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Historic Bristol Walking Tour

Historic Bristol Walking Tour Map

Bristol's History

Located along Narragansett Bay, Bristol was the site of the first battle of King Philip's War in 1675.

This was a rebellion by Wampanoag Indians against settlers who bought land from King Philip's late father, the sachem Massasoit. Philip was defeated, but his Indian name Metacom, was given to one of Bristol's main roads, which is also Route 136.

As a result of the war, Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts retained Bristol lands, finally releasing them with the towns of Barrington, Tiveton, Little Compton and Cumberland in 1747.

Sailing and ship building have played important roles in the life of Bristol since the 17th century. In the 1700s, Bristol was a major port for the slave trade and later privateering flourished. During the American Revolution, Bristol suffered several attacks by British troops while the Joseph Reynolds House on Hope Street served as headquarters for the Marquis de Lafayette and his staff in 1778.

Today, Bristol is a scenic town with many homes designed by Russell Warren in the downtown area, an active waterfront, museums, stores and restaurants to tempt the visitor.

Bristol is also home to Roger Williams University, the Gabelli School of Business and the Papitto School of Law.

Start your walking tour of downtown Bristol at the Post Office on Hope Street.

1. Built in 1963, the Post Office includes exterior woodwork and windows salvaged from the Wardwell House, designed by Russell Warren in 1815, which was razed to make way for it.

2. Rogers Free Library - next door to the Post Office, this library, designed by Wallis E. Howe and built in 1959, replaces the one gutted by fire in 1957.

3. Linden Place - across from the Library on Hope Street. Built in 1810 for George DeWolf and designed by Russell Warren, this building is being operated as a museum by the Friends of Linden Place. Programs and events are held on the grounds and in the mansion throughout the year, including weddings and receptions.

4. Colt School - Built in 1906 of marble and bronze and given to the town by Samuel Pomeroy Colt. Mr. Colt was the inventor of the Colt .45 revolver and a descendent of the DeWolfs of Linden Place.

5. Andrews School - Located on the corner of Hope and Bradford streets, this school was built in 1938 with money left to the town by Robert D. Andrews, in memory of his father, Robert Shaw Andrews, who had been superintendent of Bristol schools. It was designed by George Maxwell Cady.

6. Bristol Phoenix Building - Bradford Street at the corner of Thames, houses the offices of the East Bay Newspapers. The flagship weekly, the Bristol Phoenix, was founded in 1837. The building was built in 1854 by J. Howard Manchester and has been in the Bosworth family for three generations.

7. 617 Hope Street - Designed by Russell Warren and built in 1838 for Rhode Island Governor Francis Dimond.

8. Rockwell House - 610 Hope Street. This lovely pink house set back from Hope Street is now a bed & breakfast. Originally the home of Bristol's first 4th of July parade marshall.

9. Martin Bennet House - 613 Hope Street, early Victorian home designed as an Italian villa and built in 1855.

10. 620 Hope Street - Federal-style house designed by Russell Warren for Charles Collins Jr.

11. 647 Hope Street - Greek Revival designed by Russell Warren for Josiah Talbot.

12. Peck House - 649 Hope Street. Built for Henry Peck in 1748.

13. 693 Hope Street - Federal-style building dating from 1780 has first floor triple hung windows.

14. Hearth House - 736 Hope Street. Built in 1799 for Parker Borden. Noted for its doorway and the window above. Now a bed & breakfast.

15. First Congregational Church - corner of High and Bradford streets. Built in 1855. This church was founded in 1680 and is the oldest Congregational Church in Rhode Island. The DeWolf Memorial Chapel was built in 1869 and the church school building in 1961.

16. 291 High Street - Once a simple stone house, the tower, porch, iron cresting and diagonal boarding were added in 1861. Parsonage of the Congregational Church.

17. Guiteras House - Dating from 1824, this building was originally a stone barn belonging to James DeWolf. It is now the parish house of the Congregational Church.

18-19. Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, circa 1918, on State Street and St. Mary's Church, 1911, on Wood Street, both face the Town Common.

20. First Baptist Church, 1814, oldest church building still existing in Bristol.

21. Bristol County Court House, 1817. Backs up to the Town Common. Erected as a State House, sessions of the General Assembly were held in this building on High Street from 1819 to 1852. Used as a courthouse from 1853. Its bell is rung only on the 4th of July.

22. United Brothers Synagogue, 1916.

23. Waldron Homestead - 344 Hope Street, circa 1790. Built for Royal Diman.

24. Morice-Babbitt House - 328 Hope Street built for Captain Daniel Morice in 1803. Note the roof pediment with lunette window.

25. John Howe House - 341 Hope Street. Built in 1807 for John Howe, grandson of Mark Anthony DeWolf, this house was occupied by Governor Byron Diman. Note the roof railing and four eagles on the corners which were said to have been carved by sailors on board the ship Yankee in 1812. Capt. Banjamin Churchill was master of the ship and owner of the house at the time.

26. St. Michael's Church, episcopal, corner of Hope and Church streets. Present building built in 1861. One of four colonial churches in Rhode Island founded in 1718 by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in London.

27. St. Michael's Rectory - 15 Church Street at the rear of the church. Built in 1806 for Abraham Warren and later acquired by the church. Corinthian pilasters surround the door and are on the Ionic capitals and triglyphs.

28. Burnside Memorial. Built in 1883 to the memory of General Ambrose Burnside, of Civil War fame, who was a Bristol resident. Now a town building.

29. Bristol Historical & Preservation Society - Court Street. Built in 1828 from stones used as ballast in ships sailing out of Bristol. Formerly the Bristol County jail. Contains old cells with chains set in the floor and a wealth of documents, photos, etc. relating to Bristol's history.

30. Old US Post Office and Custom House - Hope Street. Brick building built in 1857. Designed by Ammi Burnham Young, supervising architect of the US Treasury Department throughout the 1850s. Abandoned in 1962, bought and used as the YMCA from 1964 to 1990 an in current use as an office building.

31. Next door to Old Post Office. YMCA building built in 1898 in Old English Tudor style.

32. Citizens Bank building built in 1965. Designed by Philemon F. Sturges III, a Bristol resident. Reliefs of Greek money done on the facade by sculptor Hugh Townley of Bristol.

33-34. Houses at 86 and 92 State Street designed and built by Russell Warren for his own use.

35. Van Doorn House - 102 State Street, circa 1790. Georgian house noteworthy for its twin doors facing north and east.

36. Bradford Dimond-Norris - 474 Hope Street at the corner of State. Built in 1810 for Hersey Bradford. Its cupola covers nearly the whole roof. Now a bed & breakfast.