today, a walk down transit street in the fox point neighborhood of providence feels a bit like a walk back in time. beautifully restored wooden houses painted in cheerful colors line both sides of the street. wooden plaques adhered to the houses commemorate their first owners: hannah hacker's house, built ca. 1795; james pitcher's, built in 1786.
but there is another set of stories on transit street that isn't told through the names of these earliest residents.
through the first half of the 20th century, residents in fox point were primarily first and second-generation immigrant families from portugal, cape verde, and ireland. they did their work on the waterfront and in local factories. they built the local churches and managed the corner markets and bars that lined the neighborhood's commercial streets. and they lived in cold-water flats along streets like transit. in these homes they cooked food, they scrubbed floors, they hung clothes to dry out of apartment windows. their friends lived next door, their uncles and aunts around the corner.
in the 1950s, the construction of I-195 across the southern border of fox point cut the neighborhood off from the waterfront and many of its longtime residents began to move away. wide-spread 'slum clearance' in the 1960s meant that many of the neighborhood's buildings were destroyed in the name of urban renewal; those that remained were renovated and their rents were raised.
in the intervening years, the neighborhood has become home to college students and university professors. letters on transit street is a simple reminder to today's residents of the neighbors that came before them; an encouragement to remember the recent past and acknowledge their place in the continuum.letters in this project are adapted from transcripts in the fox point oral history collection. photos have been used with permission from the fox point flickr site. in early december, 2010, copies of letters and photographs were put into envelopes and strung to trees outside of homes along the street.
the project is the work of erin boyle; a master's student in brown university's public humanities program. she is a resident of transit street.