A Monument to Perseverance: The Struggle to Build the Newport Bridge, 1945-1969

James M Ricci, Salve Regina University


This dissertation presents a history of the Newport Bridge from its conception following World War II to its opening on June 28, 1969. The Newport Bridge spans the East Passage of Narragansett Bay. It connects the islands of Conanicut and Aquidneck and links their primary towns of Jamestown and Newport. Prior to the bridge, ferries had delivered passengers to and from Newport for three centuries. That service became obsolete the day the bridge opened. The bridge’s history can be traced back to the years leading up to World War II. In 1940, the Jamestown Bridge was completed between the Rhode Island mainland and Conanicut Island. Momentum soon grew for a Newport Bridge but the war relegated efforts to the back burner. Following the war, proponents advocated for a bridge. They encountered initial resistance from the United States Navy bent on protecting its well-established and extensive operations in and around Narragansett Bay. The Navy subsequently relented but placed conditions on the bridge’s location and navigational requirements. Proponents and opponents sparred from 1945 to 1965, when the bridge was finally approved by Rhode Island voters. Upon completion, the Newport Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in New England and ranked fourteenth nationally. It employed several new technologies and construction techniques, demonstrating the autocatalytic nature of the technology and drawing the engineering community’s attention. This study uses a range of primary resources to piece together the quarter-century long struggle proponents endured before the bridge was finally built and grew to become an iconic symbol of Newport and the state of Rhode Island. The Newport Bridge is truly a monument to their perseverance.

Subject Area

American studies|American history|Recreation|Urban planning

Recommended Citation

Ricci, James M, "A Monument to Perseverance: The Struggle to Build the Newport Bridge, 1945-1969" (2017). Doctoral Dissertations. AAI10274325.