Cover Story | ESM 40

Neighborhood Love

East Side residents proclaim their passion for where they live

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What better way to acknowledge the strengths of the East Side than by asking its inhabitants? Well, we’ve done just that and we have to say it seems the East Side just keeps getting better with age.

“I moved to the East Side reluctantly from Manhattan in 1993. When I looked at apartments, I was won over by the Fox Point neighborhood, where I still live. It has the charm and quirks of Greenwich Village without the high price tags, and I love waking up to the smell of coffee roasting a few blocks away at the Coffee Exchange.” -Ann Hood, author

“Where Starbucks is [now] used to be a big grassy lot we referred to as ‘The Indian Path’.  In the late ‘60s Wayland Square was quite elegant. There was a hat maker (she did my sister’s wedding hat), a men’s haberdashery, two drug stores, a few very high end women’s clothing stores and of course, Reliable Gold. There was a fur store, Thayer McNeil and Kays Newport, which had large fancy mirrors in the store which were supposedly from a Newport mansion. Newport Creamery was the gathering place after middle school concerts. Our family of seven grew up at the dead end of Medway Street and we are all still in the neighborhood.”

–Suzanne Kelley, reader

“I love going for long runs around the neighborhood. There is so much to see – from our neighbor’s pocket gardens, to the swans on the river, to the changing foliage on Blackstone Boulevard. And even though I don’t know many of the people whose paths I cross while running, after years of daily runs, we recognize each other by sight, and often wave hello. It’s a quirky, friendly, beautiful place to live!” -Annie DeGroot, vaccine researcher and entrepreneur

“I have been an East Sider my whole life. I grew up off Hope Street, one block south of Seven Stars Bakery. It used to be the neighborhood gas station. What I love so much about where I live is that everything is a mere stone’s throw away. There are three major business areas all quaintly nestled in the residential neighborhood – all within walking or biking distance – chock full of eateries, specialty food shops, clothes boutiques, a library, a Jewish delicatessen and a movie theater all privately owned by the small business owners who actually work in their own stores (except for the library, of course). The old adage is true; ‘a place where everybody knows your name’ makes for a very nice place to live.” -Deb Norman, restaurateur

“[Living on the East Side] is basically living in the suburbs but with the city culture and access. The community, the shops, the Boulevard, feeling safe, Apsara, easy access to so many neighborhoods. East Side girl for life!”
-Sierra Barter, Providence Lady Project

“I have been living on the East Side since the 1960s, when I came here from college to work as a reporter at the Providence Journal. I married, raised two daughters who went to public schools on the East Side and have never regretted staying here. The East Side has everything you ever could need. It’s a small city with a diverse population and cultural activities, wonderful architecture and an abundance of delicious restaurants. Why leave?” -Linda Lotridge Levin, journalist

“The East Side provides us the history and the roots we need in our lives. Because of its size, it’s easy to embrace as it embraces you back. The arts and architecture are part of the East Side’s DNA. Among our neighbors are so many creative, open minded, intellectually curious people. And for us personally, the Providence Art Club has become our second home. Such a wonderful community right outside our door.” -Audrey Monahan, retired dancer and choreographer, now a fine art photographer & Tom Monahan, retired advertising creative director, now a portrait painter

“Having lived for decades in an 1862 historic house in Charleston, SC, our transition to the East Side of Providence in 2007 felt like we were back at home. Our decision to purchase an historic 1852 home on Benefit Street was an absolute no brainer. Providence’s East Side offers many of the same amenities as downtown Charleston including fabulous restaurants, stunning architecture, cultural venues all within walking distance of our home. We enjoy participating in the many activities at Brown and RISD, getting involved with local art organizations and participating in the environmental activities. Our daily walks around the East Side neighborhood always offer us plenty of opportunities for social and intellectual stimulation. In so many ways, Providence is uniquely similar to our beloved Charleston (except for that ridiculous winter white stuff, of course).”
-Wendy Marcus interior designer & Al Goer interior displays manufacturer

“It was the extraordinary fabric of the historic architecture on the East Side that attracted me to come to Providence years ago and it continues to command my respect to this day. As a perspective student touring the Brown campus, I fell in love with the place. Where else in this country could you find such a collection of architectural landmarks from so many periods of our country’s development? From the 18th century there is University Hall, the First Baptist Meeting House and the handsomely restored houses of Benefit Street. From the 19th century there are the mansions built by the China trade merchants, as well as those built later in the century by wealthy industrialists. There are even significant modern buildings to be found on the various school and college campuses. What is also of significance is the dedication and hard work shown by East Siders over the years to protect and preserve this enduring legacy” -Clifford (Jack) Renshaw, architect and preservationist

“I first lived in an 1825 house on Williams Street. I think it is the most beautiful street in Providence, with blossoming trees in the spring and a parade of gorgeous Colonial homes. I read in a magazine that Barnes Street, where I live now, is the second most beautiful street in Rhode Island. College Hill offers a rich history of African-American life and culture, from William J. Brown, whose memoir explores a freeman’s life on the hill, to Sissieretta Jones, international opera diva who sang for four US presidents. I have explored all of these stories and more in writing, lectures and exhibits, and erected a plaque to Jones on South Court Street. In the 1980s, College Hill elected me State Representative twice, making me the first African-American to serve it.” -Ray Rickman, Stages of Freedom

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