The Bristol County Statehouse 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 Street on the Bristol Common. The building and site (200′ by 200′) was purchased for $1.00 from the State of Rhode Island, but the decayed condition has necessitated the expenditure of $1.4 million to bring it up to code and into new uses. It is currently at that level, though additional work is needed to insure the accuracy and completeness of the restoration/preservation project.
The Foundation is a citizens group formed to preserve the building, restore its structure and provide new uses that will ensure its vitality well into this new century.
“The mission of the Bristol Statehouse Foundation embraces restoration, preservation and education. The restored and maintained building will serve as a site for the study, appreciation and enjoyment of our national, state and community heritage. Through exhibits, lectures, re-enactments and other programs, we will celebrate the essence of American history, our freedoms and our multi-cultural inheritance. We are committed to the youth of the town and region and specific activities will be dedicated towards bringing these values to them.”