Bristol, Rhode Island

Bristol is a town in Bristol County, Rhode Island, as well as the county seat.[4] It is a deep-water seaport named after Bristol, England.

The population of Bristol was 22,954 at the 2010 census. 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.

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°WCoordinates: 41°41′3″N 71°16′7″W / 41.68417°N 71.26861°W
CountryUnited States
StateRhode Island
IncorporatedOctober 28, 1681
Annexed from MassachusettsJanuary 27, 1747
 • TypeCouncil-manager
 • Town AdministratorSteven Contente (I) RI
 • Town CouncilTimothy E. Sweeney (D)
Mary A. Parella (R)
Nathan T. Calouro (D)
Aaron Ley (D)
Antonio A Teixeira (I)
 • Town ClerkLouis P. Cirillo (R)
 • Total20.6 sq mi (53.4 km2)
 • Land10.1 sq mi (26.2 km2)
 • Water10.5 sq mi (27.2 km2)
0–131 ft (0–40 m)
 • Total22,954
 • Density2,269/sq mi (876.1/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP Code
Area code(s)401
FIPS code44-09280[1]
GNIS feature ID1220083[2]
DemonymBristolian[3] ("brihs-TOH-lee-an")


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.[5]:10 King Philip'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 (a corruption of the Wampanoag word Montaup) his base of operations; he died following an ambush by Captain Benjamin Church on August 12, 1676.[5]:11 "King Philip's Chair" is a rocky ledge on the mountain which was a lookout site for enemy ships on Mount Hope Bay.

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).[5]:11 Bristol was a town of Massachusetts until the Crown transferred it to the Rhode Island Colony in 1747.[5]: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. 1886 engraving.
A view of Bristol RI from the harbor. 1886 engraving.

During the American Revolutionary War, the British Royal Navy bombarded Bristol twice. On October 7, 1775, a group of ships led by Captain Wallace and 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 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[6] 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.[7]

Fourth of July parade

231st Bristol RI 4th of July Parade
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.[8]

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.[9] 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".

Bristol is represented in the parade with hometown groups like the Bristol Train of Artillery and the Bristol County Fifes and Drums.


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.
Est. 201522,357[10]−2.6%
U.S. Decennial Census[11][12]

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.[13]

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.


Bristol town vote
by party in presidential elections
Year GOP DEM Others
2016 38.26% 4,080 54.11% 5,771 7.63% 814
2012 36.11% 3,707 61.94% 6,359 1.96% 201
2008 35.39% 3,834 63.08% 6,833 1.53% 166
2004 38.30% 4,000 60.10% 6,276 1.60% 167
2000 32.20% 3,065 62.13% 5,914 5.67% 540
1996 26.15% 2,293 62.42% 5,474 11.44% 1,003
1992 28.00% 2,818 49.87% 5,018 22.13% 2,227
1988 42.51% 3,538 57.02% 4,746 0.47% 39

In the Rhode Island Senate, Bristol is split into three senatorial districts, all Democratic:

At the federal level, Bristol is a part of Rhode Island's 1st congressional district and is currently represented by Democrat David N. Cicilline. In presidential elections, Bristol is a Democratic stronghold, as no Republican presidential nominee has won the town in over three decades.

Points of interest and Registered Historic Places

Bristol Rhode Island sign

Welcome sign

Bristol (Rhode Island) Town Common

Bristol Town Common

Bristol Rhode Island Town Hall and War Memorial

Town Hall and War Memorial

Bristol (Rhode Island) State House

The Bristol County Statehouse/Courthouse

Notable people


  1. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2013-09-11. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  2. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  3. ^ MacKay, Scott (October 7, 2013). "Why I'll Never Call Myself a Bristolian". One Square Mile (story series). Rhode Island Public Radio. Retrieved September 2, 2017.
  4. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on 2011-05-31. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  5. ^ a b c d Susan Cirillo; Lombard John Pozzi (1980). Bristol: Three Hundred Years. Providence, Rhode Island: Franklin Graphics. OCLC 6811058.
  6. ^ [1] Archived May 17, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ [2] Archived July 4, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Simpson, Richard V. (2002). Bristol: Montaup to Poppasuash (RI). Making of America. Mount Pleasant, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 0-738523-56-9.
  9. ^ "Annual Fourth of July Celebration | Bristol, Rhode Island". Retrieved 2013-07-01.
  10. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015". Archived from the original on 2016-06-02. Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  11. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Archived from the original on May 12, 2015. Retrieved June 4, 2016.
  12. ^ Snow, Edwin M. (1867). Report upon the Census of Rhode Island 1865. Providence, RI: Providence Press Company.
  13. ^ 2010 general profile of population and housing characteristics of Bristol from the US Census
  14. ^
  15. ^ Bristol Art Museum
  16. ^ Coggeshall Farm Museum

External links

Benjamin Church House (Bristol, Rhode Island)

Benjamin Church House (also known as Benjamin Church Home for the Aged) is a Colonial Revival house at 1014 Hope Street in Bristol, Rhode Island, U.S.A. It opened in 1909 as the "Benjamin Church Home for Aged Men" as stipulated by Benjamin Church's will. Beginning in 1934, during the Great Depression, it admitted women. The house was closed in 1968 and became a National Register of Historic Places listing in 1971. The non-profit Benjamin Church Senior Center was incorporated in June 1972 and opened on September 1, 1972. It continues to operate as a senior center.

Billy Andrade

William Thomas Andrade (born January 25, 1964) is an American professional golfer who currently plays on the PGA Champions Tour.

Andrade was born in Bristol, Rhode Island. He is an American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) alum and 1981 Rolex Junior Player of the Year.

He attended Wake Forest University where he helped lead the Demon Deacons to the 1986 NCAA Championship. He played on the U.S. team in the 1987 Walker Cup, and turned professional in the same year. He has four wins on the PGA Tour: the 1991 Kemper Open and Buick Classic, the 1998 Bell Canadian Open, and the 2000 Invensys Classic. He was the first golfer to win on the PGA Tour using the ProV1 golf ball at the 2000 Invensys Classic at Las Vegas. He has been featured in the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking. Andrade continues to play on a limited basis, and finished T5 at the Sanderson Farms Championship on the PGA Tour in July 2013, earning $114,000. He became eligible to compete on the Champions Tour on January 25, 2014 when he turned 50 years old. He had exempt status on the Champions Tour due to his position on the career earnings money list and his multiple victories on the PGA Tour.

Andrade is also an active contributor to charity. He and fellow PGA Tour professional Brad Faxon received the Golf Writers of America's 1999 Charlie Bartlett Award for their "unselfish contributions to society", and the American Heart Association's 2002 Gold Heart Award in recognition of their charity efforts. Also in 2002, Andrade and Faxon were named winners of the 2002 Ambassadors of Golf Award. Together, they run Billy Andrade/Brad Faxon Charities for Children, Inc., a non-profit organization that, as of 2005, has donated over $3 million to needy children in Rhode Island and southern Massachusetts. Since 1999, Andrade and Faxon have also served as hosts of the CVS Charity Classic, a golf tournament held at the Rhode Island Country Club each June, whose proceeds benefit the two players' charity. Every fall Andrade and PGA Tour player Stewart Cink co-host the East Lake Invitational held at East Lake Golf Club which helps to benefit the East Lake Foundation.

Andrade resides in Atlanta, Georgia and Bristol, Rhode Island, with his wife, Jody, and their children Cameron and Grace. Unusually for a professional golfer, he is also a Democrat.

Byron Diman

Byron Diman (August 5, 1795 – August 1, 1865) was an American politician who served as 19th Governor of Rhode Island.

Diman was born in Bristol, Rhode Island on August 5, 1795. He worked in a counting-house for over two decades. He was then engaged in the whaling and mill businesses. He served in the Rhode Island Militia and later became Brigadier General. He became a member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives for many terms.

He became Lieutenant governor of Rhode Island for three years before winning election as the governor of Rhode Island. He was a Law and Order Party candidate. Although he didn't win the majority of votes, he was selected as the governor of the state by the General Assembly. He held the governor's office from May 6, 1846 to May 4, 1847.

He later serve in the state Senate for three years serving under Governors James Fenner and Charles Jackson. He was also active in organizing the Republican Party in Bristol, Rhode Island. He died on August 1, 1865 and was buried in Juniper Hill Cemetery.

Colt State Park

Colt State Park is public open space that occupies 464 acres (188 ha) on Poppasquash Neck in the township of Bristol, Rhode Island, once owned by industrialist Samuel P. Colt. The park is a major component of the Poppasquash Farms Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is a stop on the East Bay Bike Path. The park includes trails, picnic groves, boat ramps, an observation tower, and an open air Chapel-by-the-Sea.

Francis M. Dimond

Francis Moore Dimond (June 6, 1796 – April 12, 1859) was an American politician and the 23rd Governor of Rhode Island.

Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology

The Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology is Brown University's teaching museum. The museum has a 2,000-square-foot (190 m2) gallery in Manning Hall on the university campus in Providence, Rhode Island. Its Collections Research Center is located in Bristol, Rhode Island.

James DeWolf

James DeWolf (March 18, 1764 – December 21, 1837) was a slave trader, a privateer during the War of 1812, and a state and national politician. He gained notoriety in 1791 when indicted for murdering a slave said to have smallpox, whom he said threatened the lives of all of the other slaves and crew because of the disease. The case was ultimately dismissed and was considered justifiable under contemporary law. During his lifetime, his name was usually written "James D'Wolf".

He served as a state legislator for a total of nearly 25 years, and in the 1820s as a United States senator from Rhode Island for much of a term. Along with the slave trade, DeWolf invested in sugar and coffee plantations in Cuba and became the wealthiest man in his state; by the end of his life, he was said to be the second-richest person in the entire United States.

June Rockwell Levy

June Rockwell Levy (1886-1971) was an American philanthropist who was inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame alongside her husband in 1999. In 1963, she received the Order of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth II. She was known as the "First Lady of Burrillville."

Kenneth Marshall (politician)

Kenneth A. Marshall (born January 4, 1968) is an American politician and a Democratic member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives representing District 68 since January 1, 2013.

LeBaron Bradford Colt

LeBaron Bradford Colt (June 25, 1846 – August 18, 1924) was a United States Senator from Rhode Island and a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and of the United States Circuit Courts for the First Circuit and previously was a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island.

Mount Hope Bay

Mount Hope Bay is a tidal estuary located at the mouth of the Taunton River on the Massachusetts and Rhode Island border. It is an arm of Narragansett Bay. The bay is named after Mount Hope, a small hill located on its western shore in what is now Bristol, Rhode Island. It flows into the East Passage of Narragansett Bay and also the Sakonnet River. Mount Hope Bay has played an important role to the history of the area, from pre-colonial times to the present. While many years of sewage and industrial pollution have severely degraded the quality of the shallow waters of the bay, there are currently major efforts underway to clean up and restore it.

National Register of Historic Places listings in Bristol, Rhode Island

List of Registered Historic Places in Bristol, Rhode Island, which has been transferred from and is an integral part of National Register of Historic Places listings in Bristol County, Rhode Island

This National Park Service list is complete through NPS recent listings posted May 10, 2019.

Roger Williams University

Roger Williams University (RWU) is a private liberal arts university in Bristol, Rhode Island. Founded in 1956, it was named for theologian and Rhode Island cofounder Roger Williams. The school enrolls over 5,000 students and employs over 480 academic staff.

USS Cushing (TB-1)

USS Cushing (Torpedo Boat #1/TB-1) was a torpedo boat in the United States Navy during the Spanish–American War. She was named for William B. Cushing.

Cushing was launched on 23 January 1890 by the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company, Bristol, Rhode Island; sponsored by Miss K. B. Herreshoff; and commissioned on 22 April 1890, Lieutenant C. M. Winslow in command.

USS Marabout (AMc-50)

USS Marabout (AMc-50) was an Accentor-class coastal minesweeper acquired by the U.S. Navy for the dangerous task of removing mines from minefields laid in the water to prevent ships from passing.

Marabout was laid down 20 December 1940 by the Herreshoff Mfg. Co., Bristol, Rhode Island; launched 17 February 1941; sponsored by Mrs. R. F. Haffenreffer; and commissioned 8 July 1941, Lt. H. M. Larsen, USNR, in command.

USS Ostrich (AMc-51)

USS Ostrich (AMc-51) was an Accentor-class coastal minesweeper acquired by the U.S. Navy.

It was the second ship to be named Ostrich by the Navy, and was laid down 6 February 1941, by the Herreschoff Mfr. Co. Bristol, Rhode Island; launched 29 March 1941 and placed in service 14 July 1941.

USS Sea Hawk (SP-2365)

USS Sea Hawk (SP-2365) was an armed motorboat that served in the United States Navy as a patrol vessel from 1917 to 1919.

Sea Hawk was built in 1917 by Herreshoff Manufacturing Company at Bristol, Rhode Island, as the civilian motorboat Herreshoff No. 319. The U.S. Navy acquired her from Arthur Winslow of Boston, Massachusetts, on 20 October 1917 for World War I service as a patrol boat. She was commissioned as USS Sea Hawk (SP-2365) in December 1917.

Sea Hawk initially served as a patrol boat in the 1st Naval District, operating in the Boston area. Later she was transferred to the 7th Naval District for employment in Florida waters.

Due to an urgent need for craft such as Sea Hawk at Brest, France, an order dated 14 October 1918 went out from Washington, D.C., to Boston, directing the Commandant of the 1st Naval District to ready six section patrol boats -- USS Commodore, Cossack, War Bug, Sea Hawk, Kangaroo, and SP-729—to be shipped to France as deck cargo along with spare parts to keep them operational. However, this proposed movement appears to have been canceled, probably because of the armistice with Germany of 11 November 1918 that ended World War I and eliminated the need for more U.S. Navy patrol craft in Europe.

Decommissioned after World War I ended, Sea Hawk remained at Key West, Florida, awaiting final disposition with other section patrol boats until the night of 9–10 September 1919, when she disappeared in the 1919 Florida Keys hurricane and was not recovered.


WQRI (88.3 FM) is the official radio station for Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island, United States. WQRI's D.J.s are students and staff at the university. They provide numerous live events, radio shows, and listening opportunities to the University and surrounding community. The station is currently owned by Roger Williams University and plays a variety of music genres which include alternative, metal, country, disco, classic rock, and many more. WQRI updated its systems in 2005 to include an internet stream.

William Bradford (Rhode Island politician)

William Bradford (November 4, 1729 – July 6, 1808) was a physician, lawyer, and politician, serving as United States Senator from Rhode Island and deputy governor of the state.

Municipalities and communities of Bristol County, Rhode Island, United States
Major rivers
Cities & towns
Major cities
Cities and towns
Cities and towns
Cities and towns

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