From an aerial perspective the wasteland looks quite picturesque. A beautiful covering of trees, abutted by a local community park with riverfront access, tells a poignantly different story than the one which emerges as you traverse the wasteland grounds. The rectangular swath of the land mirrors the still-present but non-operating Providence, Bristol & Warren Railway tracks. The last freight train traversed the tunnel in early 1980’s, soon after the land passed from private ownership to the State of Rhode Island. Since that time, there have been a number of proposals for redevelopment, none of which have come to fruition. The site consists of three distinct sections, including the riverfront bridge, the inland woodlands and the sealed railway tunnel entrance, beyond, which runs an underground tunnel to the city. Each section contains its own unique characteristics, typified by the remnant material culture and suggesting the intangible living heritage practices that occur onsite. The land is most easily accessible from both the east and west borders and is frequented by, surrounding community members, local college students, and those who take up residence in makeshift housing situations. The public private nature of the land problematizes a single narrative for the space and will serve as the cornerstone of the sites inquiry.
The Seekonk Draw Bridge, The Stuck Up Bridge, The Providence Bridge, The Eastside Railroad Tunnel, The Old Bridge Path
An often-distinctive factor of wastelands is its lack of a formal address. The Providence wasteland is located on the East Side of Providence RI, USA close to Gano St., Providence, Rhode Island, USA
The State of Rhode Island
There have been a number of diverse proposals by both local business community members as well as state officials seeking redevelopment of the bridge, land and tunnel for various transport initiatives. These have included ideas ranging form an automobile tunnel to a streetcar line and even light rail system.
The site has a richly documented history dating back to its inception in the early 1900’s. The area was developed in between 1906 and 1908 by the New York New Haven Hartford Railway Company as a more direct railway route between Union station in downtown Providence and companies lines in East Providence. The 2 million dollar project functioned originally as an electrified passenger railway system until the 1930s at which time its focus shifted toward freight trains. The 1970’s marked the end of the railways use and the land ownership transferred to the state of Rhode Island in 1981. The tunnel was sealed in the early 1990s and still remains a place frequented by individuals of all walks of life today.
The Providence Wasteland is sandwiched between these two iconic Providence structures.
The land is most easily accessible from the east and west points. From the east, paths on the outskirts of the baseball fields along the river lead toward the tracks, where well-trodden paths lie. From the west, the area is accessible from the parking lot of a small business located on Gano St.
The Providence wasteland is sandwiched between the local Gano Street Park baseball fields on the south and the neighborhood Eastside Shopping Plaza and residential apartment complex on the north. The eastern edge of the wasteland lies in the middle of the Seekonk River where the Providence Bridge is stuck in the upright position and the western edge comes to an abrupt end where the 25 ft tall tunnel entrance is sealed with corrugated steel.
Much urban folklore surrounds the lands uses and the tunnel’s subsequent sealing in the early 1990’s.