Bristol, Rhode Island is home to the first and thus oldest 4th of July parade in America. The stripe down the middle of the road is red, white and blue. This town is patriotic and quaint. It’s home to Roger Williams University and the America’s Cup Museum, but my favorite thing in this town is the bridge between Bristol and Portsmouth. The Mount Hope Bridge is a two lane suspension bridge over Narragansett Bay. It’s a tall, narrow bridge that runs 135 feet above the high tide mark. There are no sidewalks on this bridge – one lane each way at no wider. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places because there’s quite a history to it.
The Mount Hope Bridge was proposed in 1920, supported by the wealthy and influential William Henry Vanderbilt III and finally completed four days before the 1929 Stock Market crash that started the Great Depression. It’s named for the bay that it spans, which in turn is named for the 209 foot hill Mount Hood. There’s incredible history in this area. The Wampanoags held meetings at a rock formation called King Phillips Seat near Mount Hood. Thankfully this is preserved by Brown University, which owns the land in that area. That history is a blog (or a few blogs) for another day. Today is about the bridge.
Timing the ride over the bridge well, you may be lucky enough to see a spectacular sunset over Narragansett Bay and Jamestown. It’s one of the rare times when I wish there was traffic so I could just watch the sunset. Sadly there are no pedestrian walkways on the bridge, though in theory I could ride a bike across the bridge. In practice that’s a scary thought. The lanes are narrow and there isn’t much forgiveness between moving vehicles and the bay. I’m not risk-averse but that doesn’t seem like a recipe for success.
I’ve had an affinity for bridges for a long time. It may have been all those trips across the Sagamore Bridge going to the Cape as a kid. It may have been those long rows from Lowell to the Tyngsboro Bridge in college. Or memorable trips across the Brooklyn Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge and recently the Vasco De Gama Bridge in Lisbon. Beyond their utility and architectural beauty, bridges represent connection. The Mount Hope Bridge may be named after a hill, but I prefer to think of the name as nod to optimism. Connection and Hope. We could use more of each in this strange world we live in.