Bristol County Statehouse or Courthouse, Bristol, RI

260 High Street, P.O. Box 383, Bristol, RI, Bristol, 02809
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401-253-0015, 401-253-4267 (RENTAL OF COURTROOM)
Bristol County Statehouse or Courthouse, Bristol, RI
The Bristol County Statehouse/Courthouse was constructed in 1816 as one of 5 locations for meetings of the Rhode Island House of Representatives and Senate. This use continued until 1854 when the General Assembly decided to meet only in Providence or Newport. The building continued as the seat of the Bristol County Court which presided over cases in the building into the 1980s. From then until it was purchased by the non-profit Bristol Statehouse Foundation in 1997, the building was largely abandoned with only one room on the first floor still housing the office of the Bristol County Sheriff.

The Bristol Statehouse Foundation was organized in 1997 to acquire, restore and reuse the Statehouse building, located at 240 High St. on the Bristol Town Common. The architect of the building is unknown. On February 27, 1816, “L. Rousmaniere for the Committee” noted that “...a plan for a courthouse (has been) furnished by a gentleman of acknowledged judgement & experience in building with stone (which unites cheapness with durability) & who gave it as his opinion that said plan can be carried into erection and the courthouse completed in a workmanlike manner for $7,000.00.” Unfortunately, none of the official state records regarding the building give the names of the individuals involved in the building, though there are strong architectural, stylistic and political reasons to think it was designed by Russell Warren, the favorite of the powerful DeWolf family.

“The mission of the Bristol Statehouse Foundation embraces restoration, preservation and education. The restored and maintained building serves as a site for the study, appreciation and enjoyment of our national, state and community heritage. Through exhibits, lectures, re-enactments and other programs, celebrate the essence of American history, our freedoms and our multi-cultural inheritance.  The second floor Courtroom is available on space available basis for meetings, receptions, lectures, etc. The historic courtroom also features re-enactments of famous local trials.