The Struggle to Build the Newport Pell Bridge: A Reading List

Tue, 10/03/2017 - 2:50pm -- baglio

The Claiborne Pell Bridge was completed in 1969, after three years of construction. For several years before that however, there was conflict and difficulty in the development of the bridge. From the initial discussion of the bridge in 1945, until plans were approved in 1965, there was discussion and unsurity whether the bridge would ever be made. This reading list will compliment the upcoming lecture on the struggle surrounding the construction of the Newport Bridge, and explore the world around the Newport Bridge, including Narragansett Bay, The United States Navy, and transportation on the water before the Bridge. To coincide with the lecture, David McCullough's history of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge will be available to enjoy as well!


The Navy in Newport

By, Lionel Wyld and Ralph E. Carpenter

Known throughout the world as “The City by the Sea,” Newport, Rhode Island, has a long history of maritime activity. Since the Colonial period, Newport has been recognized as both an important seaport for the mercantile trade and a harbor of inestimable value for naval vessels. I n 1869, the U.S. Navy opened its pioneer site in the region, the Naval Torpedo station on Goat Island in Newport harbor. The Naval War College on Coasters Harbor Island and the Naval Training Station soon followed. The navy’s presence expanded through two world wars; and in the 1940s the U.S. Naval Operating Base with headquarters in Newport, included extensive naval facilities on both sides of Narragansett Bay. Today, Newport remains an integral site of naval training, research, and development. The prestigious Naval War College, the Naval Education and Training Center, and other navy command schools, in addition to the Naval Undersea Warfare Center with its Division Newport, have kept this branch of the armed services a leading employer in Rhode Island and southeastern New England.
By, John Torgan, Richard Benjamin 
The geographic heart and soul of Rhode Island is a 25-mile estuary of great beauty and ecological importance. A talented photographer teams with the offical Narragansett BayKeeper to create a remarkable gift book that is as thought-provoking as it is attractive.
Read By, William King Covell
Presented here is a short narrative read by William King Covell on Steamboats on Narragansett Bay. Reproduced in the Bulletin of the Newport Historical Society, no. 90, 1934.
By, Capers Jones
The book covers 10,000 years of the history of Narragansett Bay. Topics include the geology of the Bay, paleo-Indians, pre-Colombian exploration, Indian Tribes living near the Bay, and the economic history and future of the Bay region.
Defenses of Narragansett Bay in World War II
By Walter K. Schroder
This book covers the various defenses that surrounded the waters of Narragansett Bay during the Second World War. Writtend by local author Walter K. Schroder.

By, Wilfred E Warren
This book reveals a colorful history of the steam and diesel ferries that shuttled between Jamestown and Newport and in the west Narragansett Bay from Jamestown to Saunderstown.

By, David McCullough

The dramatic and enthralling story of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, the world’s longest suspension bridge at the time, a tale of greed, corruption, and obstruction but also of optimism, heroism, and determination, told by master historian David McCullough.
This monumental book is the enthralling story of one of the greatest events in our nation’s history, during the Age of Optimism—a period when Americans were convinced in their hearts that all things were possible.

If you are interested futher in learning about the development of the Newport Bridge, we have a few items available in our Special Collections, that can be looked at via an appointment. To make an appointment, please send an email to, or call us at (401) 847-0292.

Parsons, Brinckerhoff, Quade & Douglas, Engineers

Reprints of four articles on the construction of the Newport bridge from various periodicals.

By,  De Leuw, Cather & Company

1965 Report prepared for the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority for the development of the Newport Bridge.

Parsons, Brinckerhoff, Quade & Douglas, Engineers
By Laura S. and John A Saunders
Illustrations include: Map of Rhode Island sail ferry routes by Paule Loring, 1949 -- Horse boat, ca. 1820 -- Sail ferry Temperance lines -- Sail ferry crossing from Newport to Jamestown -- At South Ferry, on wet side of Narragansett Bay's West Passage -- Block Island's "Pole Harbor" became "Goverment Harbor" now Old Harbor.