Narragansett Hotel in the early 1900s.
There is a move afoot to resurrect old Providence, ensuring that places and buildings that once populated New England’s creative capital never die.
, an interactive website created by Rhode Island College alumna Maureen Taylor ’78, M.A. ’95, C.G.S. ’17, visitors can view and contribute photos and narrative on Providence’s history since its founding in 1636.
A historian and photo genealogist, Taylor is the “nation’s foremost historical photo detective,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
“My job is to fit photos into your family history, identifying them by criteria such as what people are wearing, their hairstyles or the type of paper the photo is made on,” said Taylor.
“I thought it would be great to give people a sense of place and time to see how Providence has changed through the years and is still changing, especially when you see the number of new buildings that are going up downtown,” she said.
Taylor is curating images from the City of Providence’s archives, the Providence Preservation Society, the Providence Public Library, private collectors, historic organizations and the general public who live in the 25 neighborhoods that make up Providence.
The site includes a vast collection that is accessible and free to anyone interested in where places or buildings used to be or still exist today across the city.
Interstate 95 now runs through where the Providence Gasometer structure once stood in the 1930s.
A Bristol native, Taylor said hundreds of people have checked out the site since its inception.
Searches on the site are filtered by date or neighborhood. A map displays location markers that, when clicked, show an image and a narrative describing the location. Users can also add their own place markers and narratives, which are curated by Taylor.
“Images in the form of handwritten postcards, typed letters, memos and legal records can be uploaded, too, by all users,” Taylor said. “These help to tell a well-rounded story about life in historic times through to present day.”
Once a curator for the Rhode Island Historical Society, Taylor is now seeking volunteers from the Rhode Island College community and beyond to assist with sifting through and posting the thousands of photos she’s received since the website launched.
Such teamwork is needed to expand the number of markers on the site, which Taylor considers educationally beneficial.
“How can you move forward in the future if you don’t know about the past?” she asked. “Together, we can keep the memory of Providence alive for so many to learn, enjoy and reminisce.”
Rendering of the interior of Immaculate Conception Church in Providence, founded in 1857 and razed in 1954.