On Sunday morning, April 4, 1897, ten people interested in Christian Science met at a private house to hold the first Christian Science service in Bridgeport. At the testimony meeting the following Friday evening, April 9, fourteen were present. For two years the Sunday services and Wednesday evening meetings were held in residences. In 1899 the organization was strengthened by the coming of a teacher and practitioner.
In May, 1899, a Christian Science Society was formed and a room in the Court Exchange Building was engaged and suitably furnished to be used for church services and also for a reading room. The reading room was kept open every day and also Friday evenings. The first service held in the Court Exchange Building was a Wednesday evening testimony meeting, June 7, 1899; and the society was encouraged by an attendance of twenty-four at the service the following Sunday. In December of that year the society was dissolved, and First Church of Christ, Scientist, of Bridgeport, Connecticut, was organized and incorporated.
[. . .] As the church grew in numbers and in contributions, it was ready again to move to larger quarters, and the Froebel Kindergarten, at 871 Lafayette Street, cordially opened its doors. In 1902 the church rented the kindergarten rooms for the Sunday services, and in 1906, as the property was on the market, it was thought best to buy it. Reading rooms were furnished and finally a new auditorium was added to the rear of the building.
[. . .] In the spring of 1917 it seemed wise to take another forward step and remodel the church building in order to double the seating capacity. Architects from New York were engaged, and at an expense of approximately thirteen thousand dollars, the building has been strengthened and remodeled. The interior of the auditorium has been enlarged and beautified, pews added, and an organ installed. Various other changes have been wrought which make the building and its surroundings an appropriate place for Christian Science services. [. . .] The dedication service was held on September 15, 1918.
A new church, designed by Robert C. N. Monahan of Monahan, Meikle & Johnson, was built in 1958 at the corner of North and Clinton Avenues in Bridgeport. Because Christian Science churches can only be dedicated when freed of all mortgage indebtedness, the church was dedicated over five years later, on June 14, 1964. Today the building is home to a different church, the Holy Tabernacle Church Of God In Christ.
The New Hope Missionary Baptist Church at 1100 Park Avenue in Bridgeport was built in 1911 as B’nai Israel Synagogue. First organized in 1855 and incorporated in 1859 as an Orthodox synagogue by Jews from Germany, B’nai Israel is oldest Jewish congregation in Bridgeport and the third oldest in Connecticut. By the time the Park Avenue Temple was built in 1911, the congregation had moved from Orthodox to Reform Judaism. The building was designed by Leonard Asheim with a Craftsman-style interior featuring natural wood finishes. In 1958, the congregation moved to a new building, at 2710 Park Avenue.
One of numerous US post office buildings produced during the New Deal era is the Bridgeport Main Post Office, located at 120 Middle Street, completed in 1934. A strikingly unornamented Art Deco/Art Moderne structure, it was designed by local architect Charles Wellington Walker under the supervision of Louis A. Simon, the supervising architect of the United States Treasury Department. The lobby has murals by R. L. Lambden depicting mail delivery through the ages.
The largest synagogue in Bridgeport was constructed by Congregation Rodeph Shalom in 1947-1949, with a school addition built in 1956. A group that broke away from the Reform Congregation B’nai Israel formed the Conservative Congregation Rodeph Shalom in 1909. The congregation met in Veruna Hall until 1923, when it purchased a church on Iranistan Avenue. The current synagogue, at 2385 Park Avenue in Bridgeport, was designed by architect Jesse James Hamblin of Milford, who also designed Saint John the Baptist Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in Bridgeport. It combines elements of the Neo-Classical and Art Deco styles.
The First Methodist Society in Bridgeport was organized in 1817 and the first church building was opened in 1823. After this wood structure burned down in 1849 it was replaced by a brick one in 1850. After it was deemed unfit for continuing occupancy in the 1920s, a new edifice was built on Golden Hill, overlooking downtown Bridgeport. The new First Methodist Church and Parish House (333-47 Golden Hill Street/210 Elm Street) was constructed as a single structure in 1928-1929 (the church in the Gothic Revival style and the parish house in the Tudor Revival style) to plans by the architectural consortium of Southey, Allen, and Collens. In 1970, several other Methodist Churches merged with First Methodist Church and the church’s name was changed to Golden Hill United Methodist Church.
February is Black History Month! Starting in 1821, free blacks in Bridgeport settled in a neighborhood that would become known as Little Liberia. Only two houses of this nineteenth-century neighborhood survive today on their original foundations. They are also the oldest remaining houses in Connecticut built by free blacks, before the state completed its gradual abolition of slavery. Built in 1848-1849, they were the homes of sisters Mary (1815-1883) and Eliza (1805-1862) Freeman. Initially the sisters leased the houses out as rental properties while they continued to live and work in New York City. Mary’s house, 358-360 Main Street, built first, was either originally, or later added to to become, a two-family house. Eliza house, 352-354 Main Street, is a three-bay wide half-house with a side entrance that had a storefront extended from the facade from 1903 to 2013. A dormer window was added to the house around 1862. Eliza Freeman returned to Bridgeport around 1855, where she worked as a servant for a sea captain. Mary Freeman, who had worked as a hotel chef in New York, followed her sister to Bridgeport around 1861.
The buildings were occupied into the 1980s. By 2010, the houses were vacant and near collapse. The Mary & Eliza Freeman Center for History and Community was soon formed to raise funds to preserve and restore the houses as a museum. Non-historic elements of the houses were removed in 2012. Read the rest of this entry »
The Myrtle Avenue School in Bridgeport was constructed in two sections, both designed by architect Warren R. Briggs. The first section, a mansard-roofed structure, was built in 1884. A flat-roofed Beaux Arts section was constructed in 1916, fronting 325 Myrtle Street and filling the space that had been the old building’s front yard. The school was later renamed as the Jefferson School. No longer used as a school, the building was altered (with a new pitched roof) to house condominiums under the name Jefferson School Lofts.