Sunday, October 12, 2008
The Providence River is now little more than a canal separating downtown Providence from the academic neighborhoods of RISD and Brown on the east side. In the hurricanes of 1938 and 1954 (Gloria) (and probably during the gale of 1815, too) the Providence River delivered enormous volumes of water into downtown Providence. So in the 1960s, they built the country's first hurricane barrage. These are big gates that can be closed when storm surges threaten.
Even when hurricanes don't threaten, the structure controls water levels, in part to facilitate the Waterfire celebrations every summer, when bonfires are lit in torchieres down the center of the river and people stroll the along the river walk or guide gondolas. Guess it says something for the diverse functions served by estuaries. Imagine the river lined with wharves in the 1700s, bustling with the slave trade.