Bristol, Connecticut

Bristol is a suburban city located in Hartford County, Connecticut, United States, 20 miles (32 km) southwest-west of Hartford. The city is also 120 miles southwest from Boston, and approximately 100 miles northeast of New York City. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city was 60,477.[1]

Bristol, Connecticut


Mum City, Home of ESPN
Coordinates: 41°40′52″N 72°56′26″W
Country United States
State Connecticut
Metropolitan areaHartford
Incorporated (town)1785
Incorporated (city)1911
  • Cedar Lake
  • Chippens Hill
  • East Bristol
  • Edgewood
  • Federal Hill
  • Forestville Village
  • Maple End
  • Northeast Bristol
  • West End
  MayorEllen Zoppo-Sassu (D)
  Total26.8 sq mi (69.4 km2)
  Land26.4 sq mi (68.4 km2)
  Water0.4 sq mi (1.0 km2)
305 ft (93 m)
  Density2,300/sq mi (870/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (EST)
  Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP Codes
Area code(s)860
FIPS code09-08420
GNIS feature ID0205727
Major highways

Bristol is best known as the home of ESPN, whose central studios are in the city. Bristol is also home to Lake Compounce (1846), America's oldest continuously operating theme park. Bristol was known as a clock-making city in the 19th century, and is home to the American Clock & Watch Museum. For silver enthusiasts, Bristol is also known as the site of the former American Silver Company and its predecessor companies (1851–1935).[3][4]

Bristol's nickname is the "Mum City", because it was once a leader in chrysanthemum production and still holds an annual Bristol Mum Festival.[5]

In 2010, Bristol was ranked 84th on Money magazine's "Best Places to Live".[6] In 2013, Hartford Magazine ranked Bristol as Greater Hartford's top municipality in the "Best Bang for the Buck" category.


The area that includes present-day Bristol was originally inhabited by the Tunxis Native American tribe.[7]

Originally, Bristol was within the boundaries of Farmington, Connecticut, which was incorporated in 1645. This deed was confirmed by another deed in 1650.[8] The first actual settler of Bristol was Daniel Brownson, who built a house near West Street, but did not stay in the area very long. The first permanent settler was Ebenezer Barnes, who the next year built a home on King Street. Also in 1728, Nehemiah Manross arrived from Lebanon, and built a house north of Barnes Street, on the west side of King Street. The following year the first settlement arrived in what is now known as East Bristol when Nathaniel Messenger of Hartford and Benjamin Buck of Southington bought land and built houses along King Street.

Other houses were soon built around present-day Bristol wherever land was available for farming. This included the slope of Fall Mountain, now called Wolcott Street, and on Chippens Hill. By 1742, the families inhabiting the area petitioned the Connecticut Colony General Court for permission to create their own Congregational Society, citing the difficulties traveling to Farmington during winter. The Court approved their petition for the winter months only, and in 1744, agreed that area residents could set up through own ecclesiastical society. It was called New Cambridge. With their own congregation, area settlers began forming their own local government. However, since homes were so widely scattered, the General Court formed a committee to locate the geographic center of the settlement. The area now known as Federal Hill was deemed the center, and the first Congregationalist church built there.[9]

In 1785, New Cambridge was incorporated as the town of Bristol, named after Bristol, England.[10] By 1790, the industry for which the town later became famous was established by the pioneer of clock making Gideon Roberts. Roberts began making wooden moment clocks and peddled them by horseback through Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania. As Roberts' sons grew up and began helping with the business, Gideon increased production and Bristol clocks were soon sold all over the country. By the early 19th century, nearly all of the capital and skill in town was involved in the clock industry in some form or fashion. The clock business gave way to related industries, which included brass, springs, bearings, and hardware. As Bristol began to grow, many ethnic groups arrived to work in the industries.

It was incorporated as a city in 1911. Today, Bristol is mostly residential and best known as the home of ESPN (which arrived in 1979), the American Clock & Watch Museum (since 1952), and Lake Compounce, America’s oldest operating theme park - opened in 1846.[11]


Bristol city vote
by party in presidential elections[12]
Year Democratic Republican Third Parties
2016 47.25% 12,499 48.20% 12,752 4.55% 1,204
2012 57.91% 14,146 40.95% 10,004 1.14% 279
2008 60.10% 15,966 38.41% 10,203 1.49% 397
2004 56.34% 14,201 42.13% 10,619 1.53% 386
2000 61.81% 14,665 33.50% 7,948 4.69% 1,112
1996 57.59% 13,616 27.74% 6,560 14.67% 3,468
1992 41.99% 11,872 29.73% 8,407 28.28% 7,995
1988 54.39% 13,462 44.58% 11,034 1.03% 256
1984 43.53% 10,782 56.00% 13,872 0.47% 116
1980 46.32% 11,123 39.91% 9,583 13.77% 3,306
1976 54.07% 13,330 45.23% 11,151 0.70% 173
1972 46.92% 11,609 52.19% 12,913 0.89% 219
1968 57.59% 12,316 37.66% 8,053 4.76% 1,017
1964 76.13% 15,600 23.87% 4,892 0.00% 0
1960 62.82% 13,365 37.18% 7,909 0.00% 0
1956 39.28% 7,602 60.72% 11,751 0.00% 0

The city is governed under a Mayor-council form of government. Both the mayor and councilpersons are elected every two years. The city's Treasurer, Board of Assessment Appeals, and Board of Education are also elected every two years.[13] The current mayor is Ellen Zoppo-Sassu (D), elected in the 2017 municipal election and re-elected in 2019. The last municipal election was held on November 5 2019.[14]

The City Council is made up of six members, elected every two years from three two member districts. As of the 2019 municipal elections, the members of the city council are:[15]

  • District 1: Democrats Gregory Hahn and Scott Rosado
  • District 2: Democrats David Preleski and Peter Kelley
  • District 3: Democrats Brittany Barney and Mary Fortier

Bristol is represented in the Connecticut House of Representatives by state representatives Cara Pavalock D’Amato (R-77), Whit Betts (R-78), and Chris Ziogas (D-79). State Senator Henri Martin (R-31) represents Bristol in the Connecticut Senate. At the federal level, Bristol is in Connecticut's 1st congressional district and is currently represented by Democrat John B. Larson.


According to the United States Census Bureau, Bristol has a total area of 26.8 square miles (69.5 km2), of which 26.4 square miles (68.4 km2) is land and 0.39 square miles (1.0 km2), or 1.51%, is water.[1] Bristol contains several distinct sections, including Cedar Lake in the southwestern quarter, Chippens Hill in the northwestern quarter, Edgewood in the northeastern quarter, Forestville in the southeastern quarter and the city in the approximate middle of Bristol. The majority of Bristol's area is residential in character, though since 2008 there has been a push for commercial development in the city.[16] The city is part of the Naugatuck Valley Regional Planning Organization following the closure of the Central Connecticut Regional Planning Agency, the metropolitan planning organization for Bristol, New Britain, and surrounding towns for decades.[17]

Forestville was the hunting grounds of the Tunxis tribe until the 19th century.[18] The village was established in 1833 and named Forestville for its wooded surroundings. Forestville today has grown into a mini-metropolis of suburban neighborhoods and local businesses. The boundaries of Forestville go from the Plainville town line, south to the Southington town line, west up to the industrial development along Middle street and crosses King Street, including properties on Kingswood Drive and Bernside Drive, north up to Bristol Eastern High School, then north up to the south edge of properties on Louisiana Avenue, then to the west of properties on the west side of Brook Street and from there, goes up to commercial development along Farmington Avenue. Within the Forestville area, there are two subsections known as East Bristol and the Stafford District. Forestville village has a library branch (Manross), post office, meeting hall, community group (Forestville Village Association), fire station, cemetery, funeral home, two urban parks (Quinlan Veterans Park and Clock Tower Park), Pequabuck Duck Race, Memorial Day Parade, Summer Concert Night, Pumpkin Festival, and a railroad station (no longer in use). At one time all of Forestville had its own zip code.[19][20]


Historical population
Est. 201860,032[2]−0.7%
U.S. Decennial Census[21]

As of the 2010 census, there were 60,477 people, 25,189 households, and 16,175 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,265.8 inhabitants per square mile (874.8/km2). There were 26,125 housing units at an average density of 985.6 per square mile (380.5/km2). The racial makeup of the city is 87.74% White, 3.84% African American, 9.64% Hispanic, 0.19% Native American, 1.94% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 3.72% from other races, and 2.54% from two or more races.

In 2000 there were 24,886 households in Bristol, of which 29.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.6% were married couples living together, 11.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.0% were non-families. Of all households 28.9% were made up of individuals, and 10.7% consisted of a sole resident who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.38, and the average family size was 2.94.

The age diversity at the 2000 census was 23.2% under the age of 18, 7.2% from 18 to 24, 32.5% from 25 to 44, 22.2% from 45 to 64, and 14.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females, there were 93.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.6 males.

The median income for a household in the city in 2010 was $57,610. The per capita income for the city was $30,573. Of the population 10.5% was living below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 8.7% of those under the age of 18 and 5.9% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.

Voter Registration and Party Enrollment as of November 1, 2017[22]
Party Active Voters Inactive Voters Total Voters Percentage
Democratic 12,739 96 12,835 36.27%
Republican 6,911 206 7,117 20.11%
Unaffiliated 14,025 779 14,804 41.84%
Minor Parties 605 22 627 1.78%
Total 34,280 1,103 35,383 100%


Education in Bristol is conducted using seven elementary schools (grades kindergarten through five), two middle schools (grades six, seven and eight), and two high schools. In addition to these public schools, there are three private Catholic Schools, and one Lutheran School available. These add an additional three pre-kindergarten through grade 8 schools and one additional high school.[23]

A recent press release shows good scores on the Connecticut Academic Performance Test, a standardized test which students take statewide in tenth grade. The report states that more than 87% of Bristol students scored at or above the proficient level in each of the content areas assessed.[24]

Schools in Bristol
Elementary schoolsMiddle schoolsK-through-8 schoolsHigh schools
Bingham School
(closed June 2010) [25]
Chippens Hill Middle School[26]Saint Anthony School
(Closed June 2016)
Bristol Central High School[27]
Edgewood School[28]Memorial Boulevard Middle School
(Closed June 2012)[29]
Saint Matthew School Bristol Eastern High School[30]
Greene-Hills School[31]Northeast Middle School[32]Saint Joseph School St. Paul Catholic High School
Hubbell School[33]Immanuel Lutheran School
Ivy Drive School[34]
Jennings School
(closed June 2012)[35]
Mountain View School[36]
O'Connell School
(closed June 2012)[37]
South Side School[38]
Stafford School[39]

Recently, it has been proposed that the educational system of the city be redesigned. Because some of the schools are in historic buildings, new schools are being sought by the city. In addition, it has been proposed that the entire education system of the city be redesigned, eliminating the middle school category. In other words, all schools would be kindergarten through eighth grade or high school. The Bristol Board of Education's[40] appeals for support for this project have been met with mixed emotions.[41]



Bristol has a bus service that connects urban centers and hospitals with the rest of the city.[42]

Public safety


Bristol's emergency medical services program has been provided by Bristol Hospital since 1977. It was designed to assume the responsibility previously carried by the Bristol Police Department. The Bristol Hospital's EMS are carried out using 6 emergency ambulances(including spares), 2 paramedic intercept vehicles and 4 wheelchair vans.[43]

Fire department

The Bristol, Connecticut Fire Department is a full-service fire department with five engine companies (or stations) and one tower company. The Bristol Board of Fire Commissioners consists of five members appointed by the Mayor who establish the primary policies of the fire department.[44]

Police department

The Bristol Police Department is a full-service police department with approximately 125 sworn officers. The Bristol Board of Police Commissioners consists of five members appointed by the Mayor who establish the primary policies of the police department. In addition to a vehicular patrol division, downtown Bristol is also policed by a bicycle division and walking beat officers. During any shift, there may be as many as 20 officers on duty, not including detectives and officers from other divisions.[45]



Since 2008, Bristol has begun another renovation of the downtown area. This has included a complete overhaul of a park in the center of the city. In addition, an outdated and underused mall from the 1970s was demolished in 2008.[46] Also, North Main Street was improved in 2008 by adding islands in the road, elegant street lighting and a brick median when the road was repaved.[47] In 2010, a preferred developer agreement was signed for a comprehensive $225 million redevelopment utilizing new urbanism strategies. A sharp decline in the availability of federal funding and a sluggish economy has stalled the project significantly. There has yet to be any groundbreaking as of the year 2017. Most of the city's redevelopment plans can be found in the city's "West End Study" and its 2015 Plan of Conservation and Development.

Blight Committee

In the 1990s, the Blight Committee was formed to enforce appearance laws, and even demolish[48] properties which it deems are unsightly and unkempt. This committee is tasked with ensuring that properties are not abandoned and that all properties are reasonably maintained.

In 2008, the Bristol Blight Committee was disbanded in order to make way for a new committee, the Bristol Code Enforcement Committee. This new committee has even greater powers and can now deal with both appearances and structural integrity issues of buildings in Bristol. The purpose of the committee is to streamline the process of enforcing the issues the former Blight Committee was tasked with. The law requires all structures to be free of "abandoned vehicles, nuisances, refuse, pollution and filth ... broken glass, loose shingles, holes, cracked or damaged siding, crumbling brick and other conditions 'reflective of deterioration or inadequate maintenance.'"[49]


In addition to the Mum Festival, Bristol holds an annual street festival with a car show and a family farms weekend at Minors Farm, Shepherd Meadows and Roberts Orchard, similar to that of Southington's apple festival, all of which are held around September.[5]

Mum Festival and Parade

The first Bristol Mum Festival began on July 7, 1962, and included a parade. The members of the Chamber of Commerce and City of Bristol officials met and completed a list of activities to take place over six days. They wanted to focus on the positive things that were occurring in Bristol. When the festival opened it was originally known as the "Fall Festival". In 1963 the chrysanthemum ("Mum") was also added to the festival's name. Prior to 1986 the nurseries in Bristol would produce over 80,000 mum plants. In 2014, city leaders elected to adopt a new "brand" for the city. "All Heart" became the new logo on letterheads and T-shirts and even the "Mum Festival" leaders were "encouraged" to adopt the new image at the festival and parade.

Other attractions

Bristol has many parks: Peck, Page, Rockwell, Bracket, Barnes Nature Center, Indian Rock, Forestville Memorial and many more.[50] The city is also home to Lake Compounce (1846), the oldest continuously operated amusement park in North America, and to the New England Carousel Museum, the American Clock & Watch Museum, Imagine Nation, A Museum Early Learning Center,[51] Bristol Military Memorial Museum, Bristol Historical Society Museum, Witch's Dungeon Classic Movie Museum, and the Harry Barnes Memorial Nature Center which is part of the Environmental Learning Centers of Connecticut. There is also a Polish-American Dożynki festival every September, at St Stanislaus Church.


Bristol has a summer collegiate baseball team called the Bristol Blues who play home games at Muzzy Field.

Muzzy Field is one of the oldest ballparks in the United States. In 2012 and 2013, the City of Bristol approved funding for a significant renovation project of the historic ballpark.

Bristol hosts the Little League New England and Mid-Atlantic Regional playoffs every August at the A. Bartlett Giamatti Little League Center.[52][53][54]


The local daily newspaper is The Bristol Press,[55] and town news is also featured in a small weekly called the Bristol Observer.[56]

Sister cities


Notable companies

The companies below are some of the most notable in Bristol. These, in addition to Bristol Hospital, are the largest private employers in the area.[58]

Associated Spring

Founded in 1857 and headquartered in Bristol, Barnes Group is a diversified international manufacturer of precision metal components and assemblies and a distributor of industrial supplies, serving a wide range of markets and customers. Barnes Group consists of three businesses with 2005 sales of $1.1 billion.[59]


ESPN houses its broadcast studios in Bristol on Middle Street. ESPN is the largest taxpayer to the City of Bristol.[60]

ESPN's former parent, Capital Cities Communications, once owned the local ABC affiliate WTNH, but sold it after acquiring ABC (which owned ESPN), and later merged with The Walt Disney Company.

Otis Elevator company

Though its beginnings were in Yonkers, New York, Otis Elevator Company possesses the tallest elevator test tower in the United States in Bristol. Located near ESPN and Lake Compounce, the 383-foot (117 m)-high tower is easily visible from the surrounding roads.[61][62]

Top employers

According to Bristol's 2010 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,[63] the top employers in the city were:

# Employer # of Employees
1 ESPN 3,400
2 Bristol Hospital 1,750
3 City of Bristol & Board of Education 1,656
4 Stephen AutoMall Centre 200
5 IDEX Health & Science 200
6 Sheriden Woods Health Care Center 180
7 Quality Coils 170
8 Stop & Shop 150
9 Rowley Spring and Stamping 150
10 The Pines at Bristol 140

Notable people


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