Saturday, April 13, 2024
Barnum's Bridgeport, Neighborhood: East Side

Bridgeport Tornado of 1876

Bridgeport’s 2010 tornado was not the first tornado the city ever had.  A tornado tore apart parts of Bridgeport and Stratford 136 years ago.  The storm had an eerie resemblance to our 2010 tornado, moving quickly and as suddenly as that storm hit and on a similar path of destruction. In the middle of the night on September 14, 1876 residents of parts of Bridgeport were awakened by a windstorm  passing through town.  Around midnight, buildings began to shake.  The tornado, which was reported in the Bridgeport Standard the next day, had reporters tracking the storm through Highland Avenue in the City’s Hollow where three houses were unroofed, plus the timbers and tin roof coverings of two other houses were torn off.

The next stop for the storm was at Housatonic and East Washington Avenues, where a huge willow tree fell down, falling on telegraph wires.  Lumber scattered everywhere from the Lyon, Curtis and Company lumberyard.  Lumber owned by the Wheeler and Wilson Company also blew throughout the area.

The gale hit the carriage shop at the corner of William and East Washington, and turned southeast, tearing a corner of the building away. Then the storm hit Washington Park, leaving a large tree down and a trail of broken limbs and chimneys.

It was also reported that damage occurred in West Stratford.

The storm was a whirlwind, which seemed to be a couple of hundred feet wide at any point. The wind was quick moving, and only lasted a few minutes.  It was later reported to be a tornado.

The tornado of June 24, 2010 damaged buildings throughout Bridgeport.  The Barnum Museum was heavily damaged and is currently closed for repairs. But the Museum’s gallery in the People’s United Bank is open for the public to view the restoration and conservation process from 11am to 3pm on Thursdays and Fridays.  For further information call the Barnum Museum at (203) 331-1104.

Mary Witkowski
Mary K. Witkowski is the former Bridgeport City Historian and the Department Head of the Bridgeport History Center, Emeritus. She is the author of Bridgeport at Work, and the co-author with Bruce Williams of Bridgeport on the Sound. Mary has had a newspaper column in the Bridgeport News, a blog for the Connecticut Post, and a weekly spot on WICC. She continues to be involved in many community based activities and initiatives on local history and historic preservation.