Stone Bridge: "On the Water"

Bridges across the Sakonnet have had a history of being difficult to maintain. The old Stone Bridge was destroyed and rebuilt many times before our current Sakonnet River Bridge was built.

With workers busy on the new Sakonnet River Bridge, it's important to remember that the area near this bridge has been the major link between the island and the mainland.

Howland's Ferry went across the narrowest part of the Sakonnet River, and that is just where the first bridge off Aquidneck Island was constructed.  A toll bridge was constructed by the Rhode Island Bridge Company in 1795.  

Maintaining a bridge in this location seems to have been difficult.  The bridge was rebuilt and washed away again in 1798 and remained closed until 1808.  The Great September Gale of 1815 destroyed it and it was rebuilt again under the name of the Stone Bridge.  

The draw part of the bridge was washed away in 1869, and the owners sold the Stone Bridge to the towns of Tiverton and Portsmouth.  The towns, in turn, gave the bridge to the state to maintain.  The bridge was rebuilt and reopened in 1871 as a free bridge without a toll.  More damage was done by storms and ships that rammed the bridge and it closed after Hurricane Carol in 1954. Ferries such as the West Side were used while the bridge was out.  

In 1957 it was replaced by the then new Sakonnet River Bridge. What remains of the Stone Bridge can still be seen today from both the Tiverton and Portsmouth sides.  

The "On the Water" exhibit, which opens at the Memorial Day Sunday, has information on all the bridges that have linked Portsmouth and Tiverton.

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Gloria Schmidt May 16, 2012 at 09:27 PM
There are so many ties between Tiverton and Portsmouth through history. Our curator did some research on the menhaden boat. Atlantic Oil & Guano Company at Common Fence… Menhaden processing facility. These fish (aka Pogy) were caught and processed. The extracted oil was used to replace costly oil in paints but later used in cosmetics. The remainder of the fish was sold as fertilizer. Menhaden industry in some form was present in Portsmouth from 1812 to 1920s.
Doug Smith May 17, 2012 at 11:44 AM
Thanks for the interesting articles Gloria. Portsmouth really has a fascinating history!
Stephen Lake May 17, 2012 at 12:07 PM
I believe that actually is the Stone Bridge. Looks like the old Stone Bridge Inn in the background to the left.
Gloria Schmidt May 17, 2012 at 12:17 PM
The more I learn about the history of Portsmouth neighborhoods, the more I appreciate what a special town we have.
Robert E May 17, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Steve the first picture is the Stone Bridg the second is the old Railroad bridge. The picture says "Portsmouth,R.I. Birds Eye View fromthe Hummock." The Railroad Bridge ran between the Hummocks and Tiverton the Stone Bridge ran between Islan Park and Tiverton. You can see the train in the second picture. The Railroad Bridge was a bascule swing bridge the Stone Bridge was a double leaf bridge.


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