Long Beach West, Stratford, and Pleasure Beach, Bridgeport

September, 2010 by Ray Bendici
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Just got an e-mail from Jackson Kuhl, with whom I've worked on a few occasions in regard to abandoned properties and decaying historical sites. In response to a recent story in the Connecticut Post about artists making over the abandoned buildings on the stretch of Connecticut barrier beach that is called Long Beach West in Stratford and Pleasure Beach in Bridgeport, he went out and investigated.

From Jackson's blog:

Anyway, I hustled out there to take some photos of the art before it was gone. I wasn’t surprised to find the po-po stationed at the beginning of the construction road going through the dunes. I asked an officer about the artists. He said they didn’t know how long the artists had been camping on Long Beach West but the place was deserted now. He also said a lot of people had recently been ticketed for trespassing out there. He added that while it was acceptable for me to take pictures of the cottages from below the high-tide mark (which in Connecticut is open land), if I or anybody else went above it, we would be “jackpotted.” Does anybody really believe a main function of the police isn’t revenue collection?

I thanked him, then drove to a paddleboard launch far from his prying eyes. I paddled up Lewis Gut and used one of the still-existent docks to access the cottages. There was no one about; the workers were only doing preparation work on the road, with the actual demolition days away. I surreptitiously took my photos (exteriors only, since this cat has an aversion to treeing himself) and then paddled away. Mischief managed.

You can see some images he captured of the art on his blog -- cool stuff!

Courtesy of savepleasurebeach.com

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Jackson is well acquainted with Long Beach West -- here's a great photo essay he's done, while here's a piece he recently penned for Connecticut Magazine about how Pleasure Beach (60 acres of prime Connecticut waterfront) has been allowed to waste away like a ghost town for 14 years! Just mindboggling.

If you don't know the ("abridged") story -- starting in the late 19th century and going on for decades, Pleasure Beach was a popular Connecticut destination, with seasonal cottages and an amusement park that thousands would visit each summer. It was connected to the main land in Bridgeport by a swing bridge, which unfortunately burned in a 1996 fire. Rather than fix the bridge, the decision was made to vacate the island, and it has stayed empty ever since. The buildings and amusement park were literally left to rot, and have fallen victim to vandals and the elements.

As mentioned, it's a barrier beach, and you can hike out there from Stratford -- technically, there is no trespassing, but if you stay below the high-tide line, you can visit since that is outside of town's jurisdiction.

Since being abandoned, Pleasure Beach/Long Beach West has been a political football, batted about by politicians, developers and special interest groups. The Stratford end of the beach is now home to all sorts of wildlife, including endangered sea birds like the piping plover, which nest there in the summer; there was talk of selling the property to the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection, but that deal fell through. The structures on the Bridgeport end, including old cottages and some remnants of the old amusement park, are slowly collapsing or being demolished, but still, there are no specific plans for the site -- some want to have a natural recreation area for all to enjoy, others want to sell it for development. Recently, the town of Stratford has begun to demolish some of the cottages on the Long Beach West end.

Meanwhile, another summer has passed and this potentially wonderful resource continues to go unused -- you know, aside from the artists who have tried to make something out what was formerly a great place to visit.

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Comments

Submitted by Timmy (not verified) on
I've been visiting Long Beach West (Pleasure Beach) for over 2 years now, I've made around 10 visits. It's an amazing place, full of history, sadness, and a real story of all that's happened over time. I'm truly going to miss the cottages, each visit gave me a new perspective about the people that occupied, lived in these houses. I will greatly miss it but will continue to visit until the last cottage is knocked down.

Submitted by Jordan Scerbo (not verified) on
I too have made a handful of visits there, I live in Trumbull, so it is a 10 minute drive.. here is a photo album of mine http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2013690&id=1087440534&l=16ff026ea9 I would like to go very soon to see them knocking the cottages down my mom had a cousin who owned one of the houses facing the long island sound pretty sad

Submitted by Lenny Kovlak (not verified) on
Wow!!!!! I was born in Stratford in August 1960, grew up in Parrot Ice Cream, (Say it fast.......) & went to Garden St. Elementary, ( now gone), Wooster, & graduated SHS in ‘78, & have way too many veryvery Fond memories of Long Beach to share, thanks for the photos!!!!!!! I live in San Francisco, now, for 27 yrs, & wadda beach we have here!!!!!!!!!!unleashed dogs!!!!!!!!!view of the GG Bridge!!!!!!& no stinging jellyfish, or biting flies. Peace all, Lenny

Submitted by Alison (not verified) on
There isn't much left, the buildings are mostly torn down and the ones that aren't are pretty boring. My friend and I went there just before the nesting season began and got scared off by what we think is a homeless person (mattress on the floor, unexplained banging, response to noises i.e when I called out hello). It's hardly worth going anymore, there's only one cottage that I saw and didn't even get to go to it.

Submitted by Bill (not verified) on
I wonder how it is now after the hurricane

Submitted by Mike M (not verified) on
I went there two years ago and took comprehensive pictures of the site. I will post on my Facebook site (Michael Mathis: American Flag) once I dig up the disk. I went there this year and the ENTIRE place has been leveled, and not one peice of plywood remains. there are only bird houses on poles sprinkled about. I dragged my kids on that trek through about a mile's worth of sand. Needless to say they weren't pleased when we got there and it was as if the town never existed.

Submitted by Mike M (not verified) on
Check out my Facebook. Michael Mathis. Profile is of my the American Flag. Went there in '09 and took pics before they tore the place down.

Submitted by jordan (not verified) on
went there less then a month ago http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2250107247322.2109279.1087440534&type=1&l=c12176741f start at picture 83

Submitted by Rich (not verified) on
Sad ending to a wonderful place. I grew up in the north end of Bpt and in the early 70's when i was like 7 thru 10 years, old my grandfather Eddie ran the two snack stands at Pleasure Beach. So most weekends and all summer long me and my family would be down there enjoying the sun, sand, fishing. For two years, the "Midway" amusement rides came, as well as the fireworks, for the Barnum Festival. Great time to be a kid for sure. I basically treated the whole place as my back yard. In one of the large parking areas, my dad used to let me and my younger brother drive his van! LOL I remember they used to have mini speed boat races in Johnsons Gut. We used to go and sneak into the Giant Ballroom when they had dances there and ride the old carosel. I remember one day getting there and finding out that the ballroom had burned down the previous night. Most of the rides, except for the carosel from the original amusment park, were long gone by then. Even back in the 70's there was always some talk or plan going around for the revival of Pleasure Beach. Casino, dog track, sanctuary, etc, etc...the list is a mile long. But low and behold, nothing ever has come to being close to reality. It's a shame that just before the bridge fire in 96, the city and/or state invested in a new beach pavillion on the front beach there. It never opened. Sad that politics, greed and pure stupidity has kept this potential jewel from being enjoyed by local area residents. But for those of us who remember her in better times, thanks for the memories Pleasure Beach! At least they can't take those away from us.....Rich

Submitted by Mike mathis (not verified) on
Go on my FB page if you want to see pix just before they tore the entire place down. I have it set to public.

Submitted by Kristina (not verified) on
Went there today. Didn't see any cottages -.-' There's just a Restaurant, some facility with a small stage, and a pretty cool Theater that are left standing alone. Pretty lame, I was expecting to see cottages, yet it was fun to visit. It's lame Bridgeport won't reconstruct the island.

Submitted by robyn liscinsky (not verified) on
there r a few abandoned buildings still standing..food stands,carosel (whats left of it)..resteraunt and ballroom...you can still feel the sadness, but its a great place to visit if you are the "investigative" type....you can still imagine and sense the pple that spent many summers there.....id take that hike again....sad...but peaceful!

Submitted by Rich (not verified) on
No the ballroom burned down i think in 73. The building w/ the small stage was the Poka Dot Play House Theater, which moved to downtown Bpt. (Playhouse on the Green) which is now closed or is now defunct. The restaurant you refferd to is the front Beach pavilion that never opened. The two snack stands that my grandfather used to own, have long been gone. The cottages were removed earlier this year/late last year, so there gone, kaput, move along nothing to see here.... But hope springs eternal! The city of Bpt recently announced a deal that Bass Pro Shops will be developing some prime real estate across the harbor from Pleasure Beach and they (Bass) plan on using some of it so people can try out some of their equipment and such and hold clinics on the penisula. They also plan on operating a ferry service to Pleasure Beach. So we'll keep out fingers crossed that this is a positive turn of events.......

Submitted by Bill (not verified) on
http://www.flickr.com/photos/71935291@N06/sets/72157631005815380/

Submitted by Christine (not verified) on
My friend and I visited this place yesterday, very long and disappointing walk as we saw all but three buildings have been completely destroyed and removed. A building signed "restaurant" if still standing but there's not much to see in there. Another building that looks like it was used as a theater is still standing and that was pretty cool to look around the inside of. No one's patrols the area so if you want to take a visit you don't have to worry. We were very disappointed we waited to long to visit and that it is now almost completely gone.

Submitted by robyn liscinsky (not verified) on
@ Rich, i went there and have some awesome pics....my mother in law sang on that stage when she was 13..(a winner of Jenny Lind some 61 yrs ago...)..i am an inestgater for the paranormal,,,didnt find too much durng the day but the feeling of uneasyness were appearent!...you can walk the 2 miles fron short beach to get there if you r the hiking type...and get there with an open mind and open heart ,it wont be that much of a dissapointment..i actually came out of there with a new respect of why and when pple went there in the first place!

Submitted by robyn (not verified) on
Hi Bill The carousel collapsed years ago....but im sure between Irene and Sandy there has been more damage....cool place to do EVP sessions and a little paranormal investigating..alot of past there on that land!! Wish i saw the cottages also..none were there when we went .

We just went there yesterday. Definitely a long walk on littered, long beach. Lots of high brush and dead trees. It's spooky, and the pieces that remain are spookier. But it's not much. The carousel looks to have collapsed relatively recently. Would have been great to have visited when the old homes were still standing in 2007/2008.

Submitted by Adriana (not verified) on
Hello, I'm a resident of Stratford, CT, but I used to live in Bridgeport when I was younger. Recently about a month or 2 ago, my boyfriend and I decided to take a trip to Pleasure Beach just to see for ourselves what it looked like. My father has lived in Bridgeport all his life and used to tell me stories of how Pleasure Beach was back in the day, he described the midway, the carousel, the restaurant and all the attractions and pure joy one had at Pleasure Beach. Over the years people have been finding ways to get there and there is a way from Long Beach in Stratford, however, it's a very long trek through wildlife and lots of sand. One thing I regret is not wearing sunblock since I got very burned lol. Anyway, when my boyfriend and I finally arrived, there was a rickety wood and wire fence, but there was a hole made big enough to walk through, but be careful not to scrape or cut yourself. There is a trailer there I believe is meant for construction workers and some equipment they may be using, however there was no one there at all (except for a nice photographer we met later on) and no sign of any patrol officers or security. As we made our way through the island the place is huge with lots of trees and wild bushes and shrubs covering most of it, weeds cracking through the old roads and trash everywhere. It was making me very upset because it was very clear how beautiful this land must have been back in its glory days, and now it's virtually wasting away to nothing. As me and my boyfriend kept walking around passing the 2 cell towers, we had to climb over some fallen debris and trees so be sure to dress comfortably since you will be doing a lot of walking and some climbing. We finally made our way to the center of the island, and it was there that we saw what's left of the old structures still standing. The parking lot is still very visible with fresh white parking lines, the pavilion distinctly labeled "restaurant" is still very much in tact, but sadly it's covered in graffiti and its doors are open with fallen appliances and trash in and outside of it. Behind the pavilion is probably the most beautiful part of what's left of Pleasure beach which is the boardwalk to the ocean, it's breathtaking how gorgeous it looks and it's also in tact but I wouldn't recommend walking too far cause there is some rotted wooden planks that have left gaps. We were fortunate to have a wonderful breeze that day. The other structures that are still "standing" is one building directly across from the pavilion that I believe, according to what my dad has told me, could have been where the bumper cars were back during the Midway. But that building is very damaged and also like every other structure we saw, heavily vandalized and covered in graffiti. There was also another large building with all the doors left open, but very dark inside and I believe it was either the ballroom, or what some of you have said could be the old Playhouse. You can see the old rug still covering the floor, and it looks to be raised from the ground so perhaps it was the playhouse. It's covered in trash and old appliances completely scattered all over the inside, but being the chicken that I am I didn't want to venture inside of it. There was one structure that has completely collapsed on top of itself that isn't too far from the ballroom/playhouse and I firmly believe it was once the old carousel. The spire that sits atop a typical carousel is directly on top of the wreckage and you see the remnants of a circular roof that again many carousels have. But please, be very careful everyone because there is a lot of old wood, rusty metal and wires spiking out every which way in the wreckage. There is also a few other smaller structures that have started to fall apart little by little so it was hard trying to make out what they could have been, but overall there is still a lot of interesting things left to see. I seriously wish I could have seen these cottages everyone has been talking about, but overall the trip we took that day was very nice and we were fortunate to have gone on a beautiful day. However, the feelings I kept getting throughout this little adventure was not creepy or weird, but very sad almost to the point that I felt like crying at times because it's just terrible how this place that once bought so much joy to families and imprinted with so many good memories, is now nothing but a hidden gem that has been frozen in time and long forgotten by many. I honestly feel that the city of Bridgeport should do something to restore it, or even give the property to a company that can really do something with it. I have heard so many rumors over the years of big name companies offering to buy it, for example (not solid) my father told me how Donald Trump wanted to put a hotel on the beach, that even a casino was proposed and so much more, but thanks to Bridgeport's greed and selfish ambition there has been nothing done. The confirmed Bass Pro Shops will be constructed I believe around the Steele Point Harbor property across from Pleasure Beach close to the highway, but I'm not so sure exactly. The burned bridge that once was the only access to Pleasure Beach (unless you are fortunate enough to own a boat), still stands in the middle of the sound. But for those of you who reside in Bridgeport, there is a relatively new pier off Seaview Avenue that I believe is called Pleasure Beach Pier or boardwalk that is directly across from the bridge and Pleasure Beach. But if you look at how far the old bridge is from the new pier, you'll be very surprised at how very close the two structures are, and I just don't understand why the city can't just extend the old bridge to connect to that new pier and from there connect to Pleasure Beach and reopen the passage to the beach. But again, that's just my opinion, and also how a lot of towns have nature and Greenway trails, why not Long Beach in Stratford which is probably the only known path to still exist to Pleasure Beach, join with the city of Bridgeport and invest in creating a nature trail or Greenway trail from Long Beach to Pleasure Beach so that at least it could be made into a beautiful trail or park. I just wanted to share my experience and views with all of you about Pleasure Beach and I hope my advice helps some of you who are thinking about making the trip to this beautiful, but abandoned place, but again I just advise you all to be very careful. I also took some pictures of the structures and land, and posted them on my instagram, just keep scrolling down until you see them there are several :) http://instagram.com/you_are___loved# I plan to go back and visit again soon! God bless you all and happy exploring! I love Damned Connecticut!

Submitted by Kevin (not verified) on
Is there a way you can walk to Pleasure beach even when the tide is up? i wouldnt want to walk during low tide and risk getting stuck out there. If there is a way can someone tell me. Thanks

Submitted by Robert (not verified) on
Yes, you can walk across the beach at high tide. Note that the pavilion is being restored in some way. All the doors have been locked and the windows have been boarded up. There is new paint on the ceiling and the front boardwalk has been ripped out. They also ripped out one of the old roads and have construction equipment around the end of the bridge. The theater is pretty much the only thing left that you can explore. It's still worth it if you've never been, but the site is now just a shadow of its former self.

Submitted by Heather (not verified) on
It makes me SO sad that the carousel is gone! We took the boat out there a few summers ago and walked around. I'll be happy to share our pictures with anyone who asks - just email me: shubertgoddess AT gmail.com

Submitted by ajvargas (not verified) on
Much of the former Pleasure Beach carousel is alive and well and living at Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo inBridgepot. The carousel/museum is open year-round. The future of Pleasure Beach is currently under consideration. Read the article from July 13th, 2013 as well a some history: http://onlyinbridgeport.com/wordpress/no-pleasure-from-ui-in-beach-revival-plus-pleasure-beach-history/

Submitted by Peter Stevenson (not verified) on
Am I really the only person who thinks that this beautiful place should just be cleaned up, all traces of human activity removed and designated a nature reserve for wildlife and (pedestrian) nature lovers to enjoy? With sea levels rising every year and storms getting stronger, why would anyone build anything there, much less sell a precious bit of remaining natural space to developers (Trump? Really?!!?). Don't the average citizens of the area deserve a quiet, beautiful natural space (now accessible by water taxi for no charge) instead of yet another real estate development designed to feather the nest of some billionaire and, at best, provide low wage seasonal jobs. There are other places to go for entertainment, but precious few places left to enjoy a beautiful, unspoiled bit of barrier beach.

Submitted by Luis Moreira (not verified) on
Peter I agree with you 100%. Pleasure Beach is a thing of the past. I heard about the water taxi. If they were to do anything, they should create a historical trail with signs depicting the beach in its heyday. As it sits, Pleasure Beach/Long Beach is significantly valuable in terms of natural resources. Over the past few years, I've seen dozens of Diamondback Terrapins lay eggs on the sandy dunes, threatened Piping Plovers, other rare birds and vegetation. They should leave it be!

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