LONG BEACH/STEEPLECHASE ISLAND/PLEASURE BEACH

PleasureBeach

From 1639 until 1887, Long Beach included all of what is now Pleasure Beach and Long Beach West. The Pleasure Beach section of Long Beach was owned by an unknown woman who sold the property to Walter Nichols for $500. Listed below is an article from the Bridgeport Herald:

May 17, 1887: LONG BEACH PROPERTY SOLD: The litigation between Walter Nichols of Bridgeport and the Stratford authorities regarding the possession and lease of certain lands on Long Beach came to an end last evening by the work of a town meeting held in the above place. By an almost unanimous vote it was agreed to sell Mr. Nichols 25 acres of land on the beach, including the coveted point facing Bridgeport Harbor for the sum of $500. Mr. Nichols is to pay the cost of litigation as far as gone, which probably amounts to between $200 and $300. This decision is regarded by Mr. Nichols and his counsel as a great victory as they had expected a more serious opposition. Work on fitting up the property will all the accessories of a day seaside resort will be now commenced at once. There will be numerous attractions providing to popularize the place and it is expected to have the resort open for business some time next month.

When Stratford found out that this section had been sold, they sought legal action to try and stop the sale, before finally giving up. Nichols built an amusement park during 1887 and in 1888 sold the property with the amusement park to McMahon and Wren for $25,000. The new owners continued to build on the property and finally sold the property to the city of Bridgeport in 1919. The section of the beach was known as both Pleasure Beach and Steeplechase Island from the early 1890's until 1919. After being purchased by Bridgeport, the Steeplechase Island name was dropped. See below for the details.

July 7, 1919 - CITY BUYS ISLAND FOR $220,000: Steeplechase Island, the future municipal recreation park will be purchased tomorrow by the Park board from the McMahon heirs for $220,000. The title has been searched and it was stated today the agreement was complete for the transfer of the resort at that price. The reservation contains about 30 acres. It is partly in Bridgeport and partly in Stratford. Water laps its shores on three sides. It has been reached in late years when open, by a bridge from Seaview Avenue. It is proposed now to have the old ferry plan revived, a small boat ride from the lower bridge to the island at cost, the scheme of some years ago when the island amusement flourished under private management. Mayor Wilson said today he is in favor of the ferry plan. He thinks that is the proper scheme for it gives the people a pleasant little boat ride at small expense. George Eames, president of the Park board, has hitherto expressed himself as in favor of the ferry. Negotiations for the acquisition of the property have been under way for many months. At hearings before the Board of Appraisal, experts on land values have testified the property to be worth as high as $600,000. Whether the island will be operated at all this year was in doubt today. Mayor Wilson thought it possible that the bathing facilities might be employed at least. The Park board’s intention is to develop Steeplechase along the lines of Detroit’s Belle Isle.

The owners of Steeplechase Island considered the park as part of Bridgeport due to the access points to the resort were located in Bridgeport. However, when Pleasure Beach officially left Stratford and became part of Bridgeport was in 1919. Maps of the day show the park in Bridgeport, but Bridgeport and Stratford held joint jurisdiction over the facility until 1919. It can be argued that until 1919, Pleasure Beach was part of Stratford and thus part of Lordship since all of Long Beach had been considered Lordship since 1639.

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL COMES TO LORDSHIP?

A baseball stadium was built on Steeplechase Island (Pleasure Beach) and the Bridgeport Orators, a semi-pro team played games there and at Newfield Park in Bridgeport. At least 3 major league teams played games in what at one time was Lordship. Hall of famers such as Ty Cobb, Sam Crawford, Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, Frank Chance and Three Finger Brown played within the colonial boundaries of Lordship.

August 18, 1907 - FIRE AT TILYOU'S STEEPLECHASE: Some one dropped a lighted cigarette under the bleachers at George Tilyou's Steeplechase Island, where the Chicago National League baseball team and the Bridgeport team were warming up for an exhibition game this afternoon. Forty minutes later the bleachers, grand stand, the Steeplechase building, and the earthquake house had been destroyed by flames. The total loss is $60,000. At the time the fire broke out the bleachers and grand stand were filled with 5,000 men, women, and children. A small boy was the first to see the flames and shouted that there was a bonfire under the bleachers. Some men looked at the incipient blaze and remarked, "Ah, let it burn." It looked at that time as if a cup of water would have been sufficient to kill it, but the fire caught some waste paper and dry tinder, and then ignited the woodwork of the bleachers. There was a scrambled for safety, but in spite of it the very best order prevailed. Men shouted that there was plenty of time and the great crowd acted with splendid judgment. There was no hurrying and everybody had left the grand stand when the flames attacked it. Then the fire spread to the Steeplechase, and that structure was completely at the mercy of the flames twenty minutes later. There is no water supply on the island sufficient to fight a fire, and the wind was blowing the flames toward the main cluster of buildings in the centre of the island. Manager Paul Boynton attempted to blow up the front of the Steeplechase building with dynamite to stop the progress of the flames. The attempt was a failure, but luckily there was a shift in the wind, and any further spreading of the fire was stopped. The Fire Department was called out from this place, but was unable to get to the Island, there being no dock heavy enough to land any of the steamers. Hose companies were shipped over to the island, however, but there was no pressure to the water, and the buildings were allowed to smother themselves out. Besides the two structures mentioned Robert Weber's cottage was destroyed, with all its contents. There was some damage to the bathing pavilion and to the booths of the east side of the Trail. Mr. Tilyou has a very small insurance. Mr. Weber's loss is about $3,000. After the fences, grand stand, and bleachers were destroyed the ball teams played five innings to satisfy those who had paid admissions. Every foul ball went over into the smoldering section and was consumed. About 10,000 people clustered about the diamond to watch the game. It was a free exhibition except to those who had paid before the fire broke out. The Chicago team won by the score of 3 to 1.

BaseballFire

Baseball fire

StadiumFire

Stadium Fire

AUGUST 1, 1909: DETROIT TIGERS AT STEEPLECHASE ISLAND: Aside from the baseball game between the Detroit Tigers and the Orators at 3:30 this afternoon there will be band concerts this afternoon and evening and three other free feature acts at Steeplechase Island, Bridgeport. Hurricane, the famous trotting ostrich will run an exhibition half mile on the trail, harnessed to a racing sulky. This big bird standing ten feet high, weighing 400 pounds and taking strides of fifteen feet is a novel spectacle. Wormwoods dog and monkey circus will be presented free both afternoon and evening and Captain Webbs seals and sea lion band, wonderful oceanic actors, will perform twice. The admission ticket will be good for amusements as usual.

August 1, 1909 - Aside from the baseball game between the Detroit Tigers and the Orators at 3:30 this afternoon there will be band concerts this afternoon and evening and three other free feature acts at Steeplechase Island. Detroit won 9 – 1.

August 22, 1909 - The Bridgeport Orators defeated the Cincinnati (Reds) Nationals in a fast pitch game at Steeplechase Island this afternoon 6 to 1.

Postcard history of Pleasure Beach
  • Postcard history of Pleasure Beach