The United States National Park Service runs a great number of parks of breathtaking scope and beauty, from geological oddities to forces of nature to awe-inspiring monuments.

Roger Williams National Memorial is none of these. Even as far as historical sites go, this isn't much; most people outside of Rhode Island probably don't know who Roger Williams is. Be that as it may, the park is a deserved memorial to one of the founders of religious freedom in the United States.

The Park

Roger Williams National Memorial is located on part of the original settlement of Providence, Rhode Island. Today, it is located next to the Rhode Island State House off of US Highway 1. The memorial encompasses 4.5 acres, and more than anything resembles other small downtown parks. There are no statues or remnants from 17th century Providence, but a visitor center provides a history of Roger Williams and the founding of Rhode Island. Admittance to the memorial and visitor center is free, and they are open from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm year round except New Year's Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

The Man

Roger Williams founded Providence in 1636, after being banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for protesting their stances on religion (he didn't think there should be a government supported official religion) and Native Americans (he didn't think Europeans had a right to annex their land). Rhode Island quickly became a haven for the dispossessed and disenfranchised, as Williams fought for the equalities echoed later in the founding of the United States of America.

An interesting side note: some time after his death, Williams' grave was dug up only to find no trace of Williams' body. It seems that a nearby tree had found in Williams a source of nourishing food, and there were several tree roots approximating the shape of his body.

The Locals

The memorial is Rhode Island's only national park; as with everything else in the state, Rhode Islanders are fiercely loyal to the park. I once heard it described proudly as the smallest national park; this is not the case, as many national memorials consist only of a monument (the smallest is the Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial in Pennsylvania, measuring 0.02 acres). The memorial is but one of many tributes to Roger Williams scattered about Providence; Roger Williams National Memorial is not to be confused with Roger Williams Park and Zoo, and a statue of Williams overlooks downtown Providence from Prospect Terrace Park on top of the East Hill.

Roger Williams
Living in Rhode Island

U.S. National Parks and Monuments

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