The once abandoned ruins of a Victorian beachside amusement park are now back in working order.
On June 16, 1996, a fire destroyed the only bridge leading from the mainland to a peninsular barrier beach jutting between Long Island Sound and the salt marshes of Bridgeport and Stratford, Connecticut. Access to the peninsula became limited to either hiking from a parking lot in Stratford or by boating from Bridgeport.
The line dividing the two towns runs through the peninsula. The Stratford portion, called Long Beach West, was once home to a number of seasonal cottages which were demolished in 2010. The western end of the peninsula, called Pleasure Beach, is owned by Bridgeport.
Pleasure Beach was originally an amusement park founded in 1892. Steam ferries transported merrymakers across the Lewis Gut to the park, where they could ride the rollercoaster, play carnival games, or grab the brass ring on the carousel (the horses of which now run the backstretch at nearby Beardsley Zoo). Bridgeport purchased the land in 1919 and took control of the park in 1937. The park was bankrupt by the 1960s and had become a scene of drug use by the 1980s, although the shore itself was still used by beachgoers at the time of the fire.
In 2009 the buildings housing the carousel and bumper cars were demolished by order of the city fire department. At the time, urbexers could still investigate the badly vandalized pavilion, weedy parking lot, Polka Dot Theater, and several smaller buildings.
In 2010 the city received a $1.9 million federal appropriation to clean up the beach, build or upgrade docks and infrastructure, and purchase a pair of water taxis. In 2014, the water taxis began operating for the summer. A new paved walkway leads from the dock to the restored pavilion, and the boardwalk to the beach (parts of which had been destroyed by fire) has been repaired. About half of the parking lot has been replaced by grass and picnic tables. The surrounding woods and weeds are thick with turkeys, rabbits, and foxes, while in summer, ospreys ride the thermals overhead. Sections of the dunes are fenced off to protect nesting piping plovers.
Know Before You Go
As of February 2018, there is no entrance to Pleasure Beach other than to walk from Long Beach Park in Stratford. The bridge that used to connect the mainland of Bridgeport to this outlet has been burned and is no longer in use. You can find parking at Long Beach, followed by a 1.8-mile walk to your destination. This will take about 35 minutes. Once you've walked most of the way, bear to the right and you'll eventually come across an old paved road that will take you straight to the entrance.
Be advised, there is security equipment once you arrive to Pleasure Beach (mainly security cameras attached to buildings and electric towers.) This path is frequently monitored by the City of Bridgeport via these systems. It is also highly suggested that you travel in a group for your safety if you decide to go due to the seclusion from populated areas and response time for any medical or law enforcement help.
The carousel has been demolished and all that remains is the theater (yellow octagon building) and the wooden pavilion. You can’t walk to many of the abandoned buildings as they are in a conservation area and there are huge fines, especially during endangered bird breeding months.
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