Perplexed in Pawtucket.

My latest just made it to Huffington Post.  Fundamentally it’s about two cities and how they strategically toy with the boundary between them.

IMG_1140The industrial city of Pawtucket has a prominent border with Providence, Rhode Island’s economically mixed state capital.  Both cities have their fare share of gritty neighborhoods, but, where the two abut one another, things are generally much cushier.

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The home in the photo above comes from the Pawtucket side of the boundary, while the streetscape and storefront is on the Providence side.  But, without that tiny little “Entering Pawtucket” sign, you’d never know–they both share the character of an affluent streetcar suburb.

The irony is most profound on the Pawtucket side.  Why?  Because Pawtucket is generally blue collar, but the Oak Hill neighborhood around here is affluent.  And on the other side of the neighborhood (farther from the Providence boundary) the sign welcoming people to Oak Hill is much, much more prominent.

IMG_1127It’s huge.  It’s red.  It occupies the middle of the street.  And it says “Oak Hill”–but no mention of Pawtucket.  The out-of-towner might as well think Oak Hill is an entirely separate municipality.

The Huffington Post article explores how the Oak Hill contingent has deliberately sought to downplay the fact that still is fundamentally a part of Pawtucket, and what this reveals about place-branding as a whole.  Are places really that much different than the latest fashion accessory?  Or the coolest new food truck?  Sometimes the semantic differences are as thin as a little aluminum sign.  Please read up–and comments are always welcome.



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