George Michael Cohan was born in Fox Point, Providence on July 3, 1878 to Irish-Catholic parents. Cohan joined his parents and sister in a vaudeville act an an early age. Cohan became one of the leading Tin Pan Alley songwriters, publishing upwards of 300 original songs. He also became the most successful theatrical producer of the early 20th century, as well as a notable actor and playwright. Cohan was also one of the best known songwriters of his time, penning such classics as Mary, You’re a Grand Old Flag, Yankee Doodle Boy, and Over There, called the unofficial anthem of World War I. On June 29, 1936, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt presented him with the Congressional Gold Medal for his contributions to World War I morale, in particular the songs “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and “Over There.
On July 3, 2009, a bronze bust of Cohan, by artist Robert Shure, was unveiled at the corner of Wickenden and Governor Streets in Fox Point, Providence, a few blocks from his birthplace. The city renamed the corner the George M. Cohan Plaza and announced an annual George M. Cohan Award for Excellence in Art & Culture. The first award went to Curt Columbus, the artistic director of Trinity Repertory Company