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.
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).
Bristol’s nickname is the “Mum City”, because it was once a leader in chrysanthemum production and still holds an annual Bristol Mum Festival.
In 2010, Bristol was ranked 84th on Money magazine’s “Best Places to Live”. 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, one of the Eastern Algonquian-speaking peoples that shared the lower Connecticut River Valley.
Originally, Bristol was within the boundaries of Farmington, Connecticut, which was incorporated in 1645. This deed was confirmed by another deed in 1650. 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 was built there.
In 1785, New Cambridge was incorporated as the town of Bristol, named after Bristol, England. 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.
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.
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.
Recently,[when?] 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 appeals for support for this project have been met with mixed emotions.
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.