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Bristol, Rhode Island – Hope Street

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In Bristol, Rhode Island, there’s no double yellow line painted down the center of Hope Street, even though the town’s central street is also a state highway. No, the road paint here is literally red, white and blue. That only stands to reason — because this town boasts an unbroken series of July Fourth celebrations dating to 1785, making its Independence Day observances the oldest continuing event of its kind in the nation.

Perhaps it’s fitting that Bristol doesn’t observe the country’s beginnings on a single day. It starts celebrating on the Town Common on June 14, Flag Day — which is, actually, preceded by Vintage Baseball and Old-Fashioned Days on June 13 — and it concludes on July Fourth with the Military, Civic and Firemen’s Parade and, that evening, the Fourth of July Ball. The overall celebration draws some 200,000 spectators to a town of just 23,000 people.

Clearly, Bristol takes its history seriously. This is the place, after all, that was the site of both the first and last battles of King Philip’s War in 1675-76, four years before the town was officially founded. Today the town center, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, features impressively well-preserved buildings that speak eloquently of Bristol’s rich heritage

It’s a heritage built on both water and land. Bristol is nearly surrounded by salt water, with frontage on both Narragansett and Mount Hope bays. Bristol Harbor’s active deepwater port supports boating of all kinds; there’s even a kayak trail, and a waterfront bicycle path. The Herreshoff Manufacturing Company on the waterfront built boats for the Navy and America’s Cup yachts. The Herreschoff Marine Museum/America’s Cup Hall of Fame is on Burnside Street, and a monument on Hope Street notes the company’s many contributions. Also on Hope is Linden Place, an 1810 Federal-style mansion that’s now a museum of community history.

Many of the shops, restaurants and other attractions on Hope Street reflect the city’s maritime tradition. The Bristol community of today is something to celebrate, too. The city has been named one of the nation’s best places to raise a family by both Family Circle and Bloomberg Business Week magazines.

Fourth of July parade photo courtesy of Manny Correira

Thoughts on “Bristol, Rhode Island – Hope Street

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  1. What the article doesn’t mention is that the “Fourth” is when far-flung family members return to celebrate as only Bristolians do. I’ll be there this year, traveling from Auburn, California.

  2. My grandparents as well as my great aunts and uncles are from Bristol. Had the pleasure of vacationing there many years aga

  3. RI is my home away from home, whenever I get the opportunity to get up the way. My Father was from Tiverton Four Corners area.
    I love the town of Bristol & have been to the 4th of July festivities once while there. It was definitely a wonderful experience & I would love to go once again. It’s a beautiful town & I would love to reside there.

  4. What about the dark history of the slave trade? Bristol was one of the towns that was involved with the African, Carribean triangle.

    1. Why don’t you stop living in the past. A few of the founding fathers owned slaves. So what, it’s ancient history. Guess you still want your pound of flesh.

    2. Really?? That was hundreds of years ago. Good thing you’re not in charge of public relations. News flash.. Practically all of New England was built by the hands of slaves. So stay away from New England, especially Bristol Rhode Island cause slaves probably were forced to paint the red white and blue lines on Hope street!! Lmao gimme a break

  5. My hometown! SO very proud. Lived on Hope Street since forever! So. Many memories, heritage, food and awesome people.

  6. ….We in Bristol are truly blessed. We live in an idyllic corner of the United States called New England with Bristol as one of the jewels of the northeast. Bristol is the picture perfect small town, USA. Our love of our home shows in how we live and the pride we have in our history, our diverse cultural heritage, and the landscape we have in our hearts. It is our home, our town, our story.

  7. Loved growing up there when it was just a small town without all the pretenses. We could walk, roller skate or ride our bikes everywhere. Pretty much knew everyone and everyone knew us.

  8. My hometown! Raised on the ideals of God, Country, Family; couldn’t have asked for a better place on earth!