An annual festival of free, citizen-led walking conversations
May 1 – 3, 2020 UPDATE: POSTPONED
LOCATIONS ACROSS PROVIDENCE
Get to know some of Providence’s hidden treasures during Jane’s Walk, a global festival on the first weekend in May. Inspired by urban activist Jane Jacobs, Jane’s Walk encourages people to get out and explore their neighborhoods. Unlike typical guided tours, these free walks are led by volunteer citizen guides who share knowledge of their own communities while inspiring participants to think, talk, and connect. Providence is one of more than 200 participating cities with Jane’s Walks around the world, and that number grows every year.
As we approach the festival weekend, check 2020 walks page frequently for updates. We’ll add tours as they become available.
Doors Open Providence
Saturday September 26, 2020
Doors Open RI returns to Providence in the fall of 2020 with special access to 30+ places across the city, for FREE! Mark your calendars for Saturday, September 26th when visitors will gain unprecedented, behind-the-scenes access to the great places and spaces of our capital city. For more information and updates on our 2020 Festival, sign up for our mailing list.
Photos courtesy of James Turner
a Peek Behind-the-Scenes at the Providence Performing Arts Center
Saturday February 1, 2020 (1-3pm) – FREE EVENT!
On Saturday, February 1st we welcomed 1545 people for a behind-the-scenes look at Providence’s most spectacular theatre. Opened in 1928 as “Loew’s State”, the largest movie palace in Southern New England, it was designed by renowned theatre architects C.W. and George Rapp of Chicago known for their opulent and grand designs. It was a roaring success, but eventually the popularity of televisions took a toll on the theatre and attendance declined. The building’s careful restoration over the course of decades and its rebirth as Rhode Island’s premier Broadway theatre has played a vital role in Providence’s renaissance. Today PPAC, listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, is one of our greatest local landmarks.
- admired the intricacies and grandeur of the historic interiors,
- explored the projection booth for truly unique views of the theatre below
- stepped onstage and behind the curtains to see the mechanics of PPAC’s acclaimed productions
- visited the backstage area featuring wall art created by the many productions that came through PPAC over the last few decades
- experienced the powerful and reverberating sounds of the theatre’s 1927 mighty 5-manual Wurlitzer pipe organ, one of only three of its kind ever made and meet house organist Peter Krasinski
While we were slightly overwhelmed by the huge turnout (500 people were outside when the doors opened), the afternoon was full of special moments. Our favorites involved organist Peter Krasinski inviting kids to perform for the crowds on the Wurlitzer organ: future stars in the making!
Doors Open Pawtucket + Central Falls
Saturday September 28, 2019
Doors Open RI took on Pawtucket + Central Falls and it was a blast! We shared 10 remarkable places across these neighboring cities with over 1,000 people, for free. Attendees climbed into Cogswell Tower and found the mysterious grotto upon which it stands; they stepped into the Bridge Mill Power Station and discovered the stained glass dome of the shuttered Old Industrial Trust Bank Building and more. Together we shared stories and fresh perspectives on what makes these two cities so special.
Thanks to our site partners for opening doors, to our volunteers for welcoming visitors inside, and to all of you who came. It was so much fun!
This event is presented by the Roger Williams Park Conservancy, in partnership with the City of Providence Parks Department and Doors Open Rhode Island. The restoration of Betsey Williams Cottage was funded by the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission and the Rhode Island Foundation’s Campaign for Roger Williams Park.
REGISTRATION CLOSED FOR TODAY. Come on August 15th!
Free and open to the public. Due to overwhelming response, we have closed registration for today’s event, but have added an additional Open House on Wednesday, August 15th from 5:30-7:30pm. Please click here to learn more and RSVP.
Betsey Williams Cottage Opening Celebration
Thursday, August 9th 5:30-7:30pm
Roger Williams Park – Elmwood Ave. Entrance
REGISTRATION CLOSED FOR TODAY – COME NEXT WEEK!
Betsey Williams Cottage is located near the Park’s Elmwood Avenue entrance.
In the 1773 cottage that today sits beneath a massive sycamore tree, Betsey Williams, the great-great-great granddaughter of Roger Williams, was born and raised with her sister Rhoda. The surrounding fields and marshes were their playground, and as adults their livelihood. It was in the cottage that the sisters wove cloth to supplement their income and also invited neighbors to dine and dance with them. Upon her death in 1871, Betsey bequeathed the cottage and 102 acres of surrounding farmland to the city of Providence, which became the foundation of Roger Williams Park.
Join an opening reception for the beautifully restored Betsey Williams Cottage, which hasn’t been open to the public for nearly three decades:
- Explore the cottage and learn about its preservation, history, and significance to Roger Williams Park
- Share your ideas for the Park, and for future uses of the cottage
- Hear lively tunes by the Vox Hunters, whose repertoire includes historic Rhode Island music including a number of pieces about Roger Williams himself!
Jane’s Walk Providence
An annual festival of free, citizen-led walking conversations
Fri, May 4, 2018, 9:00 AM – Sun, May 6, 2018, 6:00 PM
LOCATIONS ACROSS PROVIDENCE
Inspired by urban activist Jane Jacobs, Jane’s Walk encourages people to get out and explore their neighborhoods. Unlike typical guided tours, these free walks are led by volunteer citizen guides who share knowledge of their own communities while inspiring participants to think, talk, and connect. Providence is one of more than 200 participating cities with Jane’s Walks around the world, and that number grows every year.
Travel through Time at Barker’s Playhouse
Thursday, December 14, 6:45-8:30pm
Barker Playhouse: 400 Benefit St. Providence
We’re pleased to welcome key supporters of Doors Open RI for a special holiday party. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of our volunteers and partners, our fall festival was a great success. As a token of our thanks and celebration of our shared success, we’re throwing a special party!
The Players have graciously welcomed us into Barkers Playhouse, for an evening of exploration and holiday cheer. Our program will begin with a behind-the-scenes tour of this historic theater on Benefit St, followed by a special stereopticon show led by our friend and historian Ned Connors. Strap on a pair of 3D glasses, and Ned will guide you back in time to the late 19th-century, where you’ll witness life-sized scenes of a dynamic, prosperous Victorian Providence projected onto the silver screen.
Doors Open RI 2017 Festival in Numbers
24 participating sites
20,000 individual site visits
92% of attendees rated the Festival very good or excellent
94% of attendees learned something new through the Festival, whether that was about a place or piece of history!
89% of attendees reported that the Festival made them feel more connected to the city of Providence
81% of attendees were local to RI, and of those 22% made the trek from elsewhere in RI. 19% of attendees came from outside of RI.
Doors Open Rhode Island Festival
Saturday September 23, 2017
We handed the keys of the city over to the people! We opened the doors to 24 unique locations across Providence, providing free, behind-the-scenes access without tickets or reservations. 4,000 people from Providence and beyond came in with fresh perspectives on what makes our city so special. Attendees climbed into attics, peered into vaults, examined specimens and even traveled through time. You connected with people, heard stories and shared your own.
Thanks to our site partners for opening doors, to our volunteers for welcoming visitors inside, and to all of you who came. It was so much fun! We look forward to doing it again in the fall of 2019.
“Wow…….what an incredible event! After 37 years as a RI resident, I was thrilled to see so many things for the first time during Doors Open RI.”
— Karen Borger, festival attendee
Photo by Francesca Gallo
Sons of Jacob Synagogue: Open House
Sunday, June 25th 12:00-3:00 PM
24 Douglas Ave. Providence
On Sunday, June 25th, over 400 people joined Doors Open Rhode Island for a free open house event at the Sons of Jacob Synagogue with an extra special welcome from the boundlessly energetic President of the synagogue, Harold Silverman. For many years, there was a thriving Jewish community in the old North End along Orms Street, Douglas Avenue, and Chalkstone Avenue. Though most of the 300 families that made up the congregation of Sons of Jacob have since moved to Providence’s East Side and surrounding suburbs, a small group continues to worship in the warmth of the richly textured ground floor built in 1906.
We had the rare opportunity to explore the synagogue, including the second floor sanctuary added in 1922. When the lights are turned on it transforms into a jewel box unlike anything else in Providence. Visitors had the chance to admire unique murals depicting animals, trompe-l’oeil scenery, and the Jewish zodiac glow in the warm light of dozens of old lightbulbs and a crystal chandelier. We explored this historic religious gem with klezmer music and refreshments, and learned about the synagogue’s history, its neighborhood, and plans for the future.
Watch a short clip from our Open House Program at the Sons o fJacob Synagogue, accompanied by Klezmer music!
Photo by Christian Scully / Design Imaging Studios
Steeple Tour of First Unitarian Church
Friday, May 26 12-1pm
Doors Open Rhode Island took a lucky group of people on a rarely experienced tour through the secret spaces of the First Unitarian Church of Providence (1816). We admired the expansive sanctuary, peeked inside the structural framework that holds up the interior dome, and climbed to the top of the church’s iconic tower for the best views of Providence. Once at the top, visitors rang the largest bell ever forged by Paul Revere and Son. Thank you to church member Richard Boober for being our guide up through some of the church’s hardest to reach areas. Can you imagine a better way to spend your lunch hour?
This tour sold out quickly. Sign up for our mailing list to be the first to know about the next one!
Funeral for the Fogarty Building
Friday March 17, at 4pm
On Friday March 17, we gathered around the open casket of the recently passed Fogarty Building in downtown Providence to say goodbye. Only 49 years old, the Fogarty was our most significant brutalist building in downtown Providence. Built as the home for RI’s department of Health and Human Services, soon it will be replaced by a hotel.
The building had some friends and many foes, we heard from both in eulogies delivered by several people who knew the building best. After the funeral we processed around the building with our kazoos to a nearby watering hole to reflect on the life of our friend and changes in our city.
Watch a short clip of the funeral procession as shot by our friend Mike Cohea.
Behind-the-Scenes Tour at Trinity Rep
Monday, March 6 @12pm
In celebration of the 100 year anniversary of Trinity Repertory Company’s building, and the great success of their new show “a Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Trinity took a group of us on a behind-the-scenes lunchtime tour of the theater. We were lucky enough to check out the props storage area in the building’s basement, visit the costume shop and even take an elevator ride up to the stage just as if we’re part of the show. As if that’s not enough, we also meet some of the people who make Trinity Rep’s awesome shows possible.
Monday, March 6 12-12:45pm
THIS TOUR IS SOLD OUT!
Open House at Barnaby Castle
Jan. 28, 12-3pm
With its ornate detailing, extravagant roofline and storied past, Barnaby’s Castle is a hallmark of Victorian design and one of the great cornerstones of Providence’s Westend. The home, built in 1875 and updated by Stone, Carpenter and Willson in 1888, lay deteriorating for a number of years. But thanks to the commitment of its new owner and residents, the building is now in the process of restoration.
Doors Open RI partnered with Barnaby Castle on an Open House event that welcomed 300+ visitors into the home. Half of our ticket sales, $2,330, were donated to Barnaby’s Castle to help in their efforts to restore this magnificent home. Visitors admired the interior detailing, Tiffany windows and intricate woodwork of the lower floors. They also learned the story of the building and were introduced to the cast of characters who made this home the talk of 19th century Providence: including Mr. and Mrs. Barnaby, their friends and lovers, as well as Mrs. Barnaby’s doctor and accused murderer, Thomas Thatcher Graves.
Mrs. Barnaby met her unfortunate demise through drinking from a bottle of poisoned whisky. As we worked together to solve the mystery of who was behind Mrs. Barnaby’s death we enjoyed tastings of (unpoisoned) whisky thanks to our partners Bottles Fine Wine. It was a delightful way to spend an afternoon!
Providence City Hall: Behind-the-Scenes Tour
Thursday Nov. 17th 5:30pm
One of our favorite places to explore is City Hall, so we couldn’t help but launch our tour series with a visit. A lucky group of Providence residents joined us on a tour of the building led by our friends in the city’s archives, Britni Gorman and Caleb Horton. We saw some of the greatest Providence treasures in the archives like our 1637 compact, 1648 charter and even Patriarcha’s mug shot. Next, we checked out what a City Council is like in session, talked with the Council President, and visited the alderman chambers before traveling up into the building’s attic!
Images from our City Hall Tour
Wish you had been there? Don’t worry, we’re planning another tour for the spring and hope you join us. All above images courtesy of Christian Scully,Design Imaging Studios