Bristol was the "shire town" (county seat) of Bristol County, Plymouth Colony and remained a part of Massachusetts until the Crown transferred it to the Rhode Island Colony in 1747.
At Coggeshall Farm Museum, visitors can meet rare-breed geese, and help our costumed interpreters cultivate heirloom onions. Seeds saved from the rarest of the 18th century heirloom onions preserved at the Farm are available to plant at home.
Ethel Barrymore, an Oscar-award winning actress married Russell Colt and summered at Linden Place with her family.
Bristol once had 46 grocery, hardware and dry goods stores.
Andrew Jackson visited Linden Place in 1835.
There was once a coal mine on Thames Street.
Mount Hope, at 212 foot elevation, is the highest point in Bristol.
Mount Hope Farm on Bristol’s eastern shore has had only a dozen owners in its 325 years of history.
In his book "The Story of the Mount Hope Lands", author Wilfred Harold Munro wrote that during the Battle of Bunker Hill during the Revolutionary War, the sound of the cannon fire could be heard in Bristol.
During the Revolutionary War, the British Navy bombarded Bristol twice - once in 1775 and again in 1778.
Samuel P. Colt of Bristol did not invent the Colt revolver - his uncle, also named Samuel P. Colt, was the inventor.
As a result of more than thirty-five years of careful documentation, acquisition and restoration, the Herreshoff Marine Museum boasts over sixty significant boats, ranging from the 8 1/2' dinghy, NATHANAEL to the 75' DEFIANT, built in 1992 for the successful defense of the America's Cup.
It is said that between takes of filming “The Great Gatsby”, Robert Redford & Mia Farrow would play pool on the antique billiard table in what is now the Linden Place Museum Store.
Captain Nathanael Greene Herreshoff designed the first United States Navy torpedo boats and the yachts that defended the America’s Cup six consecutive times.
The Nathanael Greene Herreshoff Model Room at the Herreshoff Marine Museum holds a collection unique in the world - Captain Nat's models used to create his designs, including his America's Cup defenders. The 500 models are works of art in themselves, and are testimony to Captain Nat's genius as a naval architect.
The last battle of King Philip's War took place in Bristol in 1676.
During the 18th and early 19th centuries, Bristol was the second leading producer of onions in New England, (Wethersfield, Connecticut was the first). At their peak, Bristol farmers exported 100,000 bushels of onions annually, nearly 6,000,000 pounds!
August 1899, Herreshoff yacht Columbia, was engaged in trials for the America’s Cup when its experimental mainmast collapsed, sending the mainsail into the water. The only place large enough to dry the sail was the 10-acre Great Lawn at Blithewold.
In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the prominent Bristol DeWolf family were among the largest slave traders in the United States and sailed on the notorious “Triangle Slave Trade”.
It was voted at the first Town meeting in September 1681 that the name of the new town should be Bristol, although none of the original settlers had come from Bristol, England.
James Monroe visited Linden Place while on the campaign train in 1817.
The streamship Empire State burned in Bristol harbor in 1887.
Scenes from the 1974 movie “The Great Gatsby”, starring Robert Redford & Mia Farrow, were filmed at Linden Place.
When founded in 1680, Bristol was actually part of Plymouth Colony. When it went bankrupt in 1692, Plymouth Colony became part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
There were once 17 wharves on the Bristol waterfront.
On September 14, 1680, the Mount Hope Lands (present-day Bristol) were sold to John Walley, Nathaniel Byfield, Stephen Burton and Nathaniel Oliver, four wealthy Boston merchants, for £1100.
In 1918, the United States Rubber Company on Wood St. produced 53,000 pairs of rubber footwear daily, employed 3,000 people and was one of the largest concerns of its kind in the country.
There are known portraits of only two of the four original proprietors: founders Nathaniel Byfield and John Walley.
Blithewold Mansion is home to the tallest Giant Sequoia in New England. Planted in 1911, this particular tree stands at almost 100 feet, but at only 100 years old it is still considered a young specimen and has a lot of growing to go!
Bristol’s rum production in the 18th century included 5 distilleries working 24/7 generating 200 gallons of rum per day and stored in barrels called “hogsheads”.
Until 1843, church bells in Bristol rang at sunrise!
Every colonial home in Bristol was obligated by law to have two fire buckets with the owner's name on them and at the sounding of an alarm, they had to bring them to the fire. Failure to do so would result in a fine or jail sentence.
Until 1873, Bristol's Northern boundary extended to St. Mary of the Bay in Warren.
One hundred - fifty thousand bushels of onions per year were once grown in Bristol.
The author of the L.A. Times column "Hedda Hopper's Hollywood", Hedda Hopper, is a descendant of William Henry DeWolf.
The DeWolf family defiantly and successfully carried on the Slave Trade after it was outlawed by the United States in 1808. When crops on DeWolf-owned sugar plantations failed in Cuba in 1825,the whole town of Bristol was dragged into bankruptcy.
The tenant farm at Coggeshall Farm Museum has never been worked by its owners since its creation at the end of the 18th century. The DeWolfs, Van Wickles, and Colts have all been landlords of this farm throughout its history.
Ulysses S. Grant traveled to Bristol in 1875 to visit his Civil War comrade Ambrose E. Burnside, and was entertained by Theodora DeWolf Colt (daughter of George DeWolf, who built Linden Place)
The most legendary accomplishment of the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company was the construction of eight consecutive successful defenders of the America's Cup from 1893 to 1934.
Bristol has the longest unbroken series of July 4th celebrations, dating to 1785.
Mount Hope Farm was home to William Bradford (1729-1808), who served Rhode Island and America with great distinction. He was a physician, a lawyer, a member of the Colonial Assembly, and the first Deputy Governor (1775-1778) of Rhode Island.
In 1883, President Chester A. Arthur came to Bristol to preside over the dedicatory services of the new Bristol Town Hall in Gen. Burnside’s honor. During that time, he visited Linden Place.
Mount Hope Farm’s Isaac Royall, Jr. House (c.1745 –c.1914) was the backdrop used in Steven Spielberg’s movie Amistad as the home of John Quincy Adams (played by Anthony Hopkins).
William Hopper (Paul Drake of the old black-and-white 'Perry Mason' show) is descended from a daughter of William Henry DeWolf, who once owned Linden Place. His son, DeWolf Hopper was also a famous actor.
Actor Richard Gere visited local shops on Hope Street while in town filming “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale”
Gas lights and the railroad came to Bristol in 1855.
The tricolor striping of the Bristol Parade route began in 1969 and, when the parade route was extended another mile in 1976, the amount of paint necessary for the stripes increased to 100 gallons.
A firearms factory was opened in Bristol by Ambrose E. Burnside in 1852.
Nathaniel Byfield was the youngest of 21 children.
Each 4th of July after the parade the Van Wickle family and staff would adjourn to Blithewold for “Day Fireworks”, little lanterns that were fired off, as they floated down they opened into large tissue paper shapes in the form of flowers and animals.
Until 1854, Bristol was one of the five state capitals of Rhode Island.
When Blithewold’s Augustus Van Wickle died, his will revealed a generous bequest to his Alma Mater, Brown University. The funds were used to build the Van Wickle Gates. The gates open only twice a year, for incoming freshman and outgoing graduates.
Bristol's burial ground was located on the Town Common until 1853.
Bristol’s National Historic Landmark, the Joseph Reynolds House (c.1698) was used by Marquis de Lafayette as his headquarters in 1778.
Colt State Park boasts 4 miles of bicycle trails, 464 acres of open space and the entire western border is an open panorama of Narragansett Bay.
By the beginning of the 19th century, Bristol was famous locally for its "Girls, geese, and onions."
Coggeshall Farm Museum was incorporated in 1973 as "a quiet, authentic place for 20th century Americans to observe the lifestyles of 1750 Rhode Island.”
Rhode Island's oldest boat, SPRITE, (claimed to be the oldest existing private yacht in the US), and RELIANCE, the largest America's Cup boat ever built (featured on the Rhode Island Quarter), were Herreshoff designs.
Bristol's five distilleries once produced 100,000 gallons of rum per year.
Bristol County, Rhode Island and Bristol County Massachusetts are the only counties with the same name which share the same border in the United States.