Make a day of: Prospect Terrace Park, then and now

Ask any random Brown student what his or her favorite spots in Providence are, and chances are high that Prospect Terrace Park will be among them. Located at the intersection of Bowen and Congdon, this little park affords pretty views over downtown Providence (especially at night) and is a wonderful place for a moment of quiet and contemplation. In visiting Prospect Park, however, you’ll also notice the imposing statue of Providence founder Roger Williams—a testament to the park’s surprisingly rich history, spanning the works of H.P Lovecraft to the 1998 film There’s Something About Mary. Here we compare the familiar goings-on of the modern Prospect Terrace Park to the exciting events that have occurred through its past, all the way back to 1636…

Then: Arriving in Rhode Island after his expulsion from Boston at the hands of the Puritans, Roger Williams founded the religiously tolerant city of Providence on land granted to him by the Wampanoags. His accomplishment is immortalized in the park’s statue, which features Williams on the bow of a canoe, arms outstretched, overlooking Providence. It was constructed in the 1930s.

Now: Arriving at Brown after summers during which doing absolutely no reading was acceptable, new first-years can be spotted frantically skimming their copies of Sons of Providence in the warm September air of orientation week, hoping to find a fact or two to throw in during discussion section. Unfortunately, studying in the park, in the company of Williams, isn’t going to help when literally no one in your section read past page 40. Literally not one person.

Then: After its construction in 1867, Prospect Park became a favored haunt of famed horror writer and Providence native H.P Lovecraft. Lovecraft’s stories—including his notable Cthulu mythos—often concerned the interaction of humans and frightening, other worldy forces in Providence and the New England area.

Now: Prospect Park is also a common hangout for Brown and RISD students who are several bong hits/a few mushrooms deep. They too may be imagining confronting fearsome, otherworldly forces; more likely, they’re imagining confronting a gyro (with all the toppings) at East Side Pockets.

Then: As 1930s America struggled in the throes of the Great Depression, Prospect Park underwent repairs and improvement at the hands of the Works Progress Administration – their plaques still dot the sidewalk beside the park. In 1939, Roger Williams’ remains also were moved to a tomb underneath his statue, where they remain to this day.

Now: Human remains? Sounds like the perfect setting for a Drunk/High/Sober Providence Ghost Tour!

Then: The 1998 “sleeper hit” comedy There’s Something About Mary, well received by both critics and audiences alike, featured a scene filmed in Prospect Terrace Park. In the scene, Ted (Ben Stiller) receives advice from Dom (Chris Elliott) that convinces him to pursue his childhood crush, the Mary whom the film is titled after.

Now: Brown TV has probably filmed something here at some point. We think.

There you have it: Prospect Terrace Park’s rich history and moderately interesting present. Next time you’re watching the sunset over West Providence, remember that you may be standing where H.P Lovecraft once stood…

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