Federal Hill Tours
Federal Hill Food & History Tours 286 Atwells Avenue Providence Rhode Island 02903 401.273.2652
Brief History of Federal Hill
The turn of the Century became a time of transition for food and traditions. Specialties such as lentils, polenta, calamari and baccala' were peasant foods with which Italians were familiar and accustomed to eating, but were also foods which estranged them from other nationalities. These foods were not available in local grocery stores or listed on restaurant menus. As Italian communities gathered together and developed in section of cities, food was only one, yet a primary factor in bringing immigrants together The very name "Federal Hill" developed through the years, and although unclear historically, some believe that it was so called because the Federal Troops, camped on what is today the area around the State House. Others have different versions, yet it is certain that Federal Hill started on Spruce Street. Spruce Street runs parallel to today's Atwells Avenue, but at the beginning of the century it was the cradle of the Rhode Island Italian Colony or "Little Italy" as it is commonly called. Very few street are entitled to such recognition; to Rhode Islanders it is the equivalent to what Mulberry Street means to New York City, or the North End to Boston. It was on this very street one hundred and twenty five years ago that many noted man and woman began their way into the New World and created a future for their families based on solid ethical traditions. The first group of Italian immigrants settled on Federal Hill in 1870 and continued until 1910. In the early days of settlement, not only in Rhode Island but throughout the United States, the church was the focal point. Due to the severe handicap and to obstacle created by the lack of knowledge of the English language , most immigrants relied on the pastor for the translation of letters, documents, birth certificates and referral of doctors and undertakers, and for the most important factor, that of a job placement.