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Broad Street | El Puente de La Broa'

Photo courtesy of Alberto Genao

A few feet from the site of Fefa’s Market and the Duarte monument is what locals refer to as El Puente de La Broa’ [the Broad Street bridge]. In reality, this puente is an overpass to I-95, and unlike the bridge in Pawtuxet Village with an idyllic body of water flowing underneath, there is a loud interstate highway running below.
This bridge on Broad Street has had the greatest effect on the physical fabric of South Providence because it was the construction of Interstate 95 between 1958-1964 that became the most significant border that appeared on both ends of this section of La Broa' | Broad Street, separating it into Lower Broad Street and Upper Broad Street, from North to South.

In addition to necessitating the demolition of dozens of buildings, the highway physically separated South Providence from the rest of the city, destroying its historic relationship with Downtown Providence and the water front. The barrier effect on I-95 accelerated the deterioration of the neighborhood — an invisible border wall built around this community caused the containment of the developing blight in a limited area where it would not be able to spread to other parts of the city. As a result, the urgency of dealing with the "problems" of South Providence soon became less pressing to the greater community.

By the 1960s and 70s, when Latinos had settled on Broad Street, South Providence had become a forgotten corner of the city, shunned by residents from other areas. It was seen as an empty, deteriorating quarter where century-old buildings were disappearing daily. Virtually entire blocks were abandoned and demolished within one year, and throughout the next two decades.

While still allowing for cars and pedestrians to cross the I-95 overpass freely, this border wall that was built around South Providence is a strange and unfortunate circumstance that has occurred in a neighborhood whose history and architectural heritage rival in significance to any other section of the city.


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