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Rhode Island (RI): State Guide and Fun Facts

When did Rhode Island become part of the United States? May 29, 1790

Who Founded Rhode Island? Roger Williams, 1635

First settlers: Paleo-Indians settled in Rhode Island over 8,000 years ago. Other settlers that inhabited the area before the arrival of the English included the Naragansetts, Wampanogs, Nipmucks and Niatics.

Square Miles: 1,545 miles (including water; in the US, all oceans within 3 miles of the coastline are calculated in total square mileage of the state)

US Rank: 50th (smallest state in the United States)

State Flower: Common Blue Violet (Fun Fact: Rhode Island was the last state in the United States to adopt a state flower. It was made official on March 11, 1968)

State Bird: Rhode Island Red Hen

State Motto: “Hope”

Capital City:

Providence is the capital city of Rhode Island. It was one of the first cities founded in the state, and was named by its founder, Roger Williams. Williams was banished from Massachusetts due to his religious beliefs, and founded Providence on the principles of religious freedom and acceptance of all.
Providence is a small capital city when compared to the rest of the states in the US, however it is the largest city in Rhode Island with approximately 175,600 full-time residents. This does not include the large seasonal student population in the city, as it is home to many colleges such as Brown University, Johnson & Wales, Providence College, Rhode Island School of Design and the University of Rhode Island.


What is Rhode Island famous for?

1. Newport, Rhode Island – Home to dozens of enormous historical and newer mansions. Famous residents include the Astors, Vanderbilts, Wetmores and Widener families. Today, many of these homes are available to the public for tours, while others remain privately owned.

2. Brown University – The Ivy League University is located in Rhode Island’s capital, Providence. It was founded in 1764 by the Reverend James Manning, and is the seventh oldest college in the US. The campus is a gorgeous area of the College Hill neighborhood, defined by buildings that survive from the original founding, reminiscent of Georgian style architecture.

3. Smallest State in the United States – Rhode Island is often only known to those unfamiliar with the state, as the smallest state in the United States. The area, first founded by Roger Williams may be small at only 1,545 square miles, but it is home to one of the country’s most prestigious Ivy League Universities, Brown, and many historically famous families, homes and estates. Other attractions that the small state squeezes into its land area include over 100 beaches, fishing trips, boat tours, wineries, nature walks, bike trails, paddling trips and hiking.

What is Rhode Island’s economy?

1. Manufacturing Industry – Historically, Rhode Island’s economy was centralized around the manufacture of silverware and jewelry. Other industrial manufacturing included machinery, metals, fabrics and rubber. As was the case with many states over the last century, industry steadily decreased to be replaced by other economic drivers such as finance and technology.

2. Financial Services – Around the turn of the century, Rhode Island saw a large shift in its revenue producing sectors. The financial services industry increased by more than 44% in just five years, becoming the state’s highest grossing industry.

3. Personal Services – Second to the Financial Services industry, personal services is the next highest revenue generating service industry in Rhode Island. Personal services include local businesses, research firms, law firms, technology and programming companies, repair shops and many others.

Rhode Island Historical Landmarks

1. Bellevue Avenue Historic District – This area, located in well-known Newport, Rhode Island, includes some of the state’s largest historical mansions. The Vanderbilt’s are perhaps one of the most famous Rhode Island families in the state’s history, and their estates are included in this district. Styles range from Victorian to Beaux-Arts to New England Shingle mansions. Many are state owned and open to public tours today. Some of the most well known estates in this Bellevue district include The Breakers, The Marble House and Kingscote.

2. Westminster Arcade (Providence Arcade) – This building was the first indoor shopping mall in the United States. It was built in 1828 by Russell Warren and James Bucklin. It’s reminiscent of a Greek Temple, with a three-storey open atrium arcade inside. Balconies on the second and third floor overlook the floors below, with railing of intricate ironworks that have been restored to their original grandeur through a series of renovations and restorations that have taken place since the building was originally constructed. The mall has recently been closed to the public pending further restoration work.

3. Gilbert Stuart Birthplace – The home of noted portrait painter Gilbert Stuart was built in 1751, four years before he was born. The painter lived there during his early childhood, while his Scottish immigrant father toiled in the basement in a snuff mill he constructed himself. Today, the house and property has been meticulously restored to its original state, with many of the original wood elements of the house still in good condition. Features of the home and site include a working water wheel, restored snuff mill, a gristmill built by the occupant that lived there after the Stuarts, nature trails, a burial ground and Carr Pond.

4. Roger Williams National Memorial – This memorial is a park in Providence, Rhode Island, named after the state’s original founder. Within the park is a visitor’s center with historical information about the city of Providence.