Records Relating to Stone Bridge Commission | State Archives Catalog
The Stone Bridge Commission was established by Public Law 1904, ch. 1158. The bridge spanned the Sakonnet River between Tiverton and Portsmouth and was one of several bridges (later named the Sakonnet River Bridge) built at that spot on the river. The commission was formed in the wake of a storm that seriously damaged the existing wood bridge. (This was one of several storms that inflicted serious damage on bridges built at this same spot before, and which do so again in later years.) The damage made the bridge unsafe for traffic passing over it and impassible to water navigation.
The purpose of the commission was to replace the existing wood bridge with a sturdier steel structure. The commission was charged with choosing the bridge design, soliciting bids and entering into contracts for its construction. Construction was completed in 1907. The bridge featured a span capable of opening up to accommodate boat traffic and a set of rails for electric cars conveying passengers back and forth across the bridge.
The first bridge at this spot, constructed from wood, dates back to the 1790s and the first stone bridge may have been built around 1800. The bridge gradually replaced a ferry service that had been operating between the two towns since the early part of the eighteenth century (although some sources claim a ferry service operated between the two points as early as 1640. (Rhode Island State Historic Preservation Commission. State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantation Preservation Report. Historic and Architectural Resources of Portsmouth, Rhode island. A Preliminary Report. JANUARY 1979. p. 5 at http://www.preservation.ri.gov/pdfs_zips_downloads/survey_pdfs/portsmouth.pdf (Accessed Sept. 26. 2013)