site.

The Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, but it was not until June 19, 1865 that Union soldiers sailed into Galveston, Texas and Union Major General Gordon Granger read General Order No. 3 to the people of Galveston, announcing that all slaves in Texas were free.

Celebrations of June 19th or “Juneteenth” began in Texas in 1866 and spread to the neighboring states of Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma, and to other states as African-American Texans migrated.

More info at a national registry of Juneteenth organizations and supporters.

filed under: History | art

Tape Art Project With Roger Williams Theme

8AM ON 08/06/2011
BY H.L. Parker

1700 Squirrels

The folks over at Greater Kennedy Plaza continue to think outside the box with innovative programming. They kick off the summer season with a month-long tape art installation on the rink downtown.

Tape Art, by artist Michael Townsend and friends, will create a unique large-scale temporary art installation in the entire Bank of America City Center as part of the Celebrate Providence 375 Years city-wide activities. Using only colored painter’s tape, this 14,000 square foot drawing will take approximately three weeks to take form by the artists, and will culminate in a party on June 30th where attendees can remove the drawing by working together to lift up all the tape.

The concept for the large Tape Art drawing in Greater Kennedy Plaza will be rooted in the arrival of Roger Williams to Rhode Island.  The image will depict Roger Williams landing on the shores of Providence and then expand to 14,000 square feet – exploring his legacy through the themes of Hope, Freedom, Roots and Ingenuity. “We are thrilled to have such a large surface to draw on,” said artist Michael Townsend. “And through this work, we hope to help share the city’s incredible history, lore and ideals with all.”

“Professional public artist” Michael Townsend gained considerable national attention back in 2007 when it was discovered that he and a like-minded cohort of artists had carved out and outfitted a living space of sorts inside the mall building for four years before being found out and kicked out by mall security (ProJo). Tape art has since become one favored medium; he is pictured here working on ‘1700 Squirrels’.

Most of the work on the Roger Williams tape art project will be performed between June 16th to June 30. A panel discussion on the value of public art, originally scheduled for June 9, has been postponed to Thursday, June 23rd at 6pm. Chat with the artists while they work on Thursday, June 16, 4pm to 6pm. More tape-related events are on tap; go to Greater Kennedy Plaza for details.

Greater Kennedy Plaza, Bank of America City Center, (Event on Facebook)

filed under: History | architecture

PPS 2011 Ten Most Endangered List

5PM ON 10/05/2011
BY H.L. Parker

providence national bank, facade The Providence Preservation Society has released its annual ‘Ten Most Endangered Properties’ list. Back on the list is the Providence Arcade (picture after jump) vacant since 2008. Recently a few mysterious signs appeared indicating that a “marketplace” was coming soon, but no one, including the building’s owner, knows what that might be about. (Mario Hilario reported for Channel 10.)

New on the list is the Downtown National Register District, with properties on Washington, Weybosset, Westminster and Dorrance Streets.

The overall quality of the Providence Downtown National Register District is being compromised by a number of factors: public policy insensitive to preservation, unregulated demolitions, and the currently depressed real estate market following the previous boom. Stronger demolition policy ordinances must be put in place to protect the historic fabric of Providence’s Downtown.

Seen here is all that’s left of the Providence National Bank on Weybosset Street, the façade — a fitting metaphor for the public servants who gave the demolition the green light. The building was gutted in 2005. (More at ProJo)

more »



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