History Center News


Merritt Parkway

Saturday, January 24th, 2:00 PM  

Authors Laurie Heiss and Jill Smyth lecture on the history of the Merritt Parkway and sign their book.

Decorated with a breathtaking landscape and a treasured collection of diversely styled bridges, the Merritt Parkway runs thirty-seven and a half miles through Fairfield County. …Continue reading

Special Events

Martin Luther King at Klein Auditorium, March 1964

Martin Luther King Visits Bridgeport

By:  Mary K. Witkowski, Bridgeport City Historian

The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. visited Bridgeport at least five times. In March of 1961, King delivered the Frank Jacoby lecture for the. University of Bridgeport.  Due to the large crowd, the lecture was held at the Klein Memorial Auditorium. More than 2,700 local residents listened to King’s enthralling words.

In the speech, King called on President John F. Kennedy to strongly enforce the civil rights laws.

In June 1961, King returned to the City to receive an honorary doctorate in law from the University of Bridgeport.

On January 15, 1962, about 1,300 people attended a  rally in Central High School Auditorium. “We have to live together when the battle is over,” he told students and other residents.

In March 1964, an even larger audience at Klein Auditorium heard King call for the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

On April 8, 1968, four days after King’s assassination in Memphis, Tenn., an overcrowded Klein Auditorium participated in a memorial service for the slain leader.

Heroes and Villains

Kennedy at train station

President Kennedy in Bridgeport November 5, 1960

The crowd of 6,000 came to see then Senator John F. Kennedy.  The crowd,as estimated by Superintendent of Police Francis J. Shanley, cheered when Kennedy said that Connecticut was a key state in the election.

“The nation will have its eyes on Connecticut,” Kennedy told the crowd. …Continue reading


Barnum Festival Parade, 1956

This footage of the 1956 Barnum Festival parade was recorded by Nicholas Soltis, a Bridgeport Policeman.  The store fronts of Zwerdling’s Bake Shop, Bridgeport Piano Company, and Franklin’s Furniture all appear in the film.  Mr. Soltis’ wife, Trudy, and son, Conrad, are also featured.

Bridgeport at War

McLevy, Edna Ferber, et al_edited-2

Black Market Rally Bridgeport:1943

Rationing of many products during World War II, such as food items, gasoline, and coffee, caused a surge of the black market--goods traded illegally.  In August 1943, a rally in Marina Park was held to protest the black market.  Shown in attendance in the rally are from left to right, the following:  (front row) Franz Rupp, pianist; Marian Anderson, opera  singer; Bud Hollick, comedian;Carl Frank, radio announcer and actor; (back row) Franklin P. Adams; columnist and quiz expert; Mayor Jasper McLevy; Edna Ferber, novelist; and Clifton Fadiman, book reviewer for the New Yorker.

Bridgeport at Work

Art Selleck center, Putnam Street Firehouse 1953

Art Selleck: A Tribute to a Fireman Historian 1920-2004

Arthur “Art” H. Selleck was born in Bridgeport in 1920, living there for five years before moving to Nichols. He attended Harding High School in the Park City,  since Trumbull had no High School at the time.  He would later recall witnessing a house fire as a youth in Nichols, …Continue reading


Woman working in factory during WWII

Marge Schneider:Bridgeport’s Own Rosie the Riveter

This young lady was amazing. In 1942, Marge Schneider lived with her family on Barnum Avenue near Central. With the flurry of war around her, Marge took a job at the Bridgeport Brass Company on Grand Street. Marge walked to work. …Continue reading

African American Heritage


Mary and Eliza Freeman Houses

By:  Charles Brilvitch

A community of “free people of color” began to coalesce around the lower reaches of Bridgeport Harbor the same year (1821) that Bridgeport itself came into being.  Comprised of freed blacks born in Connecticut, …Continue reading


Bridgeport Lighthouse

Bridgeport Lighthouse

The Bridgeport Lighthouse, shown here in 1930, marked the entrance to the Bridgeport harbor for about 80 years.

First constructed in 1871 by the federal government, it ushered in a dramatic increase in harbor activity. …Continue reading


Jose DeRivera

Jose DeRivera

Most residents of Connecticut, when considering who were the earliest immigrants to this State naturally think mostly of the European countries.  If you asked anyone when the first Puerto Rican immigrant came to Connecticut, they would say, ” probably the 1950’s.” …Continue reading

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