I Know a Place… with Gonzalo Cuervo

Published in People in Preservation.

Think you know a place? We’re highlighting places that define a quintessential Providence experience for residents of the Creative Capital. PPS has asked each of the declared mayoral candidates to share with us their favorite places in Providence and will be sharing them over the next several months.

Gonzalo Cuervo was born in Providence, where he has been a community organizer, arts booster, city official and Deputy RI Secretary of State. He serves on the boards of the Providence Cultural Equity Initiative, Teatro ECAS, Crossroads RI, the ALS Association of RI, and the Latino Policy Institute at RWU. He is an enthusiastic biker who led efforts to create Ciclovia Providence from 2012 to 2015. Gonzalo lives in Mount Pleasant with his wife Francis and is a candidate for Mayor of Providence.

Murphy Trainor Memorial Park, Molter Street

Long before Roger Williams settled in these parts, the land around Mashpaug Pond, the city’s largest body of water, was a thriving center of indigenous life. This area would later be dominated by the Gorham Manufacturing Company, which heralded an era of industrial might in the region and left behind a legacy of contamination that betrays the site’s natural splendor to this day. This sliver of a park, tucked away in a remote city neighborhood on the Cranston line, offers remarkable views of the pond, short walking paths, and the opportunity to imagine these lands as they existed in pre-colonial times. I really enjoy visiting this and other wild green pockets in Providence that serve to spark the imagination and challenge our notion of what is possible in a densely-populated postindustrial urban center.

Knight Memorial Library, Elmwood Avenue

Opened in 1924 and named in honor of the Knight industrialist family, perhaps best known for establishing the Fruit of the Loom clothing brand, the library is among the city’s architectural gems and one of my favorite buildings. The library’s massive yet delicately detailed exterior offers a compelling contrast to the eclectic mix of structures surrounding it, serving as a visual and institutional anchor in one of the city’s most diverse and evolving neighborhoods. Whether you stop by to read a book, participate in one of many educational programs offered, or simply admire the building’s gorgeous Beaux-Arts neoclassical interior, the library offers visitors a welcome respite from the fast-paced world just outside its massive cast-iron doors. Part of the nine-branch Providence Community Library system, Knight Memorial is a unique treasure in our city worth exploring and preserving for future generations.

Neutaconkanut Hill Conservancy, Legion Memorial Drive

Hidden away behind a hilltop residential enclave on the Johnston line, the conservancy offers nearly 90 acres of green space, wildlife, and stunning views of the city. This in addition to a fantastic hill for white knuckle sledding. The “deed” to Providence, signed by local sachems Canonicus and Miantonomo, and Roger Williams, marked this hill as the northwestern boundary of the original land deal. Beyond a nondescript entrance at the far end of Legion Memorial Drive, a vast network of hiking tails offers visitors the opportunity to explore this wonderful urban forest that overlooks the Silver Lake neighborhood below and the entirety of our Divine Providence beyond.

The Pavilion at Grace Episcopal Church, Westminster Street

Grace Church has been an important institution in Providence for nearly two centuries, and its beautiful dark-paneled interior is a place where I have stopped in on several occasions while walking on Westminster to reflect on the day’s challenges. That said, one of my favorite spots in the city is the church’s pavilion, an addition completed in 2017. This airy, glass-encased event space manages to honor the church’s design aesthetic in a beautiful, decidedly modern package. Whether you are attending an event on the premises or passing by along the sidewalk, the pavilion radiates positive energy that fills the hall and spills onto Westminster Street.

Woonasquatucket River Greenway at Donigian Park, Valley Street

Approximately a quarter-mile in length, this walkable and bikeable stretch of the winding Woonasquatucket River Greenway offers visitors a sensory experience like no other in this part of the city. Tucked away between the Rising Sun Mill complex and a densely wooded hill that rises 50 feet to a neighboring street lined with ancient triple deckers, this refreshing and painstakingly maintained 15-minute escape is the brilliant handiwork of the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council. Replete with rich vegetation and fauna, and plenty of Instagram-worthy visuals, including a colorful bridge, dam, and companion fish ladder, this hidden corner of Olneyville is an absolute delight.

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