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Town of Bristol
—  Town  —
Bristol Harbor
Location of Bristol in Bristol County, Rhode Island
Coordinates: 41°41′3″N 71°16′7″W / 41.68417, -71.26861Coordinates: 41°41′3″N 71°16′7″W / 41.68417, -71.26861
Country United States
State Rhode Island
County Bristol
Incorporated 1746
 • Type Council-manager
 • Town Administrator Antonio "Tony" A Teixeira (I) RI
 • Total 20.6 sq mi (53.4 km2)
 • Land 10.1 sq mi (26.2 km2)
 • Water 10.5 sq mi (27.2 km2)
Elevation 131 ft (40 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 22,954
 • Density 2,269/sq mi (876.1/km2)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 02809
Area code(s) 401
FIPS code 44-09280[1]
GNIS feature ID 1220083[2]
Demonym Bristolian ("brihs-TOH-lee-an")

Bristol is a town in and the historic county seat of Bristol County, Rhode Island, United States.[3] The population was 22,954 at the 2010 census. Bristol, a deepwater seaport, is named after Bristol, England.

Major industries include boat building (and related marine industries), manufacturing and tourism. The town's school system is united with neighboring Warren, Rhode Island. Prominent ethnic minorities include Luso-Americans (Portuguese-Americans), mostly Azorean, and Italian-Americans.


1675 King Philip's War[]

The first battle of King Philip's War took place here in 1675; although Philip was eventually defeated, a variant of his Indian name, Metacomet, is now the name of a main road in Bristol: Metacom Avenue (RI Route 136).

King Philip made nearby Mount Hope (Montaup) his base of operations. "King Philip's Chair", a rocky ledge on the mountain, was a lookout site for enemy ships on Mount Hope Bay. It was the subject of a major battle in 1676. After that war concluded, the town was settled in 1680 as part of the Plymouth Colony. It was presumably named after Bristol, England.

1685 English Colonial Town[]

Bristol was the "shire town" (county seat) of Bristol County, Plymouth Colony, when the county was created in 1685. (It was later split into Bristol County, Rhode Island and Bristol County, Massachusetts.) It was sold for £1100 to four Boston investors by the names of Byfield, Walley, Oliver, and Burton. It remained a part of Massachusetts until the Crown transferred it to the Rhode Island Colony in 1747.

The DeWolf family was among the earliest settlers of Bristol. Bristol and Rhode Island became a center of slave trading. James DeWolf, a leading slave trader, later become a United States Senator from Rhode Island. Quakers from Rhode Island were involved early in the abolition movement.

During the American Revolutionary War, the British Navy bombarded Bristol twice. On October 7, 1775, a group of ships led by Captain Wallace and the HMS Rose sailed into town and demanded provisions. When refused, Wallace shelled the town, causing much damage. The attack was stopped when Lieutenant Governor William Bradford rowed out to the Rose to negotiate a cease-fire, but then a second attack took place on May 25, 1778. This time, 500 British and Hessian troops marched through the main street (now called Hope Street (RI Route 114)) and burnt 30 barracks and houses, taking some prisoners to Newport.

Bristol has the oldest continuously celebrated Independence Day festivities in the United States. The first mention of a celebration comes from July 1777, when a British officer noted sounds coming from across Narragansett Bay:

This being the first anniversary of the Declaration of Independence of the Rebel Colonies, they ushered in the morning by firing 13 cannons, one for each colony, we suppose. At sunset, the rebel frigates fired another round of 13 guns, each one after the other. As the evening was very still and fine the echo of the guns down the Bay had a grand effect.

Crowded street scene prior to the Bristol Fourth of July Parade. The town's unusual red, white, and blue center line is also visible.

The annual official and historic celebrations (Patriotic Exercises) were established in 1785 by Rev. Henry Wight of the First Congregational Church and Veteran of the Revolutionary War, and later by Rev. Wight as the Parade, and continue today, organized by the Bristol Fourth of July Committee.[4] The festivities officially start on June 14, Flag Day, beginning a period of outdoor concerts, soap-box races and a firefighters' muster at Independence Park. The celebration climaxes on July 4 with the oldest annual parade in the United States, "The Military, Civic and Firemen's Parade", an event that draws over 200,000 people from Rhode Island and around the world. These elaborate celebrations give Bristol its nickname, "America's most patriotic town". In 2009, a Tea Party group was briefly banned from future participation when they were accused of handing out political literature, including the Declaration of Independence, from a float in violation of parade rules.[5][6]

The summer celebrations usually conclude at Independence Park, on Labor Day Sunday with an open aired free concert featuring the Rhode Island Philharmonic and a spectacular fireworks display.

Until 1854, Bristol was one of the five state capitals of Rhode Island.

Bristol is home to Roger Williams University, named for Rhode Island founder Roger Williams.

The southerly terminus of the East Bay Bike Path[7] is located at Independence Park on Bristol Harbor. The bike path continues north to East Providence, R.I. Constructed on an old abandoned railway, some of the best views of Narragansett Bay can be seen along this magnificent corridor. This path is a valued commodity to Bristol, it allows bikers, roller skaters and walkers to enjoy the area. The construction of the East Bay Bike Path was highly contested by Bristol residents before construction because of the potential of crime, the Bike Path has become a welcome asset to the community, and the anticipated crime was non-existent.

The Bristol-based boat company Herreshoff built five consecutive America's Cup Defenders between 1893 and 1920. The Colt Estate, now known as Colt Park, was home to Samuel P. Colt, nephew of the man famous for the arms company. Colt Park lies on magnificently manicured gardens abutting the West Passage of Narragansett Bay, and is popular for its unparalleled views of the waterfront and spectacular sunsets.

Bristol is the site of one National Historic Landmark, the Joseph Reynolds House built in 1700. The Marquis de Lafayette and his staff in 1778 used the building as headquarters during the Battle of Rhode Island.[8]


Bristol is situated on 10.1 square miles (26 km2) of a peninsula (the smaller sub-peninsula on the west is called Poppasquash), with Narragansett Bay on its west and Mount Hope Bay on its east. According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 20.6 square miles (53.4 km2), of which, 10.1 square miles (26.2 km2) of it is land and 10.5 square miles (27.2 km2) of it (50.99%) is water. Bristol's harbor is home to over 800 boat moorings in seven mooring fields.


As of the 2010 census Bristol had a population of 22,954. The ethnic and racial composition of the population was 94.9% non-Hispanic white, 0.8% Black, 0.1% Native American, 0.9% Asian, 0.4% some other race, 1.4% from two or more races and 2.0% Hispanic or Latino of any race.[9]

As of the census[1] of 2000, there were 22,469 people, 8,314 households, and 5,653 families residing in the town. The population density was 2,222.2 people per square mile (858.1/km2). There were 8,705 housing units at an average density of 860.9 per square mile (332.4/km2). The ethnic group makeup of the town was 97.14% White, 1.29% Hispanic or Latino (of any race), 0.67% Asian, 0.62% African, 0.16% Native American, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.33% other ethnic group, and 1.03% from two or more races.

Points of interest and Registered Historic Places[]


Colt State Park

Mt. Hope Bridge

  • America's Cup Hall of Fame
  • Blithewold Mansion, Gardens and Arboretum
  • Bristol Art Museum[10]
  • Bristol County Courthouse (Rhode Island)
  • Bristol County Jail
  • Bristol Customshouse and Post Office
  • Bristol Ferry Lighthouse
  • Bristol Waterfront Historic District
  • Colt State Park
  • Juniper Hill Cemetery
  • Herreshoff Marine Museum
  • Linden Place, Home of the DeWolfs
  • Longfield (Charles Dana Gibson house)
  • Mount Hope Bridge
  • Mount Hope Farm
  • Poppasquash Farms Historic District
  • Joseph Reynolds House
  • Roger Williams University
  • Roger Williams University School of Law
  • Coggeshall Farm Museum[11] (c. 1790)

Notable people[]

  • William Thomas "Billy" Andrade, golfer with the PGA Tour; born in Bristol
  • Benjamin Bourne, US congressman and federal judge; born in Bristol
  • William Bradford (1729-1808), physician, lawyer, and President pro tempore of the US Senate; lived and died in Bristol
  • Jonathan Russell Bullock, federal and Rhode Island Supreme Court judge; born in Bristol
  • Ambrose Burnside, railroad executive, US senator, 30th governor of Rhode Island, and Union Army general; lived and died in Bristol
  • Ethel Barrymore Colt, silent film and stage actress; member of the influential Barrymore family
  • Samuel P. Colt, entrepreneur, child labor advocate, and Rhode Island state representative; lived in Bristol
  • Jonathan DeFelice, president of Saint Anselm College; lived in Bristol
  • James De Wolf, slave trader and United States senator
  • Nathanael Herreshoff, naval architect and mechanical engineer, designed several undefeated America's Cup winners; born in Bristol
  • Edward L. Leahy US senator and federal judge; born in Bristol
  • Ira Magaziner, senior adviser for policy development to the Clinton administration; Chairman of the Clinton Foundation Policy Board; lives in Bristol
  • Pat McGee, musician (Pat McGee Band)
  • Anthony Quinn, actor (Zorba the Greek, Lawrence of Arabia, Viva Zapata!, Lust for Life); twice won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (1952, 1956); lived and died in Bristol
  • Norman Rene, theater and film director; born in Bristol
  • John Saffin, merchant and author (A Brief and Candid Answer to Samuel Sewall's The Selling of Joseph, 1700); lived in Bristol

See also[]

  • Flag of Rhode Island.svgRhode Island portal


External links[]

Template:Narragansett Bay

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Bristol, Rhode Island. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.