Best Community #34: More Than Big Hair
Monday, June 20, 2011
Perhaps forever known as one of Rhode Island's spawning grounds for Big Hair culture, this town also seems unable to shake an ongoing series of controversies surrounding its most-famous site: the Central Landfill. A little-known claim to demographic fame: with 46.7% of Johnston residents identifying themselves in 2000 as being of Italian heritage, the town has the highest percentage of Italian Americans of any municipality in the country.
The dominant factor in Johnston's bottom 10 performance in 2011's rankings lies squarely in its Education scores (33rd in the state) and Economic Condition ranking (35th). The town's Safety ranking was 27th overall, considerably higher than most low-ranking communities.
Johnston by the numbers
Median household income: $57,387
Median housing price: $174,700
2011 Best Communities rankings
Overall ranking: 34
Affordability ranking: 14
Education ranking: 33
Economic condition ranking: 35
Safety ranking: 27
Arts & Culture ranking: 25
History in a nutshell:
Johnston was originally a part of Providence before it became its own town when it was incorporated in 1759. It was named in honor of Augustus Lucas Johnston, the attorney general of Rhode Island from 1758 to 1766. Early settlers worked in the soapstone quarry, cotton mills, and a dyestuffs factory. In addition to its early industry, Johnston was also a farming community. However, the past importance of farming has now been replaced by the manufacturing of jewelry and silverware and trade establishments. Today, most of the community has been a product of suburban development but a few old colonial farm houses still paint the landscape, including a rare and historic stone-ender, the Clemence Irons House (above).
Samuel Ward King, Governor of Rhode Island during the Dorr Rebellion
Pauly D, DJ and featured performer from The Jersey Shore
Additional research by Nate Holterman
- RI’s Best Communities 2011
- RI’s Best Communities 2011: How We Got the Rankings
- Best Community #39: Faded Star
- Best Community #38: In the Capital City’s Shadow
- Best Community #37: Too Rich for RI?
- Best Community #36: City in Turmoil
- Best Community #35: Feisty Contender
- Best Community #33: Mill Village Pride
- Best Community #32: Sandwiched Between Riches
- Best Community #31: River Beauty
- Best Community #30: Not All About the Summer
- Best Community #29: The Overlooked Community
- Best Community #28: True Island Life
- Best Community #27: Up and Comer
- Best Community #26: RI Rural
- Best Community #25: Country Living
- Best Community #24: Stuck in the Middle?
- Best Community #23: Beach-Blessed Beauty
- Best Community #22: The Enclave
- Best Community #21: Star in the Making
- Best Community #20: City of Contrasts
- Best Community #19: Good Schools, Quiet Living
- Best Community #18: Countryside Charm
- Best Community #17: Northern Gem
- Best Community #16: Brains and Beauty
- Best Community #15: Town on the March
- Best Community #14: Small-Town Seaside
- Best Community #13: Northern RI Surprise
- Best Community #12: Blackstone Valley Standout
- Best Community #11: RI’s Big Apple
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