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Officially established by 1772 for "the benefit of all," Benefit Street is arguably the most historic thoroughfare in Rhode Island. Some of Providence's most prominent families, including the Browns (the namesake of Brown University), built stately homes on Benefit Street's hillside, many of which still stand today. Threatened by years of neglect, the Providence Preservation Society intervened in the 1950s to save the buildings that line the street. Benefit Street has survived the dangers of demolition and now bears witness to disparate time periods and communities. It is the site of important educational and community institutions, including the Rhode Island School of Design, Brown University, the First Baptist Church, and the Providence Athenaeum, the fourth oldest library in the United States. Providence's Benefit Street showcases the rich history of Rhode Island's capital, a tangible history that can be experienced firsthand by walking one mile through the heart of the city.