Providence is the capital and most populous city in Rhode Island. Founded in 1636, it is one of the oldest cities in the United States. It is located in Providence County, and is the third-largest city in the New England region after Boston and Worcester. Providence has a city population of 177,994 and is part of the 38th-largest metropolitan population in the country, with an estimated population of 1,604,291, exceeding that of Rhode Island by about 60%, as it extends into southern Massachusetts. This can be considered in turn to be part of the Greater Boston commuting area, which contains 7.6 million people. The city is situated at the mouth of the Providence River, at the head ofNarragansett Bay.
Providence was founded by Roger Williams, a religious exile from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He named the area in honor of "God's merciful Providence", which he believed was responsible for revealing such a haven for him and his followers to settle. After becoming one of the first cities in the country to industrialize, Providence became noted for its jewelry and silverware industry. Today, the city of Providence is home to eight hospitals and seven institutions of higher learning, which has shifted the city's economy into service industries, though it still retains significant manufacturing activity.
Once nicknamed the "Beehive of Industry", Providence began rebranding itself as the "Creative Capital" in 2009 to emphasize its educational resources and arts community.
The area that is now Providence was first settled in June 1636 by Roger Williams, and was one of the original Thirteen Colonies of the United States. Williams and his company felt compelled to withdraw from Massachusetts Bay Colony. They were greeted by the Narragansetts on rocks near present day Gano Street with the greeting, "What Cheer, Netop." They sought refuge with the Narragansett tribe at a place on the banks of a salt cove, as the chief of the Narragansett, Canonicus, made them welcome. In 1636, Canonicus gave Williams the large tract of land which became the first nucleus of the colony of Providence Plantation. Williams' Providence soon became a refuge for persecuted religious dissenters, as he himself had been exiled from Massachusetts. Providence's growth would be slow during the next quarter-century—the subsuming of its territory into surrounding towns, difficulty of farming the land, and differing of local traditions and land conflicts all slowed development.