Pleasure Beach is the Bridgeport portion of a Connecticut barrier beach that extends 2-1/2 miles westerly from Point No Point (the portion in the adjoining town of Stratford is known as Long Beach). The area is Connecticut's largest and most recent ghost town (as shown here on a national ghost town registry) and abandoned recently in the late 1990s after a fire on the bridge connecting it to the mainland. It is surrounded on three sides by water (Lewis Gut to the north, Bridgeport Harbor to the west, and Long Island Sound to the south).
From 1892 until 1958, it was home to a popular amusement park of the same name. From 1904 to 1919, it was called "Steeplechase Island." The amusement park was accessible primarily by ferry service and a wooden swing bridge built in 1927 to carry automobiles and pedestrians. Remaining structures from the amusement park are the carousel, dodge-'em car enclosure, and beer garden (the latter was substantially altered for use as a summer theater in the 1960s).
After a portion of the bridge burned in 1996, Pleasure Beach was cut off and became accessible only by a lengthy trek along the shoreline, or by small private boats from the mainland. This has severely limited access and allowed nature to be undisturbed. As late as December 2008, Bridgeport considered a ferry service to relink the beach with the city, but this was rejected due to parking considerations and the need for a Coast Guard registered captain.
The Town of Stratford owned 45 cottages on the Long Beach portion of the peninsula. For a decade, the town considered ending the leases of the seasonal homes, in part because of difficulties in protecting them. The town ended renewal of leases, and in May 2007, the remaining occupants agreed to give up their claims and moved their possessions away by barge. The cottages have since been demolished.
- As of July 2008, three of the 45 cottages have suffered arson attacks and burned completely, and every building located on Pleasure Beach has suffered vandalism. Four vehicles have been removed, and the area is littered with trash from squatters and party-goers. The mayor of Stratford is working to clean the land and possible transactions exist to sell the Long Beach land to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
- On July 25, 2008, then-governor of Connecticut, M. Jodi Rell, endorsed spending $150,000.00 to study the feasibility of restoring access to Pleasure Beach, possibly by rebuilding the bridge.
- As of March 15, 2009, five more of the cottages have fallen victim to arson.
- A report on July 2, 2009 on Fox News Channel revealed that there were no longer any residents on Pleasure Beach.
- As of September 3, 2009, the Connecticut Post reported that an unauthorized demolition took place on Pleasure Beach. The carousel, bumper car area, and a bandstand were all demolished without permission or permit. The remains of these areas remain on the beach. The mayors of Stratford and Bridgeport are investigating.
- As of March 3, 2010, a temporary road has been built down the stretch of beach to the cottages. Workers will remove as much debris as possible before March 15, when they must halt the process due to piping plovers returning to their habitat. The work will resume September 15, 2010 and continue until all cottages and debris have been removed.
- As of May 2011, all of the cottages have been demolished, leaving only beach behind. The park infrastructure remains, such as the theater and other formerly public buildings.
On June 28, 2014, Pleasure Beach reopened to the public. The peninsula is accessible seven days a week via free water taxi located at the fishing pier on Seaview Ave. near Central Ave. in Bridgeport. The beach includes a pavilion and relaxation area with several bathrooms, showers, picnic tables, and a limited concession stand.
Pleasure Beach is a protected refuge for endangered birds (piping plover, osprey) and plants (prickly pear cactus, southern sea lavender). Sections of the beach are roped off seasonally to protect the plover nesting areas. There is also an abundance of cotton-tailed rabbits, deer, foxes, raccoons, and other mammals. The sand spit is estimated to contain more than 25% of the remaining undeveloped beachfront in the state.
- Bridgeport on the Sound - Mary K. Witkowski, Bruce Williams - Google Books
- "Rell recommends funds for Pleasure Beach". Retrieved 2008-09-24.
- Long Beach road work gets under way - Connecticut Post
- "WICC600, Your Dependable News And Information Station; WICC TRANSMITTER AT PLEASURE BEACH cont.". Archived from the original on 2008-03-14. Retrieved 2008-06-13.
- "WICC600, Your Dependable News And Information Station; WICC TRANSMITTER AT PLEASURE BEACH". Archived from the original on 2008-03-14. Retrieved 2008-06-13.
- New England Ruins - Photographic Essay of Pleasure Beach.
- Photos of an early Skee Ball Coupon - Unknown Date
- Photos of Pleasure Beach - February 2010
- ConnPost.com 9/3/09 - 9/3/09 CTPost story about unauthorized demolition of carousel, etc.
- Pleasure Beach Photos - Early 2009. Photos of the cottages and amusement park.
- Pleasure Beach on a National Ghost Town Registry
- Historical pictures of Pleasure Beach
- 1996 NY Times story with details of 1996 fire, ownership by town of Stratford, decision to not renew cottage leases
- Long Island SoundKeeper article on Pleasure Beach
- Video of 2007 visit
- Slide Show of Ghost Beach
- 1988 NY Times article on plans to revive Pleasure Beach