Donigian Park is changing peoples minds about Olneyville and the Woony River Greenway. Where once were dumped 150 shopping carts and other trash and debris now stands a green oasis for play on Valley Street. Visit Donigian Park today, and you’ll see for yourself! Learn more here about how to support WRWC’s efforts to continue revitalizing community around the Woony!
What We Have Now
- 5.35 acre city-owned park in the Olneyville neighborhood
- Bike path spur linking on road bike path at Tuxedo Ave / Amherst St to Sonoma Ct / Delaine St
- Beautiful arched bridge installed to complete spur connection across river
- Canoe launch providing clear access all the way to Waterplace Park in downtown Providence
- 0.4 miles of walking track skirting the park
- Tot lot and community playground built in a day with KABOOM!
- Artificial turf futsal field hosting pickup games and practices
- Historic ball field
- Seating areas & lighted basketball courts
- 1.6 miles to Waterplace Park in downtown Providence
- 3.0 miles to Lyman Ave at the northwest end of the bike path
How We Got Here
- The city-owned park is named after the soldier John W. Donigian who was killed in Tulsa, Sicily July 29, 1945.
- Donigian Park was once known to locals as Valley Street Park and had a bad reputation.
- WRWC saw the possibility for restoring the park for neighboring families and encouraging access to the river once again.
- Numerous community meetings were held to discuss designs for the redevelopment of the park. In 1998, the park was then redeveloped to include a walking track and a new tot lot.
- A playground was later installed with funds from Struever Eccles and Rouse, Councilwoman Joan DiRuzzo, Home Depot, and a Non-profit called Kaboom!. The playground was installed in a day with the help of all the community centers in the neighborhood in partnership with Kaboom!
- In 2014, the WRWC and RIDOT opened the new spur to the Woony River Bike Path, crossing through Donigian Park, taking riders off Valley Street and into the safer park for bike passage.
- Dongian Park continues to be a source for inspiration. Seeing how many people used the open field, the city installed a Futsal field in 2016. WRWC continues to work with neighborhood groups to help connect the community voice to how the park is changing next!
Donigian Park Industrial History
- Olneyville is the core of a larger historically and geographically-defined area called the Woonasquatucket River Valley. The Indian settlement known as Woonasquatucket, means “At the head of the tidewater” or “Where the salt water ends.”
- John Waterman was an early settler who, in 1764, operated a paper mill and chocolate factory near Olneyville Square just north of Valley Street. In 1812 the Waterman family erected a mill at Merino Pond, and in 1863 built the Weybosset Mill at Troy and Dike Streets.
- Christopher Olney settled at Olneyville in 1785, building his home at the intersection of Broadway and Valley Street. On his 95 acres of land, he operated a grist mill and a paper mill on a wide part of the river north of Kossuth Street known as Olney’s Pond. Olney’s prominence and active involvement in industry accounted for the name Olneyville.
- Development in Olneyville increased in the early 1800s.
- The Woonasquatucket River is a source of water power that made Olneyville attractive to industry. Numerous company mill villages lined the bank as mills flourished and spread out along the river corridor.
- Improvements in roads and the establishment of public transportation also enhanced the popularity of Olneyville. Railroads enabled direct access to the mills along the river for delivery and distribution of raw materials and the shipment of finished goods. Railroads also contributed to the rapid industrial growth in the late 1800s.
- During the 1880s and 1890s, the streets between Atwells and Manton Avenues were completely filled with two-family houses. Many of the homes were originally built by mill owners who provided housing for their workers.
- In the early decades of the 1900s, Olneyville retained much of its 1800s character as a working class neighborhood dominated by an all-powerful textile industry.
- The industrial base remained until World War II when the textile industry experienced a dramatic decline. The textile industry experienced a dramatic decline because low labor wages in the south drove industries to move their businesses south. This decline resulted in plant closures and job dislocations for many residents and forced them to leave the neighborhood to seek new employment.
- Since the 1960s, the various jewelry industries have replaced textiles in Olneyville.
- Olneyville continued to lose population throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The 1980 Census showed that 16% of Olneyville’s residents had left during the 1970s. It was not until the 1980s, that the population of Olneyville began to stabilize again.