Atlas Obscura is organizing trips! Join us on an adventure »
Today Only: 50% off Atlas Obscura books and calendars at Barnes & Noble »

Bridgeport, Connecticut

Pleasure Beach

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 About half of the parking lot has been replaced by grass and picnic tables.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.