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Stone Bridge and Fort Barton

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On Main Road at Lawton Avenue is an abutment of a multiarched stone bridge that marks the remains of the fourth (1904) replacement in a series of bridges (wood at first, masonry after 1810) which crossed the narrowest point of the Sakonnet channel to Portsmouth from 1794 through 1957, when the highway bridge farther upstream superseded this crossing. A hotel existed in various manifestations from 1790 until the mid-1990s on the Tiverton side, and toward the end of the nineteenth century an amusement park (now gone) developed its Portsmouth end of the bridge. Stone Bridge once attracted not only day trippers from Fall River, but even New Yorkers on the overnight steamers of the famed Fall River Line.

A turn off Main Road at Lawton Avenue leads to the earthen redoubt of Fort Barton (1776) on Highland Avenue. An important Revolutionary War site, it is situated 110 feet above the Sakonnet at its most vulnerable point of crossing. From this eminence guns were directed against the British occupation force on Aquidneck Island. The fort derives its name from the leader of an expedition of extraordinary daring. From here Lieutenant Colonel William Barton and four men departed in July 1777 and, crossing the Sakonnet at night, captured the British commander, General Richard Prescott, literally “with his pants down” in the bedroom of a Portsmouth lady. For two years, 1777 and 1778, Continental troops massed around Fort Barton for an invasion of Aquidneck Island. Eventually, in August 1778, some 11,000 Americans invaded the island in one of the largest troop massings of the war, for what came to be called the Battle of Rhode Island in Portsmouth. Although it ended indecisively, with the withdrawal of the American troops and the failure of the British to exploit a tenuous victory, this battle essentially marked the end of combat in Rhode Island as the center of the war shifted to other areas.

After the Revolution, Fort Barton was privately owned until 1923, when it was donated to the Newport Historical Society. It opened as a public park in 1928. An observation tower on the redoubt provides a splendid panorama south into Little Compton, west over Aquidneck Island, and, where trees are bare, of a number of sites described in this guide. No wonder Fort Barton again became an observation post during World War II.

Writing Credits

Author: 
William H. Jordy et al.
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Citation

William H. Jordy et al., "Stone Bridge and Fort Barton", [Tiverton, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/RI-01-TI3.

Print Source

Buildings of Rhode Island, William H. Jordy, with Ronald J. Onorato and William McKenzie Woodward. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, 483-483.

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