About The Town

An Overview

Bristol is a town in the historic county seat of Bristol County, Rhode Island, United States. Bristol, a deepwater seaport, is named after Bristol, England. Until 1854, Bristol was one of the five state capitals of Rhode Island. Major industries include boat building (and related marine industries), manufacturing, education, and tourism. Bristol is the proud home of Roger Williams University, which is named after Rhode Island's founder.

King Philip's War and the Settlement of Bristol

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 shortened name of the 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. After that war concluded, the town was settled in 1680 as part of Plymouth Colony.  It was named after Bristol, England and 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 British Crown transferred it to the Rhode Island Colony in 1747.

Famous Families

The DeWolf Family

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 UnitedStates Senator from Rhode Island.Quakers from Rhode Island were involved early in the abolition movement.During the American Revolutionary War, the British attacked 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 some damage. The attack was stopped when the town’s leaders 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 (Hope Street now RI Route 114)) and burned 30 barracks and houses, taking some prisoners to Newport.

The Herreshoff Family

The Bristol-based Herreshoff Manufacturing Company built five consecutive America's Cup Defenders between 1893 and 1920. Today, the Herreshoff Marine Museum and America's Cup Hall of Fame commemorates the achievements of the Herreshoff brothers.

The Colt Family

The Colt Estate, now known as Colt Park, was home to Samuel P. Colt, founder of the United States Rubber Company and nephew the man of the same name famous for the invention of the revolver. 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.

4th of July Celebrations

Bristol has the oldest continuously celebrated Independence Day festivities in the United States. The first mention of the celebration comes from July 1777, when a British officer noted sounds coming from across Narragansett Bay, but tradition suggests that the first observance was held on July 4, 1785.

East Bay Bike Path

The southerly terminus of the East Bay Bike Path is located at Independence Park on Bristol Harbor.The Bike path continues north to India Point Park in Providence, Rhode Island. Constructed on a former railroad right of way, 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.

National Historic Landmarks

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.


Bristol is situated on 10.1 square miles (26 km) 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 km), of which, 10.1 square miles (26.2 km) of it is land and 10.5 square miles (27.2 km) of it (50.99%) is water. Bristol's harbor is home to over 800 boat moorings.

Population Data

Information is based on 2000 Census Data.
Population Total
Number of Households
Number of Families
Population Density (People Per Square Mile)
Number of Housing Units
Housing Unit Density (Housing Unit Per Square Mile)

Demographics Breakdown

Information is based on 2010 Census Data.
Racial Origins
Population Percentage
European 94.8%
Asian 2.0%
Native 0.3%
Two Or More