1. URI Shepard Building: 80 Washington Street
Now home to the University of Rhode Island Feinstein Providence Campus, the Shepard Company Department Store first welcomed shoppers in the late 19th century. At one point, it was the largest department store in New England! Before you check out the gallery in the lobby, stand under an arched entrance on Union Street to admire the well-preserved architectural details.
2. “In Downcity” Block: Westminster Street between Eddy & Union
What a spectacular block! The Alice, Burgess/ O’Gorman, Peerless, Smith and Wilkinson buildings were converted from former department stores into a hip mixed-use neighborhood. Residents now live upstairs in the Westminster Lofts while the sidewalks are lined with one-of-a-kind shops and eateries.
3. The Arcade: 130 Westminster Street
Built in the 1820s, the Greek Revival Arcade is known as the oldest indoor shopping mall in the country. When it opened, its 3 levels housed nearly 80 shops and restaurants. In 2013, new ground-floor retail units reopened, with plans for residential micro-loft units above on the second and third floors.
4. Market Square: College Street at Canal Walkway
According to Wikipedia, people went to Market Square to exchange goods and gossip with each other in the 18th and 19th centuries. Now, the outdoor plaza connects the RISD Auditorium and Chace Center entrance to the RISD Museum with views of downtown. For an in-depth tour of historic shopping sites, plan a guided tour with the Rhode Island Historical Society.
5. Providence Place: One Providence Place (Francis Street between Hayes & Memorial Boulevard)
The mall experience complements a historic shopping tour well. Unlike most suburban shopping centers that are surrounded by endless surface parking, Providence Place blends right into the fabric of the downtown neighborhood. Convenient parking can be found within the complex and rates are affordable. Anchored by Nordstrom, Macy’s and JC Penney, you’ll find more than 170 shops and restaurants, plus a 16-screen cinema. While you’re there, take in the view from the atrium overlooking Waterplace Park, the Financial District and College Hill. It’s magnificent.