To soak in some local history in Providence, be sure to plan a visit to Benefit Street — the famous “Mile of History.” Nestled between downtown to the west and Brown University to the east, here you will find an impressive array of beautifully restored colonial and Victorian homes and other buildings. Look for the John Brown House Museum (1786), built by the merchant, slave trader, and statesman; the Nightingale-Brown House (1792), home to five generations of the Brown family and now part of Brown University; the Sarah Whitman House, home of the transcendentalist poet and love interest of Edgar Allan Poe; the Old State House (1762), the colony and state legislature headquarters for almost 150 years and site of the first act in the United States providing for the gradual emancipation of slaves (1784); the Providence Athenaeum (1838), a Greek Revival structure built to house Providence’s membership library; and many more.
Walking tour booklets for Benefit Street and other neighborhoods are available for $3.00 each from the Providence Preservation Society (visit their office at 21 Meeting Street between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, or call 401-831-7440).
While you’re in the neighborhood you may want to visit the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, which is just across the street from the Athenaeum. At both ends of Benefit Street you will find restaurants where you can refuel after your walking tour.
Be sure to bring your cobblestone-friendly walking shoes!