All History

Italian immigrant Sylvester Z. Poli who was known for his wax sculptures in New York, went on to establish theaters throughout the US. Poli’s in Downtown Bridgeport provided a lavish experience for theater goers with mirror and gold leaf decorations, marble and crystal chandeliers, curved balconies and stained-glass screens. Previously city theaters had wood chairs or bench seating.

The circulation room was just one of many specialty rooms which occupied the top three floors of the Burroughs building. Additional rooms include the Klein Porcelain Room, displaying Chinese porcelain, paintings and etchings; the Henry A. Bishop Room, home to the Historical Collection for over 50 years and Technology and Business Department, among the finest in New England.

The mid-nineteenth century saw tremendous growth in the banking industry, paving the way for some today’s banking institutions. Bridgeport Bank was chartered in 1806, laying the foundation for Connecticut National Bank; People’s Bank was chartered in 1842 with Mechanics and Farmers following in 1871. The First National Bank occupied the second floor of the building above.

City Savings Bank of Bridgeport was chartered in 1859 and weathered many storms through the years. Eventually the decline in manufacturing, which gave rise to the prosperity of banking industry was also to blame for it’s deterioration.

In the early 60′s the City planned a conventional suburban style mall, redirecting several city streets to create a superblock to accommodate the two-level enclosed shopping mall. Consumers enjoyed the convenience of having a variety of shops from which to choose. Among them Sears, Korvetts, Chess King, Spencer Gifts and Mariannes.

Founded in 1880, the Bridgeport Public Library was established in the Burroughs building on the corner of Main and John Streets. Today that Branch of the Bridgeport Public Library is housed on Broad Street in a building erected in 1927.

The grandeur of the Palace Theater brought the big screen to the city, drawing neighboring residents to see what was Connecticut’s largest theater complex of its day. Taking its place, the Arena at Harbor Yard along with the Ballpark at Harbor Yard, draw crowds for a variety of events.

Water Street has always been the center for transportation. Today commuters access the city from the centralized location of the Intermodal Transportation Center which provides access to local and regional buses, taxis and the city’s railroad platform.

The Water Street Harbor was a hub of activity during the late 1800’s, as both ships and rail cars transported goods in and out of the city. Still a busy harbor for industrial and recreational use, the Bridgeport and Port Jefferson Ferry vessels daily.

A number of saloons ran along Middle and Water streets creating the hub of nightlife in the city during the turn of the century. Today a selection of fine restaurants as well as casual bars, are located throughout Downtown Bridgeport.

Founded by major city philanthropists, Bank Mart purchased the former Bridgeport National Bank property and constructed the building.