Black Rock Harbor is a neighborhood and historic area in Bridgeport, Connecticut. It is located about four kilometers west-southwest of the Port of Bridgeport and about 95 kilometers northeast of the Port of New York. Before the State of Connecticut granted the land to Bridgeport, Black Rock Harbor was part of the town of Fairfield.
Black Rock Harbor is historically significant despite its small size. Before Europeans settled the area, the Pequannock tribe of indigenous people farmed, hunted, and fished in the area. The first white settler in Black Rock Harbor, Thomas Wheeler, built a home in about 1644 on the site of today's Fayerweather Boat Yard. In 1653, the good people of Black Rock Harbor, caught up in the witch scares in New England, convicted and hung Goody Knapp as a witch.
With a deep protected location for shipping, Black Rock Harbor was a busy commercial center for western Connecticut by the 1760s. Black Rock Harbor was named Fairfield County's official Port of Entry in 1790, and David Wheeler established Middle Wharf. Ichabod Wheeler started a new shipyard in Black Rock Harbor, and wharves and storehouses were built to support the wharf. Today, the Fayerweather Yacht Club, the Port 5 Naval Veteran's Club, and the Upper Wharves occupy that site.
Black Rock Harbor's profitable trade was based on its exports of lumber, livestock, and vegetables to the other colonies and to the West Indies. Onions were the region's major crop, and onion sprouts are still common in lawns and gardens throughout the area.
In 1776, Fort Black Rock was built to protect the mills and bakehouse of Ash Creek during the American Revolution. These businesses supplied the Revolutionary Army housed in the Fort. The owner of a Black Rock Harbor blacksmith shop, Captain Caleb Brewster, was a member of the Culper Spy Ring that was part of George Washington's espionage service. They delivered messages in code to Washington by rowing a whaleboat across Long Island Sound at night. Brewster even "leaked" fake plans for an attack on New York to fall into British hands. His action delayed British action against the allied French fleet in Newport.
Many Black Rock Harbor citizens served as crew aboard the brigantine Defence, including two of her officers. The Defence was assigned to Black Rock Harbor in 1776 to stop Tory messages from crossing the Sound. During her service to Black Rock Harbor, the Defence captured 15 Tories, and she captured three enemy ships carrying 330 crew and officers on one mission. Over three years, the Defence captured 13 vessels and half a million dollars in booty, more than any other American vessel during the Revolution.
In the 19th Century, shipping in Black Rock Harbor grew, as did profits from trade in rum, molasses, and sugar with the West Indies. Shipbuilding became an important industry in Black Rock Harbor, and several new shipyards were built. In 1856, the shipyards were consolidated, and the new shipyard made some of the best boats produced in the United States.
With the Industrial Revolution, Black Rock Harbor's economy moved from ship building to manufacturing and coaling. A new coal yard was built, and Black Rock Harbor gained the Bridgeport Copper and Sulfuric Acid Works.
By the beginning of the 20th Century, the Port of Bridgeport had overtaken Black Rock Harbor as a commercial port. Black Rock Harbor became a center for yachting. The Bridgeport Yacht Club moved to Black Rock Harbor in 1898 because its water was not as polluted. They built a three-story clubhouse and had a private swimming beach. Their members held the first regatta in 1899.
During World War I, the Black Rock Harbor's yacht clubhouse was a Naval Reserve barracks.