The Port of Bridgeport is Connecticut's largest city. Located on the northern shores of Long Island Sound, it is about 96 kilometers northeast of the Port of New York and about 220 kilometers southwest of the Port of Boston. The Port of Bridgeport is the birthplace of America's master showman, P.T. Barnum, and his star, General Tom Thumb (Charles Stratton). The Port of Bridgeport was home to the first Subway Restaurant that opened for business in 1965. The company is still headquartered near there in Milford.
Through the end of the 20th Century, the Port of Bridgeport was a center for manufacturing of transportation and electrical equipment, machine tools, and plastics. It also suffered unemployment, pollution, and social problems like crime and drugs in the inner city. In 2000, the Port of Bridgeport was home to over 139 thousand people, and more than 459 thousand called the metropolitan area home.
Located on the excellent natural Newfield Harbor, the first residents of the Port of Bridgeport were farmers and fishermen. With the perfect setting for a port, they soon moved from farming to commerce and manufacturing.
A whaling center until the middle 19th Century, the Port of Bridgeport became an industrial center after the railroad arrived in 1840. Industries created carriages, sewing machines, saddler, tools, brass and cast-iron fittings, and ammunition. After the railroad opened, there was also a boom in the shipbuilding trades. In 1860, President Abraham Lincoln appeared in the Port of Bridgeport's Washington Hall to a packed crowd both inside and outside the building.
By the 1930s, the Port of Bridgeport was a busy industrial town with over 500 factories that attracted many immigrants seeking work from Ireland, Italy, and Eastern Europe. Preparations for World War II boosted its industrial economy.
After World War II, when heavy industry faced major changes, the Port of Bridgeport lost thousands of jobs and much of its population. Its middle-class citizens found opportunities in other cities, and many of those who remained were poor, unemployed, and demoralized. Crime and drugs became serious problems for the Port of Bridgeport. Despite these setbacks, immigrants continued to come to the city due to its low-cost housing, and some found work.
In the latter half of the 20th Century, the Port of Bridgeport faced the environmental consequences of its former industrial life. Former industrial sites were often heavily polluted, and the city faced expensive and difficult environmental clean-ups. Parts of the city looked like ghost towns. In 1978, a 19-day teachers strike led to a court order making strikes illegal in the State of Connecticut. More than 270 teachers were arrested and put in jail.
By the beginning of the 21st Century, the Port of Bridgeport's fortunes looked better than they had for many years. Service industries blossomed, and affordable housing attracted commuters to the city. Historic buildings are being renovated, redevelopment efforts are underway, and the waterfront is being revitalized.
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