Wayland is a residential neighborhood located on the Providence's East Side. Most of its development took place during the early and mid- 20th century. The houses are architecturally and functionally similar to those constructed on College Hill during the 18th and 19th centuries. Wayland also contains the city's most significant concentration of elegant apartment buildings, which were all built shortly after 1900, and also is home to the Red Bridge, the first bridge over the Seekonk River linking Providence with East Providence. Wayland is home to Blackstone Park, one of the larger parks on the East Side, and which will be linked with the surrounding area through the development of a bicycle path along the Seekonk River.
Originally, the Wayland area was not geographically inviting for colonial settlement. Given its proximity to the Seekonk River, much of the land was marshy and not suitable for development. During the middle years of the 19th century, Wayland began to develop as a middle and upper-income residential neighborhood. In 1856, the Cold Spring Plat extended from the Blackstone neighborhood to include the area south of Angell Street. Although several cottages were built after the platting, the area's remoteness discouraged growth.
The land south of Upton Avenue had been completely platted by the end of the Civil War but few houses were built before the 1890s. Development was concentrated eastward from College Hill in the Waterman-Angell corridor and to a lesser degree, along Olney Street and Morris Avenue. Before the 1880s, residents commuted between the Wayland area and downtown Providence either by carriage or public horse car along a circuitous route from downtown through Fox Point to Butler Avenue. In 1884 a second line along Waterman and Angell Streets was completed.
In the early 1900s, the Wayland area became the site for the construction of numerous apartment buildings. The earliest of these buildings was constructed during the first decade of the 20th century along Medway Street. By 1940, there were apartment buildings on Waterman and Angell streets, and Lloyd, and Wayland Avenues. Some of these buildings, including the Excelsior Apartments, remain architecturally magnificent.
One of the most significant features of Wayland since World War II has been the continued development of commercial activity in Wayland Square. Encompassing parts of Medway Street, Waterman Street, Angell Street, Wayland Square has been a Providence commercial center since the early 20th century. In the 1970s and 1980s, more retail shops opened in the Square. Development had encouraged Wayland Square merchants to form an association. In 1990, the merchant association began working with the city Department of Planning & Development to improve commercial activity. The planned improvements included more parking space, landscaped sidewalks, and additional street lighting. Today, Wayland continues to be a commercial district with thriving retail shops.
For most current information visit provplan.org.