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[Editorial note: WHJ left no introduction and relatively few entries for Warwick. The following is offered as a brief overview of a community more thoroughly shaped by the automobile than any other in the state.]

Developed irregularly from the time its first European settlers arrived in the 1640s, Warwick never had a strong town center. Mostly found here were scattered farms, a few summer retreats established by Providence's wealthy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and some modest residential neighborhoods developed in precincts closest to Providence in the early twentieth century. Now by population the second largest city in the state, Warwick has also shown the most recent and prolific growth. The 35-square-mile city grew from almost 29,000 in 1940 to more than 85,000 in 2000. Much of its growth, which occurred largely between 1950 and 1980, took the form of tract residential development in its eastern half, along the irregular and once picturesque coastline of upper Narragansett Bay, which forms the city's eastern boundary. Near the heart of the community is the vast open space surrounding the state's principal airport, T. F. Green. Significant amounts of open space or low-density neighborhoods exist only on remote Warwick Neck, in the rising elevations to the southwest, and along Potowomut Neck, physically separated from the rest of the community by the town center of East Greenwich.

Warwick's development was reinforced by the construction of interstate highways 95 in the 1960s and 295 in the 1970s. Route 2, as it stretches some ten miles from the Cranston border to its intersection with I-95, is now Rhode Island's main street, lined with large shopping plazas, the late-twentieth-century byproducts of two enclosed shopping malls created around 1970 at the intersection of Route 2 and I-295. Near these is one of the state's most compelling-late twentieth-century buildings, constructed, appropriately enough, as the heart of a college campus planned for a commuter population.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.

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