Explore Providence: The Athenaeum

251 Benefit St., 401-421-6970
Housed in an 1838 Greek Revival building designed by Philadelphia architect William Strickland, the Athenaeum is an independent, member-supported library — one of the oldest in the nation. While only members may borrow materials, the “Ath” is open to the public, and visitors are warmly welcomed by its knowledgeable staff. Immerse yourself in another era among the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, marble busts of writers, and the old card catalog. Self-guided tours will help you learn about the treasures that fill every nook and cranny of this venerable Providence institution. You’ll soon see why this was one of Edgar Allen Poe’s favorite hangouts when he was in town courting the poet Sarah Helen Whitman.

While steeped in history, the Athenaeum is not stuck there. NPR stated that it’s “a 19th-century library with the soul of a 21st-century rave party. In fact, the Rhode Island institution has been called a national model for civic engagement.” With innovative programs that includes fascinating salons and lunches with librarians, the Athenaeum is committed to preserving its past, while helping to build the future of its place within the community.

See the Athenaeum on your visit to Benefit Street.

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