All aboard: Take a tour to learn about city during WWI

By MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

Bristol is about to travel back in time—to the period of World War I.

On Sunday, Aug. 27, a narrated bus tour of Federal Hill and its surrounding area will tell stories about the city’s efforts in WWI.

Presented by the American Clock & Watch Museum, the Bristol Federal Hill Association, and the Bristol Historical Society, three 60-minute tours will take place throughout the afternoon. The tours will take place at 1 p.m., 2:15 p.m., and 3:30 p.m.

After the tours, a free community concert will take place on the Federal Hill green, where people are welcome to bring a picnic, along with a chair or blanket.

Patti Philippon, the executive director of the American Clock & Watch Museum, said it was the right time to focus on the WWI, as this year marks its 100th anniversary.

“There may be a lot of fun and interesting things that people may not necessarily think about,” said Phillipon

“Bristol had the largest number of enlistments than any town in the state,” said Tom LaPorte, an officer of the Bristol Historical Society.

One part of the war that had a dramatic impact was the Battle of Seicheprey, which killed eight Bristol men. During the 1918 battle, 24 Bristol men were captured and became prisoners.

“It had an overall devastating effect on this whole unit that the men from Bristol were in,” said LaPorte.

On the home front, Bristol women supported the war in a variety of ways, such as working on food conservation or with gathering bandages and supplies to send overseas. They also played a key role in Bristol industries, including New Departure, which LaPorte said devoted 50 percent of its manufacturing capacity to the war effort.

“Women really came into the manufacturing process for essentially the first time in great numbers,” said LaPorte, adding that Bristol Brass Company increased its employment rate during the war.

“The war and the industries that were here at the time really started off that boom of bringing in additional workers and really bringing up the numbers of people working and living here in Bristol,” added Philippon.

Each tour will kick off at First Congregational Church, which served as a temporary

hospital during the war—a time before Bristol Hospital was built. The Red Cross also played a major role there.

“The Red Cross really came into prominence as a national entity,” said LaPorte. “There were many women who volunteered for the Red Cross.”

Another part of the tour includes the war monuments and trees that were planted on Memorial Boulevard to honor Bristol men who were killed in battle.

Whether they lost their lives in battle or from sickness, a total of 52 men died during the war, said LaPorte.

“Each tree was a memorial tree,” said LaPorte.

Although the tour focuses on Bristol’s efforts in supporting the war, it also brings sheds a spotlight on what everyday life was like during that time, such as the theaters and the costs of items like a loaf of bread.

People also will hear stories about the people who lived in Federal Hill as well as snippets of letters that soldiers wrote to their loved ones while overseas.

“We can help to bring some of the people alive with their own words,” said Philippon.

Over the past three years, the Federal Hill Association has teamed up with the Bristol Historical Society and the American Clock & Watch Museum to provide a tour to the public.

The first two Federal Hill-themed tours sold out, and brought in people from in and outside Bristol.

“It brought people in from across the state,” said Philippon, adding how the tours have seen returning faces.

Tickets are available for $25 a person at the American Clock & Watch Museum, 100 Maple St., Bristol. Advanced reservations are required.

The tour will take place rain or shine. In case of inclement weather, visit bristolfederalhill.org for concert updates. Glass bottles and alcoholic beverages are prohibited in city parks.

To buy tickets, call (860)583-6070.

Comments? Email lcapobianco@bristolobserver.com