There’s no beach in Connecticut quite like this one. It was reopened just two years ago, and has the craziest history of any beach around! You’ll definitely want to visit this place and see the way it’s changed for yourself. You won’t believe its transformation!
Founded in 1892, Pleasure Beach in Bridgeport was originally an amusement park.
Those looking for a good time could take a steam ferry across the Lewis Gut for a day of family fun, or walk the bridge connecting the peninsula to the mainland. Designed to spare Connecticut residents from having to travel to nearby states for amusement, the park included roller coasters, carnival games, and a beautifully crafted carousel - those horses are now at the Beardsley Zoo.
Here's what was left of the original Pleasure Beach Carousel when the park closed.
With all of the horses removed, the original structure appears more eerie than inviting. The town of Bridgeport purchased the park in 1937, but it went bankrupt in the mid 1960s. By the 1980s, scenes like this were often the meeting place for drug users and graffiti taggers. Despite the changing atmosphere brought on by the park's failure, people continued to visit the beach.
They were attracted by the long lighted boardwalk and soft sand.
The beach offered excellent views of the neighboring towns of Bridgeport and Stratford. In fact, the peninsula is actually divided down the center, so that half belongs to each of the respective towns. The western end, which is Pleasure Beach, is owned by Bridgeport.
The Stratford side, known as Long Beach West, used to have a number of seasonal cottages, but they were demolished in 2010.
On June 16, 1996, a fire destroyed the bridge to the mainland. The cottages and the rest of the structures became abandoned, creating the largest ghost town in the state. Technically, you could still visit the beach during this time, but it required either hiking from Stratford or boating from Bridgeport.
In 2009, the buildings housing the carousel and bumper cars were demolished.
Those looking to investigate local ghost towns and abandoned buildings could still investigate the remaining buildings, including the pavilion, parking lot, and the theatre pictured above. But in 2010 the city received a $1.9 million federal appropriation to purchase a couple of water taxis and bring the beach back to life.
As of 2014, those taxis are up and running!
You're now free to return to Pleasure Beach and see it for what it really is... A peaceful oasis to watch the waves and soak in the sun. The vandalized pavilion has been returned to its former glory and the boardwalk to the beach has been repaired. Where a large parking lot once took up space, there is now grass and picnic tables. You won't believe the transformation!
Get out and enjoy the newly restored beach today!
Avoid the crowds and experience living history as you dip your toes in the ocean. You may even catch a glimpse of the rabbits and foxes hiding in the surrounding woods. Enjoy the ferry ride, go fishing on the dock, bike the boardwalk, and catch the sun setting over Bridgeport. In just under 125 years this place has made multiple transformations, and the people just continue to be attracted to it. So it must be magic!