Updates Made to Rumford Historic District on National Register
New information about three Rhode Island historic districts has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. J. Paul Loether, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission (RIHPHC), announced that the National Park Service has accepted additional documentation about African American and Cape Verdean history in the College Hill Historic District in Providence, amended the boundaries of the Rumford Historic District in East Providence, and accepted new documentation about the Georgiaville Historic District in Smithfield. The National Register is the Federal Government’s official list of properties throughout the United States whose historical and architectural significance makes them worthy of preservation.
Listed on the National Register in 1980, the Rumford Historic District is located in the northern part of East Providence on a level plain bordered by the Ten Mile River, Central Pond, and the James V. Turner Reservoir. This flat fertile land attracted a group of Puritan settlers who in 1643 chose the spot to be the village center of the Plymouth Colony town of Rehoboth. They set off a 200-acre common called the “Ring of the Green” and long, narrow home lots set in the bend of the river. In 1812, this place became part of the new town of Seekonk, Massachusetts. Fifty years later, it was ceded to Rhode Island to be incorporated as East Providence. When East Providence’s civic center relocated to Watchemoket, the area became known as Rumford due to the presence of the Rumford Chemical Works, established in 1857.
The 85-acre Rumford Historic District includes historic structures documenting four centuries of development, from Colonial-era farmsteads to 20th-century suburban subdivisions. The original nomination for the district focused on buildings and structures from 1643 to ca. 1890 and some early 20th century buildings. The revised documentation provides new inventory listings for properties that were in the original boundary but not listed in the inventory, and changes made to properties since 1980. Ten properties were removed from the district. The revised information was prepared by preservation consultant Edward Connors.
With the new information in hand, East Providence’s Planning Department, Planning Board, and Historic District Commission are recommending to the City Council to designate the Rumford National Register Historic District as a local historic district, and to protect the 75 historic structures by the City’s demolition ordinance. City officials anticipate a public hearing in October. East Providence Assistant Mayor Robert Britto said, “The preservation and awareness of a community’s historic structures are important components of a strong, resilient community and housing market. The preservation of the City’s historic structures alone does not protect property values or shield a community from a recession, but it’s one of the many tools available to a community to increase the marketability and appeal of its residential neighborhoods.”
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