In 1680, Providence’s first wharf was erected at the foot of settler Pardon Tillinghast’s parcel, near today’s Transit Street. He petitioned for “a little spot of land – for the building himself of a storehouse with the privilege of a wharf also.” This was the first wharf, and the next year a town wharf was built opposite Weybosset Point. However, further waterfront development was delayed by farmers’ concerns about the difficulty in crossing the river with “Cannooes & Boates, Rideing &
Carting & Swimming over of Cattell” if the shore “became too built up with wharves.”
At the end of the 17th Century, Pardon Tillinghast also built the first church for the Baptist Society on Towne Street, at the present corner of North Main and Smith streets. Originally called Tockwotton by the American Aborigine, the point along the Seekonk River became known as India Point after John Brown began shipping tea and spices from the East and West Indies. During the eighteenth century, Providence was transformed from a rural hamlet into a seaport, trading with other colonies, the West Indies, Africa, and England.
Old timbers from previous docks can be seen across from Bold Point at the mouth of the Seekonk River. India Point was Providence’s first port. It flourished as a center of maritime trade for 250 years. India Point Park remained an important trade center until the Great Depression.
Paintings of the Old Town House and India Point from Fort Hill in the 1830s by Edward Lewis Peckham [Source https://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2014/08/11/painter-providence/ ]
India Point with Providence in the background is show above in photos taken from East Providence across the Seekonk River in the early 20th century.
Bold Point, which today sits across the Seekonk River in East Providence, is also used for gatherings, concerts and views of the 4th of July fireworks over the Providence River.
A small marina is located at India Point Park that was built in the early 1970s following the construction of Interstate Route 195.
An interpretive sign points to the other side of the Washington Bridge where Roger Williams first paddled his boat around the rocky bluff of India Point in 1636 and settled on the Great Salt Pond where he founded Providence [Click on photo to enlarge].
Today, the Park provides both open and wooded spaces for recreation and events.
Click here for a link to a history of India Point Park by Caroline Frank that appeared in Rhode Island History, Volume 61, Number 3 (November 2003), pp. 51-69.
Click here for a Revolvy history of India Point Park.
Click here for a Rhode Island Historical Society Publication of “John Brown’s India Point” by Caroline Frank.
Click here for an article about the history of the nearby Fox Point Neighborhood.