Property Research

How to Research a Providence Building
A simple guideline for people interested in knowing more about a place.

Researching Your House History (pdf)
A guide developed by the Providence City Archives


Searchable Databases

Guide to Providence Architecture
The guide is a user-friendly database of the buildings, landscapes, and neighborhoods that make Providence special. The core text largely borrows from the 2003 AIAri guidebook, written by Wm McKenzie Woodward, with photographs by Warren Jagger. The site is easily searched and sorted by property, architectural style, designer, and neighborhood.

The Mary A. Gowdey Library of House Histories

Mary Alvira “Vi” Gowdey (photo provided by PPS Trustee Arria Bilodeau)

Gowdey was an enthusiastic PPS volunteer from the organization’s founding in 1956 until her death in 1992. She played an important role in one of PPS’s earliest and most visible and influential programs, the awarding of markers to appropriately restored historic houses. Working closely with PPS founder Antoinette F. Downing, Gowdey researched the history of those restored houses to determine their original owners and dates of construction. The information she gathered formed the basis for the information that appears on the markers awarded during the first 20 years of the program.

The research methods and sources for house histories were limited when PPS and Gowdey began this program; many of the resources available now were then still undiscovered, stored in unknown and inaccessible places in Providence City Hall. Documents compiled in those earlier years have limitations — a focus on original owners and date of construction, with less concern for subsequent history of and changes to the property; and limited original sources from which to gain information. As more municipal documents have become available and as research methodology has become more refined, PPS house histories have become more thorough in both scope and detail. Research is a product of its time, and while the Gowdey files aren’t always the definitive source of information, they do provide a solid foundation for early property research.

Architectural Slide Collection

Starting in 2018, with the help of many dedicated student interns, and grant support from Historic New England and the Herman H. Rose Fund, PPS worked to digitize our extensive slide collection. These slides document Providence architecture from the 1950s-90s and demonstrate how our city developed and changed during the latter half of the 20th century. All properties are arranged alphabetically by street name, and range from triple-deckers to warehouses to school buildings from all of the city’s neighborhoods.

Providence’s Recent Past
In 2010, PPS oversaw a partial survey of buildings and sites in Providence’s recent past. This Story Map provides the information collected in that survey, for informational purposes only. The original survey sheets are on file at the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission, located at 150 Benefit Street, Providence, Rhode Island. 

Industrial and Commercial Buildings Survey

ICBS Volume I (Index to all properties by address and name, + Aborn Street – Grove Street)

ICBS Volume II (Harris Avenue – Wilson Street)


Providence City Tax Assessor Database

RI Historic Property Search
Search for any Rhode Island properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Other Resources

Providence City Archives / City Hall, 25 Dorrance Street, Providence, RI 02903

Rhode Island Historical Society Library / 121 Hope Street, Providence, RI 02906

Providence Public Library / 150 Empire Street, Providence, RI 02903


© 2023 Providence Preservation Society. All rights reserved. Design by J. Hogue at Highchair designhaus, with development & support by Kay Belardinelli.