Culture, History, and Business
Providence was founded by Roger Williams in 1636, a Puritan minister who was expelled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for advocating for religious freedom, separation of church and state, and a more respectful attitude towards the Native Americans. It became a refuge for religious dissenters from its beginnings and merged with nearby settlements to form one of the original 13 Colonies. Providence was among the earliest supporters of the American Revolution and after the country gained independence the city thrived as a manufacturing hub. It continued to grow and by the early 20th century was one of the richest cities in the nation. However, the decline of industry in the latter half of the century led to a steep rise in poverty.
Today, Providence is undergoing a revitalization effort that is transforming blighted neighborhoods into attractive areas. Its economy has become more service-oriented and it is an especially important center for education and healthcare, with the prestigious Brown University playing a major role in the local economy. Finance is also an important part of the economy, as is industry and technology.
While many of Providence’s neighborhoods still have high levels of poverty, the city is changing rapidly and has witnessed dramatic property value increases. Revitalization efforts are helping make central neighborhoods far more enticing to young professionals and families. These efforts are helped in no small part by the fact that much of central Providence is a National Historic Site with gorgeous architecture dating as far back as the 18th century.
The city’s large student population and the fact that nearly half of residents rent rather than own their homes also makes Providence an excellent investment choice in the rental property market. Brown University may be Providence’s most famous college, but the city has campuses belonging to a total of nine institutions of higher education, resulting in a large student population that is routinely looking for places to rent.