TBT: Westminster Street Mall from the Smolski Collection

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On Friday August 4th and Saturday August 5th, there will be a Sidewalk Sale on Westminster Street. So for this #TBT we’re remembering when Westminster Street was an outdoor pedestrian mall!


The Westminster Street shopping area was closed to vehicular traffic in the early 1960s in an effort to bring shoppers back to downtown Providence.

This layout was an attempt to draw in Downcity customers and slow the mass exodus of commerce into suburban malls.  It was ultimately unsuccessful, and the pedestrian mall gave way to a city street in the early 80s.

With a massive revitalization effort in the late 90s, Westminster Street came back from it’s reputation as the seedy, neglected home to adult entertainment stores and questionable bars. Eventually, it gave way to sophisticated urban housing, and small local businesses that undeniably represent the flavors and tastes of our Renaissance city.



Westminster Street During Tacofest 2017


Westminster Street during PVD Fest 2017


Professor Smolski was a geography professor who traveled the world photographing examples of urban renewal, city planning, historic architecture, and public spaces. He was a also a vocal advocate for Providence and urban life at a time when Providence was rapidly deteriorating and populations were flocking to the suburbs. Throughout his life he wrote hundreds of op-ed pieces for the Providence Journal, many about the unique character of Downtown Providence and the importance of preserving it’s architecture. In 2009 the Smolski family donated the late professors entire slide film collection and writing to Rhode Island College Special Collections. 

This series is in collaboration with Digital Initiatives at the Adams Library, part of RIC. Andy Davis, Digital Initiatives Staff, did the research for this article and gallery from their collection. 

For a full list of sources, please visit their website

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