City Life

RI's Hidden Spaces

Doors Open RI gives people behind-the-scenes access to the state's secret places

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Rhode Island may be the smallest state in America, but it’s filled with lots of hidden treasures.

Just ask Caroline Stevens, the founder of Doors Open Rhode Island. This new initiative provides the public with free, behind-the-scenes access to some of Rhode Island’s best-kept secrets via monthly tours, an upcoming online publication and an annual open house festival that will launch in September.

“Doors Open Rhode Island is committed to inspiring wonder, curiosity and pride in our communities by connecting the public to the great places and spaces of our state,” says Caroline, who previously helped launch and manage a similar program in Chicago.

Though this is the first of its kind in Rhode Island, “Doors Open” programs can be seen in cities all over the world, including Lowell, Milwaukee, Baltimore, London and Toronto.

By partnering with cultural organizations throughout the state, Doors Open RI allows community members to discover places in their backyard that they didn’t know existed. It also provides local organizations with newfound appreciation and support.

Doors Open RI recently toured the hidden spaces of Providence’s City Hall, where participants got to see the alderman chambers, archives and the building’s attic.

“Behind every door is a story, and Rhode Island has a long and rich story to tell,” says Caroline. “We can experience Rhode Island’s Declaration of Independence with a visit to our Old State House on Benefit Street or learn about our long history of slavery by visiting the abandoned Esek Hopkins House. All across Rhode Island we can see remnants of our colonial history dotted across the landscape.”

Rhode Island is also home to the largest collection of fresco paintings in the country at St. Anne’s Art and Cultural Center in Woonsocket. But the content is not all historical. Doors Open RI aims to gain access to places that are propelling us forward, too.

“We’ve spent the last several months collecting ideas of places to explore and our list is over 175 long and growing,” Caroline says. On that list is the Fox Point Hurricane Barrier, Brown’s robotics lab and URI’s research vessel, the Endeavor. Their next ticketed event, an open house of Barnaby Castle, is scheduled for January 28.