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The Portsmouth Historical Society has items from the opening festivities of the Mt. Hope Bridge in 1929.  Those items include an invitation, guest badge and photographs of the construction and ribbon cutting.  A front page newspaper article from the time helped us to understand how elaborate the ceremonies were.  Senator William H. Vanderbilt presided over the pageant.  Beginning at 10 in the morning a parade began in Bristol – a “tableau”  depicting Roger Williams organized by the Rhode Island Historical Society.  The Newport Historical Society organized a tableau and parade depicting John Clarke and they marched from the Aquidneck Island side.  At 11 AM “Roger Williams” met “John Clarke”  and unfurled flags at the center of the bridge and exchanged greetings. There was an Indian ceremony in which Governor Case and Senator Vanderbilt became members of the Algonquin Council.  Vice President Charles Curtis signaled from Washington, D.C. at noon to begin the dedication of the bridge.  The program lists events such as a christening of the bridge, ribbon cuttings and acceptance of bridge certification.  The ceremony was even broadcast on WEAN at the old Outlet Building in Providence.

Part of the elaborate ceremonies at the Opening of the Mt.Hope Bridge in 1929.

Catboat Bristol Ferries

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Captain Hicks used a catboat to ferry bicycles and their riders.

Even in the late 1800’s sailboats were used as ferries.  Captain Oliver G. Hicks bought a large wide catboat for bicycle traffic.  The boat could carry up to 16 bikes.

(image from a book in the collection of the Portsmouth Historical Society)

Sakonnet River Bridge

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Sakonnet Bridge Under Construction. (PHS collection image)

Sakonnet Bridge (image from G. Schmidt collection)

The Sakonnet River Bridge opened in 1956 as a replacement for the Stone Bridge that was damaged in many storms.  The bridge has not been maintained well and a new bridge is under construction.  Note the railroad bridge to the left.

Horse Powered Bristol Ferry

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Horses powered Bristol Ferries in the mid 1800's.

In 1824 the Rhode Island Steam & Team Boat Company was chartered  to use either steam or horsepower to ferry from Portsmouth to Bristol.  The boat was like a square paddlewheel boat with rounded ends.  Two pairs of horses on both sides of the ferry provided the power as they moved on a large round disk.  This was hard work and horses had to be replaced frequently. Ferry Farm was home to the horses.  The horses proved to be an expensive way to power a boat and by 1845 the horse powered ferries were replaced by the steamboats or even sailboats when people were in a hurry.

(Image from book in PHS collection)

Railroad Bridge

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The Portsmouth Historical Society displays a piece of the railroad bridge. It may be a piece of the swinging mechanism.

The Sakonnet River Rail bridge was built in 1899.  It was a “swing” bridge with part of the bridge staying anchored and the other part swinging back to allow boats to pass through.   The bridge was damaged and closed in 1980 when it was damaged by a heavy train load.  A barge ran into the open bridge in 1988 and it was removed in 2006 to 2007.  The Portsmouth Historical Society has a circular piece of bridge in the Old Town Hall.

The bridge rail bed swings open so ships may pass through.

Hog Island Shoal Lighthouse

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Treacherous shoals are marked by this 1901 lighthouse near Hog Island.  There was a small light boat on the spot that the Old Colony Steamship Company used to aid their vessels.  A larger boat, the Eel Grass Shoal Lightship, LV 12, was used beginning in 1886.

This 1901 Lighthouse replaced a light boat on the Hog Island Shoals. (Image G. Schmidt collection)

Light Keeper’s Quarters

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Plans in the PHS collections.

The plans of the Musselbed Shoal Light show the quarters for the lighthouse keeper.  The keeper led an isolated life.  Most keepers held the post for only a short time.  A few of them lasted as long as ten years.

Plans for Musslebed Shoal Light

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The plans for the later Musselbed Shoal Lighthouse are part of the collection of the Portsmouth Historical Society. These are plans for the 1877 lighthouse. Ice floes moved the entire structure of the original lighthouse.    The stone pier was enlarged to protect the structure, but this house was also damaged by ice and hurricanes.  The fog bell was mounted on the roof.

Plans for the Musselbed Shoal Light in PHS collection

Musselbed Shoal Lighthouse

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Musselbed Shoals is a dangerous spot for navigation through the channel from Narragansett Bay to Mount Hope Bay.  It is evan noted  on colonial era maps.  In 1871 a beacon was placed there followed by a new light in 1873.  This structure was damaged by ice floes.  A new structure with built with more protection, but ice floes in 1919 -1920 damaged this one as well.  The light was abandoned in 1938 and the lighthouse was severely damaged by the Hurricane of 1938.  Later the building was torn down and an automatic light was installed that remains today.

Musselbed Shoal Lighthouse operated until 1938 when it was replaced by an automatic light

The “Bristol”

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Steamboat ferries operated out of Bristol Ferry Landing

The Bristol was a steam powered ferry that transported automobiles.

from 1905 until the Mount Hope Bridge opened in 1929.  The Bristol was a double ender type ferry that carried automobiles.

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