Prospect Terrace Parties Like It’s 1939

The East Side’s famous promenade celebrated 80 in June, with no shortage of support

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Over a hundred people gathered under threatening skies to celebrate the anticipated rededication of Prospect Terrace on June 18, which marked almost 80 years to the day of the official opening of the promenade and its famous 14-foot statue of Roger Williams. “In many ways, we tried to recreate some of the festivities that marked the original dedication,” says organizer and Parks Superintendent Wendy Nilsson.

Prospect Terrace has been upgraded over the past nine months in what has become a successful model of public-private collaboration between the City Parks Department and neighborhoods. Starting last fall, in large part due to designs developed by landscape architect and College Hill Neighbor Association board member Sara Bradford, the park has undergone an impressive update, which includes completely redone walkways, a newly created sitting wall, new benches, lights, signage, even irrigation system. In his remarks at the event, Mayor Jorge Elorza took special pride in noting that for the first time in its history, the terrace is now fully handicapped accessible. “It is also part of my dream, which is now close to 97 percent achieved, that every resident of the city of Providence will be within a ten-minute walk of a city park that is clean, safe, and serves the adjoining residents in a way that makes them proud.”

In anticipation of possible sunset showers, three tents were set up “just in case.” Special lighting added a pleasant purple tint to the framing around Roger Williams. The 88th Army Band, whose predecessors had performed 80 years ago, kicked things off under the direction of CW3 Todd J. Garrepy. Tribal chanting from the Eastern Medicine Singers followed in recognition of the special relationship that existed between Roger Williams and the Native Americans who had welcomed him. After thanking the Mayor, CHNA, nearby neighbors, and former City Councilman Sam Zurier (whose Ward funds jump started the project), Parks Superintendent Nilsson introduced US Park Service Ranger John McNiff, channeling Roger himself.

The evening ended in historic Rhode Island fashion: The Vox Hunters (Armand Aromin on fiddle, Benedict Gaghardi on guitar and mini-accordion) played a medley of unusual local tunes with references to Roger Williams (naturally), the Dorr Rebellion, and Johnnycakes, while attendees huddled safely under the tents from the rain and Roger Williams smiled from his post.