According to Florence Simister*, Westminster Street in Providence was named by residents of the street who eventually hoped to set up a town of the same name, separate from the “tyrannous rule of the men in the old part of Providence” on the other side of the river.
Needless to say, that plan didn’t work out, and this weekend you can find out more about the street at The Museum of Westminster Street outdoor exhibition between Dorrance and Union Streets on Westminster. Its creators describe it as “a diorama telling stories of people and buildings on two blocks of Westminster Street.”
And if the exhibition inspires an interest in digging deeper into the history of the street, the Library offers a number of great opportunities for that as well. In addition to plenty of images and maps that feature the street in its evolution through the years, you’ll also find collections documenting life on Westminster Street, including:
- William Oscar Cooke , who was a lumber dealer. When he started out in Providence sometime around 1850, Westminster Street was known as High Street.
- The sign of the “Bunch of Grapes” hung at 291 Westminster from 1891 to 1972 and advertised the Gladding’s department store.
- The Franklin Lyceum met at 62 Westminster, where members debated topics of moment and heard orations from the likes of Edgar Allen Poe and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
* Florence Parker Simister, Streets of the City: An Anecdotal History of Providence. Providence: Mowbray, 1968. Pages 127-8.