Bristol village occupies a commanding site upon an elevated plain- about one hundred and twenty feet above the bed of New Haven River, just after that stream leaves the wild ravine known as “The Notch.” Lying thus at the very base of Hogback Mountain, with South Mountain on the southeast, fine examples of the picturesque wildness of nature, nearly approaching grandeur, are ever present to the beholder, and in rare contrast to the fertile plains north and south, and the broad view sweeping westward to the Adirondacks of Northern New York.
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The village itself lies principally upon four streets, North, South, East, and West streets, respectively, extending in the direction their names would suggest. Near the center of the village they intersect, at which point is enclosed a fine park. The good water power afforded by the river here is utilized by several manufacturing interests, so that the village is equally renowned for its business capacity, beauty, and the fine view it commands. It has about twenty stores, four churches (Methodist Episcopal, Baptist, Adventist, and Roman Catholic), one hotel, a printing-office, coffin and casket manufactory, a photograph gallery, two harness shops, grist-mill, etc., an elegant town hall graded school, six physicians, two dentists, and about eight hundred inhabitants.
In 1800 this site was almost an unbroken wilderness, there not being a framed house here and scarcely a barn. A few rude log houses were all that were to be found. But here manufacturing establishments began to spring up, as we have detailed on a previous page, bringing workmen to the scene, and in their wake came shops, stores, etc., which, with the central location to give them permanency, made the village, as it now is, the metropolis of the township
The following sketch of the village as it was in 1840 will give some idea of its growth: W. H. Hawley kept a store where the town hall now stands. Henry Spaulding had a store in the old brick building now occupied by Emerson W. Smith, which was built three years previous. Hezekiah Foster was located as a merchant where the O’Neil block now stands. Henry Gale was located where W. H. Miller now is. Abram B. Huntley, now living in Whiting, had a store where Willis Peak’s house stands, which he built in 1836. About the same time, also, Pier & Chilson built a store on the north side of East street, which they conducted several years, and which was finally destroyed by fire. Philo S. Warner and Loyal Downing were shoemakers, the former having located here as early as 1825, and the latter occupying the building now used by Mr. Eastman for his harness shop. Deacon Amasa Grinnell, a Mr. Dexter, and Andrew Santee (colored) were blacksmiths. John Dunshee and William Perry had wagon shops here. Albert, son of the former, is now a resident on the flats. The hotel, “Bristol House,” was kept by Samuel Eddy. Aside from these were the forge, grist-mill, saw-mill and clothdressing works we have previously mentioned.