Bristol is a moderate-sized town with a population of 22,000 on the eastern side of Narragansett Bay, 12 miles south of Providence, Rhode Island. Bristol was the site of the first battle of King Philip’s war in 1675, fought by the Plymouth colony against the Wampanoag Indians. The town originally developed as a thriving port, and sailing and shipbuilding have always played an important role in area life.

During the Revolutionary War, Bristol suffered many attacks by British troops, including being burned in 1778. In the 19th century, Bristol became an industrial center as well, with several large factories. In the late 20th century, Bristol has become one of the State’s most desirable suburban areas.

Bristol is one of Rhode Island’s most historic communities—its 18th- and 19th-century town center is well preserved, and much of its waterfront retains the character of a port town. Many of the town’s historic resources are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, including a town center with well over 1,000 historic buildings, as well as a large district of 19th- and 20th-century gentlemen’s farms, one of the earliest houses in Rhode Island, and other properties.

Bristol is also the cultural center for Bristol County, home to eight museums and Roger Williams University, as well as a center for several shipbuilding companies with local and international reputations for quality and workmanship. Several America’s Cup yachts were built here, and in 1995 Bristol became the home of the America’s Cup Hall of Fame. 

The town has been working with the Bristol Statehouse Foundation and the State of Rhode Island to acquire, restore, and find appropriate uses for the long-vacant Bristol Statehouse of 1817. The first floor of the statehouse has been adapted to serve as a library and computer center for several nearby elementary schools.

When completed, the second floor will contain a civic room and an office for the Fourth of July Committee, and the historic courtroom/legislative chamber will be available for community use. More than $1.3 million has been raised for this community project to date, with State assistance from a State revolving loan fund.

Bristol also holds the distinction of having the oldest, continuously held Fourth of July celebration in America. The celebration, first held in 1785, was started by local residents who actually took part in the Revolutionary War. Every year, the three-week celebration culminates in a gala parade on Independence Day, watched by more than 200,000 enthusiastic residents and visitors.

Designated a Preserve America Community in March 2004.

For more information

Town of Bristol History

Destination Bristol, Inc.