Bus Tour of Historic East Providence

Boarding the bus

On May 2, 2003 we had our bus tour to see the historic sites of East Providence. The trip was organized by the Historical Society in conjunction with the East Providence Chamber of Commerce and was open to members and the general public. At 10:00 A.M. about 40 people had gathered at the Hunt House waiting for the double-decker bus from the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council to arrive. Fortunately most of us were past school age and the crowd did not become unruly while waiting.

Our knowledgeable tour guide was Dave Kelleher, current president of the Historical Society. He directed the bus driver first through the back roads of Rumford to explore the remaining sites around the Ring of the Green and Bridgham Farm. After that we stopped near the Walker house, the oldest house in East Providence, located on Massasoit Ave.

Postcard view of the old
Washington Bridge

Passing through today’s downtown of East Providence the bus headed for Valley Street to cross under the Washington Bridge to the end of Warren Avenue, the original downtown and business district of our town. This was once the location of Watchemoket Square before Interstate 195 changed the area. At that time a covered bridge connected East Providence with Providence at this location. Before we reached the area we held our breath while the bus slowly passed under the bridge: the builders of the bridge had not expected double-decker busses on Valley Street. When we emerged on the other side we were relieved to find that we still had the upstairs half of our group with us.

Our friendly tour guide

From Watchemoket Square the bus took us along the Veterans Memorial Parkway and Pawtucket Avenue to Riverside. Along the way we passed the sites of two forgotten amusement parks: Boyden Heights and Vanity Fair. The entrance to Boyden Heights used to be located at today’s Boyden Avenue. A reminder of the park is a hexagonal house, built from the old band stand. Vanity Fair has disappeared without a trace, today Silver Spring Golf Course is located there. Before reaching Riverside we took a short detour through the Stonegate Condominium complex (with special permission) to get a good look at the historic Pomham Lighthouse. This detour gave our bus driver an unexpected opportunity to flaunt her driving skills: a truck was parked in the road and there was less than a foot of space between our bus and the truck on one side and parked cars on the other. Great maneuvering job!

I never knew how many historic houses were in Riverside, thanks to Dave I do now. After the loop through Riverside past the famous Crescent Park Carousel our bus took us back to the Hunt House. The house was open for visitors after the trip and it is a real show piece now that the inside has been painted. This tour was very enjoyable and I would recommend it to anyone interested in the history of East Providence.