Marie Wells Beauty Parlor


18 Benefit St. Providence, RI

Physical Status


Detailed History

The Marie Wells Beauty Parlor was listed in The Green Book for only one year, 1947. According to the city directory, the official name of the business was the Marinella Beauty Shop and its owner was Mary I. Young, who lived upstairs with her husband, Raymond, a window washer. As there is no “Marie Wells” living anywhere in the vicinity, it seems likely that the name “Marie Wells” came from a misinterpretation of “Marinella”. The property at 18 Benefit Street survives as part of Antoinette Downing’s efforts to preserve Benefit St. in Providence. At the time, according to Downing, the area was a “slum” afflicted by overcrowding and poor conditions. Galvanized by the Rhode Island School of Design’s plan to demolish large portions of Benefit St. to build new dormitories, Downing joined with John Nicholas Brown to found the Providence Preservation Society. In 1960, the College Hill Historic District was created and gentrification ensued ( On Benefit St., gentrification meant that the street’s poorer and African-American residents would be pushed out. Downing later reported this as one of her few regrets. It is more than possible that the Marie Wells Beauty Parlor was evicted as part of this preservation. Yet, its building survives, if only inadvertently.

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