Settled in 1639, Bridgeport is located in the southwest corner of Connecticut. The city lies where the Pequonnock River empties into Long Island Sound, a part of the Atlantic Ocean. It was incorporated as a borough in 1800, as a town in 1821, and as a city in 1836. Bridgeport has had a series of names – Pequonnock, New Fairfield, Stratford, and Fairfield Village. In 1800 it received its present name when a drawbridge was built over the Pequonnock River. Measured by population, Bridgeport is the largest city in the state.
Known as Park City, Bridgeport contains 27 parks. Seaside Park, which lies along the shore, covers 210 acres. Beardsley Park encompasses winding roads and paths through woodlands, Beardsley Zoo, and a golf course within its 234 acres. Both were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed Central Park in New York City.
Many outsiders may know the city only by viewing the industrial buildings in the enterprise zone as they drive through on Interstate 95. It is indeed an economic contrast to nearby cities on the state’s Gold Coast. But the city is determined to bounce back from de-industrialization. A redevelopment of the South End began when the city purchased the Jenkins Valve Company site for $1 and the forgiveness of back taxes. In 2005, America’s Promise bestowed on Bridgeport an award for being one of America’s “100 Best Communities for Young People”. It is also not without spirit. If you venture off the interstate you may well hear a rendition of a song written for New York, but with the revised title of “Its up to you Bridgeport, Bridgeport”.
With no fewer than 54 Registered Historic Places, Bridgeport is rich in history. The architecture is rich and diverse. Small distances make this an easily walkable city. Lincoln spoke here after his speaking tour which began at Cooper Union in New York City, as did George W. Bush. P.T. Barnum made this place his home, wintering his circus here, and serving as mayor.
The earliest years of Bridgeport’s economy were driven by fishing and agriculture. The mid 1800’s saw shipbuilding and whaling due to the presence of a deep harbor. The late 1800’s brought industrialization. Well known companies and products from Bridgeport include Singer Manufacturing Co., Remington Arms Co., Underwood Elliot Fisher typewriters, Dictaphone Corp., Bridgeport milling machines, and Crane Valves. Beginning in the late 1900’s, de-industrialization took a heavy toll on the city. The 2000’s see Bridgeport transitioning into a service economy and providing affordable housing. Perhaps the most well known product evolution began at the Frisbie Pie Company, which was located in Bridgeport. Yale students discovered that flinging the pie plates was a great source of entertainment, and the concept of the Frisbie toy was born.
There are many events and attractions. The Barnum Festival is a series of dozens of events such as dances, food fares, galas, concerts, and sports competitions. Captain’s Cove Seaport is the largest tourist attraction.
Cultural institutions include the Greater Bridgeport Symphony, the Downtown Cabaret Theatre, the Playhouse on the Green, and Discovery Museum and Planetarium. Admission is free at the Housatonic Museum of Art which houses works by Picasso, Rodin, and Warhol. Institutions of higher education include the University of Bridgeport and Housatonic Community College.
Sports fans have several outlets to choose from. The Bridgeport Bluefish of the North Division of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball play at The Ballpark at Harbor Yard. Note that this team has no connection to the minor leagues associated with Major League Baseball. The Bridgeport Sound Tigers AHL hockey team and Fairfield University’s basketball team both play at the Arena at Harbor Yard.
The city is blessed with many transportation options. Paralleling the shore line are Interstate 95 and Route 1. Also paralleling the shore, but about 6 miles inland, is the Merritt Parkway (Route 15), before it makes a change of direction to the northeast. Routes 8 and 25 run generally northeasterly. Commuting to New York, Stamford, New Haven, and Waterbury can also be accomplished by train using Amtrak or Metro-North. Greyhound and Peter Pan bus lines provide access to major cities. The Greater Bridgeport Transit Authority (GBTA) runs within the city and nearby suburbs. A ferry boat transports vehicles and passengers to Port Jefferson on Long Island.