Rhode Island

Cities

Rhode Island

Rhode Island, officially the State of Rhode Island, is a state in the New England region of the Northeastern United States. It is the smallest U.S. state by area and the seventh-least populous, with slightly fewer than 1.1 million residents as of 2020, but it is the second-most densely populated after New Jersey. It takes its name from the eponymous island, though most of its land area is on the mainland. Rhode Island borders Connecticut to the west, Massachusetts to the north and east, and the Atlantic Ocean to the south via Rhode Island Sound and Block Island Sound; it also shares a small maritime border with New York. Providence is its capital and most populous city.

Name

Origins of the Name

Despite its name, most of Rhode Island is on the mainland of the United States. Prior to 2020, its official name was State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, derived from the merger of four Colonial settlements. The settlements of Rhode Island (Newport and Portsmouth) were on what is commonly called Aquidneck Island today but was called Rhode Island in Colonial times. Providence Plantation was the name of the colony founded by Roger Williams in the state's capital of Providence. This was adjoined by the settlement of Warwick; hence the plural Providence Plantations.

The earliest documented use of the name "Rhode Island" for Aquidneck was in 1637 by Roger Williams. The name was officially applied to the island in 1644 with these words: "Aquethneck shall be henceforth called the Isle of Rodes or Rhode-Island." The name "Isle of Rodes" is used in a legal document as late as 1646. Dutch maps as early as 1659 call the island "Red Island" (Roodt Eylandt).

Changes to the Name

The first English settlement in Rhode Island was the town of Providence, which the Narragansett granted to Roger Williams in 1636. At that time, Williams obtained no permission from the English crown, as he believed the English had no legitimate claim on Narragansett and Wampanoag territory. However, in 1643, he petitioned Charles I of England to grant Providence and neighboring towns a colonial patent, due to threats of invasion from the colonies of Boston and Plymouth. He used the name "Providence Plantations" in his petition, plantation being the English term for a colony. "Providence Plantations" was therefore the official name of the colony from 1643 to 1663, when a new charter was issued. In 1790, following the American Revolution, the new state incorporated both "Rhode Island" and "Providence Plantations", becoming known as the "State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations". However, as matter of convenience, the state came to be commonly known as simply "Rhode Island".

Geography

Rhode Island covers an area of 1,214 square miles (3,144 km2) within the New England region of the Northeastern United States and is bordered on the north and east by Massachusetts, on the west by Connecticut, and on the south by Rhode Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. It shares a narrow maritime border with New York State between Block Island and Long Island. The state’s mean elevation is 200 feet (61 m). It is only 37 miles (60 km) wide and 48 miles (77 km) long, yet the state has a tidal shoreline on Narragansett Bay and the Atlantic Ocean of 384 miles (618 km).

Rhode Island is nicknamed the Ocean State and has a number of oceanfront beaches. It is mostly flat with no real mountains, and the state’s highest natural point is Jerimoth Hill, 812 feet (247 m) above sea level. The state has two distinct natural regions. Eastern Rhode Island contains the lowlands of the Narragansett Bay, while Western Rhode Island forms part of the New England upland. Rhode Island’s forests are part of the Northeastern coastal forests ecoregion.

Most of Rhode Island has a humid continental climate, with warm summers and cold winters. The state’s southern coastal portions are the broad transition zone into subtropical climates, with hot summers and cool winters with a mix of rain and snow. Block Island has an oceanic climate. The highest temperature recorded in Rhode Island was 104 °F (40 °C), recorded on August 2, 1975, in Providence. The lowest recorded temperature in Rhode Island was −23 °F (−31 °C) on February 5, 1996, in Greene. Monthly average temperatures range from a high of 83 °F (28 °C) to a low of 20 °F (−7 °C).

Rhode Island is vulnerable to tropical storms and hurricanes due to its location in New England, catching the brunt of many storms that blow up the eastern seaboard. Hurricanes that have done significant damage in the state include the 1938 New England hurricane, Hurricane Carol (1954), Hurricane Donna (1960), and Hurricane Bob (1991).

Cities and Towns

Rhode Island is divided into five counties but it has no county governments. The entire state is divided into municipalities, which handle all local government affairs.

There are 39 cities and towns in Rhode Island. Major population centers today result from historical factors; development took place predominantly along the Blackstone, Seekonk, and Providence Rivers with the advent of the water-powered mill. Providence is the base of a large metropolitan area.

Some of Rhode Island’s cities and towns are further partitioned into villages, in common with many other New England states. Notable villages include Kingston in the town of South Kingstown, which houses the University of Rhode Island; Wickford in the town of North Kingstown, the site of an annual international art festival; and Wakefield where the Town Hall is for the Town of South Kingstown.

Demographics

The United States Census Bureau estimated Rhode Island’s population was 1,059,361 on July 1, 2019, a 0.65% increase since the 2010 United States census. At the 2020 U.S. census, its population was 1,097,379. The center of population of Rhode Island is in Providence County, in the city of Cranston. A corridor of population can be seen from the Providence area, stretching northwest following the Blackstone River to Woonsocket, where 19th-century mills drove industry and development. According to the 2010 census, 81.4% of the population was White (76.4% non-Hispanic white), 5.7% was Black or African American, 0.6% American Indian and Alaska Native, 2.9% Asian, 0.1% Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, 3.3% from two or more races. 12.4% of the total population was of Hispanic or Latino origin (they may be of any race).

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2015, Rhode Island had an estimated population of 1,056,298, which is an increase of 1,125, or 0.10%, from the prior year and an increase of 3,731, or 0.35%, since the year 2010. This includes a natural increase since the last census of 15,220 people (that is 66,973 births minus 51,753 deaths) and an increase due to net migration of 14,001 people into the state. Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 18,965 people, and migration within the country produced a net decrease of 4,964 people.

Religion

A Pew survey of Rhode Island residents’ religious self-identification showed the following distribution of affiliations: Catholic 42%, Protestant 30%, Jewish 1%, Jehovah’s Witnesses 2%, Buddhism 1%, Mormonism 1%, Hinduism 1%, and Non-religious 20%. The largest denominations are the Catholic Church with 456,598 adherents, the Episcopal Church with 19,377, the American Baptist Churches USA with 15,220, and the United Methodist Church with 6,901 adherents.

Rhode Island has the highest proportion of Catholic residents of any state, mainly due to large Irish, Italian, and French-Canadian immigration in the past; recently, significant Portuguese and various Hispanic communities have also been established in the state. Though it has the highest overall Catholic percentage of any state, none of Rhode Island’s individual counties ranks among the 10 most Catholic in the United States, as Catholics are evenly spread throughout the state.

Economy

The Blackstone River Valley was a major contributor to the American Industrial Revolution. It was in Pawtucket that Samuel Slater set up Slater Mill in 1793, using the waterpower of the Blackstone River to power his cotton mill. For a while, Rhode Island was one of the leaders in textiles. However, with the Great Depression, most textile factories relocated to southern U.S. states. The textile industry still constitutes a part of the Rhode Island economy but does not have the same power.

Other important industries in Rhode Island’s past included toolmaking, costume jewelry, and silverware. An interesting by-product of Rhode Island’s industrial history is the number of abandoned factories, many of which are now condominiums, museums, offices, and low-income and elderly housing. Today, much of Rhode Island’s economy is based on services, particularly healthcare and education, and still manufacturing to some extent. The state’s nautical history continues in the 21st century in the form of nuclear submarine construction.

Transportation

Bus

The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) operates statewide intra- and intercity bus transport from its hubs at Kennedy Plaza in Providence, Pawtucket, and Newport. RIPTA bus routes serve 38 of Rhode Island's 39 cities and towns. (New Shoreham on Block Island is not served). RIPTA operates 58 routes, including daytime trolley service (using trolley-style replica buses) in Providence and Newport.

Ferry

From 2000 through 2008, RIPTA offered seasonal ferry service linking Providence and Newport (already connected by highway) funded by grant money from the United States Department of Transportation. Though the service was popular with residents and tourists, RIPTA was unable to continue after the federal funding ended. Service was discontinued as of 2010. The service resumed in 2016 and has been successful. The privately run Block Island Ferry links Block Island with Newport and Narragansett with traditional and fast-ferry service, while the Prudence Island Ferry connects Bristol with Prudence Island. Private ferry services also link several Rhode Island communities with ports in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York.

Rail

The MBTA Commuter Rail's Providence/Stoughton Line links Providence and T. F. Green Airport with Boston's South Station. The line was later extended southward to Wickford Junction, with service beginning April 23, 2012. The state hopes to extend the MBTA line to Kingston and Westerly, as well as explore the possibility of extending Connecticut's Shore Line East to T.F. Green Airport. Amtrak's Acela Express stops at Providence Station (the only Acela stop in Rhode Island), linking Providence to other cities in the Northeast Corridor. Amtrak's Northeast Regional service makes stops at Providence Station, Kingston, and Westerly.

Aviation

Rhode Island's primary airport for passenger and cargo transport is T. F. Green Airport in Warwick, though Rhode Islanders who wish to travel internationally on direct flights and those who seek a greater availability of flights and destinations often fly through Logan International Airport in Boston.

Education

Rhode Island has several colleges and universities:

  • Brown University
  • Bryant University
  • Community College of Rhode Island
  • Johnson & Wales University
  • Naval War College
  • New England Institute of Technology
  • Providence College
  • Rhode Island College
  • Rhode Island School of Design
  • Roger Williams University
  • Salve Regina University of Newport
  • University of Rhode Island

Culture

Local Accent

Some Rhode Islanders speak with the distinctive, non-rhotic, traditional Rhode Island accent linguists describe as a cross between New York City and Boston accents (e.g., "water" sounds like "watuh" [ˈwɔəɾə]). Many Rhode Islanders distinguish a strong aw sound [ɔə] (i.e., resist the cot–caught merger of Boston) much like one might hear in New Jersey or New York City; for example, the word coffee is pronounced [ˈkʰɔəfi]. Rhode Islanders sometimes refer to drinking fountains as "bubblers", milkshakes as "cabinets", and overstuffed foot-long sandwiches (of whatever kind) as "grinders".

Food and Beverages

Rhode Island, like the rest of New England, has a tradition of clam chowder. Both the white New England and the red Manhattan varieties are popular, but there is also a unique clear-broth chowder known as Rhode Island Clam Chowder available in many restaurants. A culinary tradition in Rhode Island is the clam cake (also known as a clam fritter outside of Rhode Island), a deep fried ball of buttery dough with chopped bits of clam inside. They are sold by the half-dozen or dozen in most seafood restaurants around the state, and the quintessential summer meal in Rhode Island is chowder and clam cakes.

The quahog is a large local clam usually used in a chowder. It is also ground and mixed with stuffing or spicy minced sausage, and then baked in its shell to form a stuffie. Calamari (squid) is sliced into rings and fried as an appetizer in most Italian restaurants, typically served Sicilian-style with sliced banana peppers and marinara sauce on the side. (In 2014, calamari became the official state appetizer.) Clams Casino originated in Rhode Island, invented by Julius Keller, the maitre d' in the original Casino next to the seaside Towers in Narragansett. Clams Casino resemble the beloved stuffed quahog but are generally made with the smaller littleneck or cherrystone clam and are unique in their use of bacon as a topping.

The official state drink of Rhode Island is coffee milk, a beverage created by mixing milk with coffee syrup. This unique syrup was invented in the state and is sold in almost all Rhode Island supermarkets, as well as its bordering states. Johnnycakes have been a Rhode Island staple since Colonial times, made with corn meal and water then pan-fried much like pancakes.

Submarine sandwiches are called grinders throughout Rhode Island, and the Italian grinder, made with cold cuts such as ham, prosciutto, capicola, salami, and Provolone cheese, is especially popular. Linguiça or chouriço is a spicy Portuguese sausage that the state's large Portuguese community often serves with peppers and eats with hearty bread.

Sports

Rhode Island's only professional minor league team is the Providence Bruins ice hockey team of the American Hockey League, who are a top-level minor league affiliate of the Boston Bruins. They play in the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence and won the AHL's Calder Cup during the 1998–99 AHL season. The Pawtucket Red Sox baseball team was a Triple-A International League affiliate of the Boston Red Sox from 1973 to 2020. They played at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket and had won four league titles, the Governors' Cup, in 1973, 1984, 2012, and 2014. McCoy Stadium also has the distinction of being home to the longest professional baseball game ever played – 33 innings.

The Providence Reds were a hockey team that played in the Canadian-American Hockey League (CAHL) between 1926 and 1936 and the American Hockey League (AHL) from 1936 to 1977, the last season of which they played as the Rhode Island Reds. The team won the Calder Cup in 1938, 1940, 1949, and 1956. The Reds played at the Rhode Island Auditorium, on North Main Street in Providence, Rhode Island from 1926 through 1972, when the team affiliated with the New York Rangers and moved into the newly built Providence Civic Center. The team name came from the rooster known as the Rhode Island Red. They moved to New York in 1977, then to Connecticut in 1997, and are now called the Hartford Wolf Pack.

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