Bristol, Rhode Island

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Town of Bristol
Bristol Harbor
Bristol Harbor
Location in Bristol County and the state of Rhode Island.
Location in Bristol County and the state of Rhode Island.
Coordinates: 41°41′3″N 71°16′7″W / 41.68417°N 71.26861°W / 41.68417; -71.26861Coordinates: 41°41′3″N 71°16′7″W / 41.68417°N 71.26861°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
 • Town Council Timothy E. Sweeney (D)
Mary A. Parella (R)
Nathan T. Calouro (D)
Edward P. Stuart, Jr (D)
Halsey C. Herreshoff (R)
 • Town Clerk Louis P. Cirillo (R)
 • 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 the historic county seat of Bristol County, Rhode Island, United States.[3] The population was 22,954 at the 2010 census. Bristol is a deepwater seaport 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 communities include Luso-Americans (Portuguese-Americans), mostly Azorean, and Italian-Americans.


Before the Pilgrims arrived in 1620, the Wampanoags occupied much of New England, including Plymouth, Cape Cod, and Narragansett Bay. The Wampanoags had previously suffered from a series of plagues which killed off large segments of their population, and Wampanoag leader Massasoit befriended the early settlers.[4]:10 King Phillip's War was a conflict between the Plymouth settlers and the Wampanoags, and it began in the neighboring area of Swansea, Massachusetts. Metacomet made nearby Mount Hope (Montaup) his base of operations; he died following an ambush by Captain Benjamin Church on August 12, 1676.[4]:11 "King Philip's Chair" is a rocky ledge on the mountain which was a lookout site for enemy ships on Mount Hope Bay.[citation needed]

After the war concluded, four colonists purchased a tract of land known as "Mount Hope Neck and Poppasquash Neck" as part of the Plymouth Colony. Other settlers included John Gorham and Richard Smith. A variant of the Indian name Metacomet is now the name of a main road in Bristol: Metacom Avenue (RI Route 136).[4]:11 Bristol was a town of Massachusetts until the Crown transferred it to the Rhode Island Colony in 1747.[4]:11

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.

A view of Bristol RI from the harbor
A view of Bristol RI from the harbor. 1886 engraving.

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.

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[5] 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 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, but it 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 State Park, was home to Samuel P. Colt, nephew of the man famous for the arms company, and founder of the United States Rubber Company, later called Uniroyal and the largest rubber company in the nation. Colt State Park lies on manicured gardens abutting the West Passage of Narragansett Bay, and is popular for its views of the waterfront and sunsets.

Bristol is the site of the National Historic Landmark Joseph Reynolds House built in 1700. The Marquis de Lafayette and his staff used the building as headquarters in 1778 during the Battle of Rhode Island.[6]

Fourth of July parade[edit]

Start of the 231st Bristol Fourth of July Parade in 2016.

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.[7]

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.[8] 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.[9][10] Also in 2009, Bristol ranked No. 9 on Newsmax magazine's list of the "Top 25 Most Uniquely American Cities and Towns", a piece written by current CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg. In determining his ranking, Greenberg cited Bristol's Independence Day celebration.[11]

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


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.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1790 1,406
1800 1,678 19.3%
1810 2,698 60.8%
1820 3,197 18.5%
1830 3,084 −3.5%
1840 3,490 13.2%
1850 4,616 32.3%
1860 5,271 14.2%
1870 5,302 0.6%
1880 6,628 25.0%
1890 5,478 −17.4%
1900 6,901 26.0%
1910 8,565 24.1%
1920 11,375 32.8%
1930 11,953 5.1%
1940 11,159 −6.6%
1950 12,320 10.4%
1960 14,570 18.3%
1970 17,860 22.6%
1980 20,128 12.7%
1990 21,625 7.4%
2000 22,469 3.9%
2010 22,954 2.2%
Est. 2015 22,357 [12] −2.6%
U.S. Decennial Census[13][14]

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.[15]

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.

Welcome sign

Points of interest and Registered Historic Places[edit]

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  2. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  3. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  4. ^ a b c d Susan Cirillo; Lombard John Pozzi (1980). Bristol: Three Hundred Years. Providence, Rhode Island: Franklin Graphics. OCLC 6811058. 
  5. ^ [1] Archived May 17, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.‹The template Wayback is being considered for merging.› 
  6. ^ [2] Archived July 4, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.‹The template Wayback is being considered for merging.› 
  7. ^ Simpson, Richard V. (2002). Bristol: Montaup to Poppasuash (RI). Making of America. Mount Pleasant, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 0-738523-56-9. 
  8. ^ "Annual Fourth of July Celebration | Bristol, Rhode Island". Retrieved 2013-07-01. 
  9. ^ "RI Tea Party banned from parade". WPNI. 2009-07-10. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  10. ^ "RI Tea Party: Parade group lifts ban". WPNI. 2009-07-16. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  11. ^ Greenberg, Peter (May 2009). "Newsmax Magazine Rates the Top 25 Most Uniquely American Cities and Towns: 9. Bristol, R.I.". Newsmax. Archived from the original on November 5, 2013. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  12. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015". Retrieved July 2, 2016. 
  13. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2016. 
  14. ^ Snow, Edwin M. (1867). Report upon the Census of Rhode Island 1865. Providence, RI: Providence Press Company. 
  15. ^ 2010 general profile of population and housing characteristics of Bristol from the US Census
  16. ^ Bristol Art Museum
  17. ^ Coggeshall Farm Museum

External links[edit]