World War II brought some recovery to the local economy, as it
did nationwide, but the relief did not survive the end of the war.
By the late 1940s, Providence was again on hard times. The manufacturing
miracle of the preceding century was over. It would take several
decades for Providence to make the transition to the service economy
that transformed the post-war United States. Anna Tirocchi, aging
and increasingly ill in the 1940s, served fewer and fewer clients.
When she died in 1947, her sister Laura Tirocchi Cella closed the
In the 1950s and 60s, Providence made a transition typical of many
urban areas, especially Northern cities. First, families moved out
to newly developed suburban areas, a trend made possible by cheap
cars, new roads, and the GI Bill supporting new housing for returning
servicemen. As suburban towns grew, downtown Providence declined.
No longer was it the center of shopping and entertainment for the
urban area. Few buildings were added downtown during this period,
but there was some commercial construction in outlying neighborhood
areas. The largest industrial companies (American Screw, Nicholson
File, and Brown and Sharpe) departed for the suburbs, and the local
textile companies were virtually wiped out. Smaller manufacturing
plants headed for the suburbs, too. Providence began the period
with a population of 248,674 in 1950; by the census of 1970, that
figure had declined to 179,116a 28% decline. Railroads and
local mass-transit suffered as well, but new urban freeways made
their debut. In contrast to other declining trends, hospitals and
colleges expanded during this period.
At the beginning of the 1970s, Providence was much reduced from
its peak years, and city administrators worried about the tax-base
implications of a population that was older and less affluent than
in earlier decades. Nevertheless, they rolled up their sleeves and
put together various public-private investment plans. Historic buildings
in Downtown Providence were restored, and new buildings went up.
Community centers and parks revitalized neighborhoods throughout
the city, and many historic neighborhoods were refurbished. By 1980,
several economic trends were evident. Investments in the port were
paying off with a new marine terminal and containerized shipping.
Service industries were rapidly replacing the industrial and manufacturing
sectors that had dominated the economy for 150 years. Health care
services employed 38.3% of the workforce and education employed
20.7%. Manufacturing provided only 31.3% of the jobs, while retail
(16.2%) and the financial services (11.8%) continued to grow. The
economy was diversifying at last, insuring the recovery of an economy
that had begun to slide in the 1920s when the textile mills were
Immigrants have continued to flock to Providence. Among the latest
in the 1980s and 1990s are Hispanics and Southeast Asians. The 90s
have seen a great Renaissance in the city center. A new sports arena
and convention center complex have attracted new visitors to the
city. Uncovering and dredging the rivers that run through the downtown
area has created appealing waterways. A new train station, hotel,
and huge new shopping mall are also among the new downtown amenities.
Night life has been re-infused into the city center with the establishment
of new performing arts venues, a variety of new restaurants, and
the creation of a tax-free zone for artists that has made downtown
living possible and trendy. At the end of the 20th century,
Providences economy is on solid footing. Despite challenges
shared by every urban center in America, Providence looks toward
the 21st century with the same optimism it carried a
Note: Information on Providence topics was derived from:
"Providence: Three and One-Half Centuries at a Glance,"
and from the 1999 "The Rhode Island Century" project
of the Providence Journal.
>> read on about Custom