Centennial Monument, Bridgeport

Centennial Monument, BridgeportBridgeport honors the 100th anniversary of its founding (and the U.S. bicentennial) with a granite memorial on a pre-colonial era militia ground.

The Centennial Monument, near the intersection of North Avenue (Route 1) and Brooklawn Avenue, stands at the southeast corner of the Clinton Park Militia Grounds.

Centennial Monument, BridgeportThe memorial bears a large centennial emblem featuring the City of Bridgeport seal, and the date of the city’s founding in 1836. The top of the monument features an engraved band depicting a school, factory and housing from then-modern Bridgeport.

The monument was dedicated in October of 1936 by longtime mayor Jasper McLevy.

Centennial Monument, BridgeportForty years later, a dedication including an inscription reading “Thank God for America” was added to commemorate the U.S. bicentennial.

In the northwest corner of the militia grounds, a 1901 memorial gate stands at the entrance of Stratfield Cemetery. Two granite markers on the gates list American Revolution veterans buried within the cemetery.

Centennial Monument, Bridgeport






Centennial Monument, Bridgeport






Centennial Monument, Bridgeport









Liberty Statue Returns to Bridgeport’s Seaside Park

An allegorical representation of Liberty again graces the 1876 Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in Bridgeport’s Seaside Park.

Thanks to the Friends of Seaside Park, a replica of a six-foot marble statue representing Liberty was dedicated on Saturday morning at the monument honoring Bridgeport’s Civil War veterans.

The original marble statue was removed in the late 1960s after deterioration and vandalism had taken their toll.

The replacement, by Vermont sculptor Emily Bedard, was created using white gypsum polymer and fiberglass.

The return of Lady Liberty completes a restoration effort that began in 2006 with the installation of replacement plaques honoring the approximately 180 local residents killed in the war. Several missing decorative elements, such as the flags and drums near the monument’s base, were also replaced.

The monument features a large, granite base with several decorative elements that narrows into a shaft topped by a bronze allegorical figure representing the United States. The monument’s sides feature bronze statues depicting an infantry soldier and a sailor.

The three bronze figures were created by Melzar Mosman, who was also responsible for monuments in Middletown and Danielson, as well as the figures on the monument in New Haven’s East Rock Park.

The monument stands on the former training fields of the 17th Regiment of the Connecticut Volunteer Infantry.

Our original (and now outdated) post describing the monument and the missing Liberty statue appeared last summer.

James O’Rourke Statue, Bridgeport

Bridgeport honors Hall-of-Fame baseball pioneer James O’Rourke with a monument outside the Ballpark at Harbor Yard.

The bronze statue by West Haven sculptor Susan Clinard was dedicated on late August to honor O’Rourke, who recorded the first hit in the National League in 1876 as part of a career that spanned 23 years.

Known as “Orator Jim,” O’Rourke was also an 1887 graduate of Yale Law School.

The monument depicts O’Rourke following through a baseball swing. A dedication on the west face of the monument’s base includes a summary of O’Rourke’s contributions to the sport and to Bridgeport.

An open bronze book near his feet bears a quote attributed to O’Rourke, “Baseball is for all creeds and nationalities.” The open book is supported by representations of a volume of Shakespearian poetry as well as Blackstone’s Commentaries (an authoritative exploration of English Common Law).

After his Major League career was over, O’Rourke was active in the professional Connecticut State League as an owner, manager and occasional player.

The dedication of the monument caps several years of efforts to honor O’Rourke. Efforts to convert the ballplayer’s former Pembroke Street home into a baseball museum ended when the house, long visible from Interstate 95 standing alone in a cleared area near the harbor, was demolished.

The statue stands outside the city’s Ballpark at Harbor Yard, home of the Independent League’s Bridgeport Bluefish.

An exhibition running through January of 2011 at the Fairfield Museum and History Center provides a look at baseball’s history in the region.

Bridgeport’s Barnum Museum Damaged by Tornado

The tornado that struck the greater Bridgeport area Thursday afternoon caused serious damage to the Barnum Museum’s building and collections.

Two large windows near the museum’s Main Street entrance broke, allowing wind and water into the building.

The museum is seeking contributions to help with the restoration effort. More information and a PayPal link are available at the Barnum Museum’s website.

The museum, itself an historic landmark, opened in 1893 as a museum financed by P.T. Barnum that was devoted to science and history. The city of Bridgeport assumed ownership in the mid-1930s and operated the museum until 1943, when the building was renovated to house municipal offices.

Bridgeport’s War Memorials Spared Tornado Damage

On Thursday afternoon, a tornado struck Bridgeport and surrounding towns. Based on a quick tour Saturday morning, the city’s downtown war memorials escaped storm damage.

In downtown Bridgeport, the war memorials outside McLevy Hall appeared fine. A large tree was  uprooted near the corner of Broad and State streets, and several trees were damaged at the City Hall annex on the other side of Broad Street.

The nearby Barnum Museum suffered damage to its building and collection during the tornado strike.

At Bridgeport’s Seaside Park, the 1876 Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument escaped damage, as did the cannon that commemorates the Spanish-American War and fountain that honors ASPCA founder Henry Bergh. We didn’t get to the area housing the Elias Howe statue, but we’re assuming it’s also OK.

Overall, the tornado damaged a number of buildings and cars in Bridgeport, and downed trees and broken limbs are a sadly common sight as you drive around. Thankfully, no serious injuries were reported during the storm.

L’Ambiance Plaza Memorials, Bridgeport

Two monuments honor the 28 workers killed in a 1987 construction accident at the L’Ambiance Plaza apartment complex in Bridgeport.

At the Washington Avenue accident site, a seven-foot statue of a construction worker honors the 28 workers killed, and the 22 injured, when the L’Ambiance Plaza building collapsed halfway through construction on April 23, 1987.

The names of the accident victims are listed on a dedication plaque on the monument’s base.

An 81-unit apartment building was built on the site in 1992, and the memorial to the L’Ambiance Plaza was dedicated a year later. The statue was created by Old Lyme artist Norman Legassie.

The L’Ambiance Plaza workers, and volunteers who participated in a 10-day rescue and recovery effort, are also honored with a monument about a third of a mile away in City Hall Park.

A bronze plaque lists the workers killed in the accident, and four helmets sit  at the monument’s base. A granite marker, added in June of 2010, honors one of the rescue workers.

The L’Ambiance Plaza tragedy attracted international attention. At the time of its collapse, the complex was being built with the “lift-slab” construction method, in which concrete floor slabs were poured on the ground and raised into position.

After the L’Ambiance Plaza collapse, lift-slab construction fell out of favor and has not been used since.

Wheeler Memorial Fountain Restored in Bridgeport

After an extensive restoration, Bridgeport this week rededicated a memorial fountain honoring sewing machine manufacturer and civic leader Nathaniel Wheeler.

The 1912 fountain at the intersection of Park Avenue, Fairfield Avenue and John Street, was rededicated April 20 after a long repair project that has restored the long-dormant flow of water to the fountain.

The fountain features a mermaid carrying an infant and a light fixture as large fish splash around her flippers. A dedication on the fountain’s base reads, “The Nathaniel Wheeler Memorial, erected 1912,” below the years of Wheeler’s life (1820-1893).

Water will spout from four cherub heads surrounding the fountain’s main bowl.

Smaller fountains at the corners of the triangular traffic island surrounding the fountain site feature a mermaid, several seals and three seahorses.

During the restoration, the traffic island was ringed with granite bollards, which should help protect the fountain from automobiles.

The fountain was created by sculptor Gutzon Borglum, who is perhaps better known for his work at Mount Rushmore.

Wheeler, a native of Watertown, was the son of carriage manufacturer. Wheeler shifted into manufacturing machinery and began sewing machine production in 1851. By 1856, the Wheeler & Wilson Manufacturing Co. had moved to Bridgeport, where it would eventually grow into one of the world’s leading producers of sewing machines.

Wheeler would later serve in the Connecticut legislature and as a director of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad as well as Peoples’ Bank. He was also involved in many social and civic causes in Bridgeport.

Wheeler was a descendent of Moses Wheeler, a resident of colonial Stratford who operated a ferry across the Housatonic River between Stratford and Milford. The interstate 95 bridge across the Housatonic bears Moses Wheeler’s name.

The Wheeler Memorial Fountain was added to the National Register of Historic Places  in 1985.

Wheeler & Wilson superintendent William H. Perry is honored with the memorial arch at the Park Avenue entrance to Bridgeport’s Seaside Park.

James W. Beardsley Statue, Bridgeport

Bridgeport honors the donor of the city’s Beardsley Park with a statue near the park entrance.

In 1875, Beardsley, a farmer and cattle dealer, donated more than 150 acres of land in the city’s north end for use as a park. Frederick Law Olmstead, the landscape architect responsible for New York’s Central Park and Bridgeport’s Seaside Park, designed Beardsley Park.

The 1909 statue of Beardsley, at the park’s Noble Avenue entrance, depicts a standing figure with a cane in his right hand, and a hat in his left. An overcoat is draped over his left forearm.

A dedication on the south face of the monument’s base reads “In memory of James W. Beardsley, donor of Beardsley Park. Erected by the people of Bridgeport MDCCCCIX (1909).”

The statue was sculpted by Charles Henry Niehaus, who was also responsible for a number of public statues and monuments, including several outdoor statues at the state capitol building in Hartford.

The centerpiece of Beardsley Park is Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo, which was established by the city of Bridgeport in the early 1920s and became independent in 1997. The park is also a popular outdoor recreation and picnicking facility.

Beardsley, who used the land for farming before he donated it to the city, was killed in his home during an 1892 burglary. His murder was never solved.


Smithsonian American Art Museum, Art Inventories Catalog

Samuel Orcutt, A History of the Old Town of Stratford and the City of Bridgeport, Connecticut

George Curtis Waldo, History of Bridgeport and Vicinity, Volume 1

Seaside Village, Bridgeport

Seaside Village, BridgeportA white concrete obelisk in Bridgeport’s Seaside Village honors residents who have served in the country’s wars.

The obelisk, at the southern end of a green located near the center of the village, bears a dedication on its front (south) face reading, “Dedicated in honor of those men & women of Seaside Village who have served their country and community in the Armed Forces.”

In a sense, the entire housing development is a war memorial. Seaside Village was built in 1918, during Bridgeport’s manufacturing heyday,  to provide emergency housing for defense workers. About 257 units, most under 1,000 square feet, were built in a series of small brick buildings designed to resemble a European village.

The street names in Seaside Village are connected to World War I. For instance, Flanders and Alsace streets are named after battlefields. Albert Square, along the village green, is named after King Albert I of Belgium. Cole Street is named after Edward B. Cole, a Marine officer and expert on machine-gun warfare who was killed in France in 1918.

Sims Street is named after William Sims, commander of U.S. Navy forces in Europe during the war, and Burnham Street is named after Frederick Russell Burnham, an American explorer who served in the British Army before the war and would help inspire the international scouting movement.

Seaside Village, BridgeportThe complex was converted to cooperative housing in 1954, and remains an affordable, middle-class complex today. Seaside Village was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.

Seaside Village, Bridgeport

Henry Bergh Monument, Bridgeport

Bergh Fountain, BridgeportThe founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was honored with a monument in Bridgeport’s Seaside Park thanks to showman and former mayor P.T. Barnum.

The monument, a fountain that was later converted into a planter, was dedicated in 1897 to honor Henry Bergh’s lifelong efforts to protect animals. Bergh is honored with a dedication on the front (south) side, above what used to be one of the fountain’s two water troughs. Images on the east and west side depict an allegorical angel rescuing a horse from being struck.

The monument is topped by a plaster horse that is a replacement for a similar horse that, according to a 1967 profile of Bergh in American Heritage, was damaged when the monument was struck by a car in 1964.

Bergh founded the ASPCA in 1866 after seeing a similar organization during a visit to London. Returning to New York City, Bergh found the ASPCA and began advocating for the fair treatment of animals such as the horses who pulled carts and the livestock that were slaughtered in the city.

Bergh Fountain, BridgeportBergh also devoted attention to protecting the animals used in Barnum’s circus performances. Although Barnum initially considered Bergh a pain, the two men developed a mutual respect that eventually grew into a friendship. Upon Barnum’s death, he willed funds for a fountain to be built in Bridgeport to honor his friend.

Bergh Fountain, Bridgeport

Bergh Fountain, Bridgeport

Bergh Fountain, Bridgeport