Benefit Street

If you’re taking a vacation, and want to discover some of the architectural wonders of the world, the perfect place to be would be Providence, Rhode Island, and in it, the Mile of History, Benefit Street.

Benefit Street can be found in the East side of Providence, and is just over a mile long, which is why it is called the mile of history. The downtown area is near the west of Benefit Street and towards the east side is the campus of Brown University.

Along the 1.2 miles of Benefit Street are rows and rows of beautiful old houses and buildings that are more or less in excellent condition and are buildings from the Colonial and Victorian era. These buildings throw in the picturesque appeal to Benefit Street, making it look like an outdoor museum for the Victorian era. Tours to this part of Providence are both enjoyable and entertaining, showing you the most glorious and eye catching buildings to date.

During the Colonial and Victorian eras, the wealthy Providence residents traded rum, molasses and slaves, all of which helped contribute to their wealth and with the help of the trade they erected luxurious houses in the city’s East Side area. Benefit Street is the perfect place to view some of these magnificent structures. One of such buildings is the John Brown House Museum, which was built with the money that was partly made through the trading of slaves. Its said to be dated 1786 and is a beautiful Georgian style building. The man, who built the home, John Brown, was a slave trader as well as a successful player in the China trade. He was also the man who contributed largely in the building of Brown University. The wealthy Brown family is not only linked to the Ivy League University but also to the famous Meeting House of the First Baptist Church, which is the oldest Baptist institution in the United States of America. It was founded in 1638 by Roger Williams and the current building which was designed by John and Joseph was constructed in 1775. The interior of the church is very modest, with no stained glass, crosses, statues or other adornments. Another notable church in this area is the elegant First Unitarian Church which dates back 1816.

Other buildings that stand out include the Nightingale-Brown House, which dates back 1972 and is probably one of the largest eighteenth-century wood frame houses in the whole of North America. It is 19,000 square feet in size and is a glorious place to visit because of its historical value.

This street is not only lined with mansions but also with much simpler and modest houses in Federal style. The houses have doors that open right onto the sidewalks and as you stroll down the cobble stone roads its quiet easy to imagine and travel back to the Colonial and Victorian era and feel like you belong here. Even the regular houses have plaques and signs which indicate when they were built and who designed them or owned them.

As Providence, and along with it, Benefit Street, grew, so did its cultural life. In 1753, the Providence Athenaeum was founded. Its Greek recovery style building, which was constructed in 1844 is a must see for tourists and people who are looking to see architectural treasures in this part of Providence. The Athenaeum was a favored place of horror and supernatural writer H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) who wrote the short story the shunned house about haunting at a place just up the street. The particular house, which was constructed in 1763 is still standing and was restored in the 1970s by its current owners.

There are a number of architectural treasures and outstanding buildings found on Benefit and to add to its attraction is the historic character found not in a few handfuls of buildings but throughout the street in each and every one of the houses and buildings. It is truly a must-see and must-visit for people who are interested in the Victorian era and want to grab a feel of what it was like to live way back then.