AMTRAK® PRESENTS

Great American Stations

Helping communities discover and develop the
economic power of America's train stations.

Start Your Station Project

Bridgeport, CT (BRP)


Station Facts

Bridgeport, CT Station Photo

Bridgeport, Connecticut

525 Water Street Metro North Station Bridgeport, CT 06604

Station Hours

Annual Station Revenue (2013)
$5,921,823
Annual Station Ridership (2013)
80,309

Ownerships

Facility Ownership City of Bridgeport
Parking Lot Ownership State of Connecticut
Platform Ownership State of Connecticut
Track Ownership State of Connecticut

Features

375 Long Term Parking Spaces 375 Short Term Parking Spaces Accessible Payphones
Accessible Platform Accessible Restrooms Accessible Waiting Room
Accessible Water Fountain Elevator Elevator Accessible
Enclosed Waiting Area High Platform Parking Attendant
Pay Phones Quik Trak Kiosk Restrooms

Routes Served

  • Northeast Regional
  • Vermonter

Contact

Bill Hollister
Regional Contact
governmentaffairsnyc@amtrak.com
(202) 906-3918 (ph)

Local Community Links:

Station History

Located on the eastern edge of downtown along the Pequonnock River, the Bridgeport Transportation Center (BTC) is a vital intermodal hub that provides travelers with connections between intercity passenger and commuter rail lines, intercity and local bus routes, and interstate ferry service. The BTC, which stretches along Water Street between State and Gold Streets, consists of a rail station, bus terminal, and a ferry landing that are linked to one another via a network of covered pedestrian walkways.

The rail station at the south end accommodates Amtrak’s Northeast Regional trains and the Vermonter. Commuter service between New York City and New Haven is offered via Metro North Railroad. Ferry service connects Bridgeport with Port Jefferson, located on the north shore of Long Island, N.Y.

Opened in 1975, the current rail station is the fourth to stand in the general vicinity, and plans were drawn up by the local architectural firm of Antinozzi Associates. In an unusual design, the station spans the six lanes of Water Street, with the passenger waiting room located over the roadway. Travelers access it via oblong towers on either side of the street. This arrangement is partly due to the viaduct that carries the rail right-of-way through the central business district. Erected more than a century ago to allow unimpeded traffic flow at street level, it means that passengers must go up one level to reach the tracks and platforms.

Rather than locate the station underneath the viaduct, which would have created cramped and dark spaces, the architects chose to span the street and light the interior through large expanses of glass. The simple concrete facades are scored with vertical lines or channels to create a textured surface. Throughout the day, as the sun rakes across the walls, the channels—of varying depth and width—produce a range of ever-changing shadows. Boxy in appearance and punctuated by rectangular windows, the station’s angularity is softened by the rounded edges of the access towers, including the one on the far side of the tracks bordering the river which is reached via an under-track tunnel.

The newest component of the BTC is the bus station, which consolidated intercity and local bus services at one downtown location with direct connections to the rail station and ferry landing for easy transfers. Completed in 2008, the facility was designed by Boston-based Bertaux and Partners Architects, and has an airy waiting room and 17 bus bays. Clad in thin, reflective, blue-grey metal tiles, the modern angular structure includes an extensive program of public art inside the terminal and at the boarding areas that draws on the city’s transportation and industrial heritages.

Funding for the new bus terminal was awarded by the Federal Transit Administration: $34.6 million through the Bus and Bus Facilities program and $2.5 million from the New Starts program. A portion of these funds was also used to implement general improvements to the rail station, such as new lighting, signage, and a landscaped pedestrian plaza, as well as projects to bring the facility into compliance with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Bridgeport was born out of the settlements at Stratford to the east and Fairfield to the west that were initiated in 1639. Both villages, although close to the New Haven Colony, were actually under the control of the Connecticut Colony based at Hartford. When English colonists first moved into the area, it was controlled by Pequonnock American Indians who occupied much of the coastal strip west of New London. It remained largely agricultural until after the American Revolution, but a small village did form on the east bank of the river and was variously known as Stratfield—which combined the names of the two neighboring villages from which the early settlers came—and Newfield. Not until a drawbridge was constructed over the Pequonnock River around 1800 did the village become its own borough and take the name Bridgeport.

In the mid-18th century, the mouth of the riverfront—one of the few deep water harbors in Connecticut—was developed by early entrepreneurs who recognized its potential as a shipping center. Wharves were constructed to accommodate ocean-going vessels while warehouses were erected nearby for the storage and sorting of goods, particularly agricultural products and raw materials from the Connecticut interior. As in many coastal communities, ship building gained a foothold, and spawned attendant trades such as coopering.

To the west of Bridgeport, the village of Black Rock also became a maritime center. During the war years, both towns gave shelter to privateers who harassed British vessels and loyal Tory-controlled towns on the north shore of Long Island. By the 1830s, Bridgeport had overtaken Black Rock as a port and commercial center, and the town was eventually annexed by its growing neighbor in 1870. In the first half of the 19th century, Bridgeport investors and mariners took an interest in whaling, a growing industry among the state’s maritime communities. The large mammals were prized for their blubber, refined to produce oil for illumination; bones, heated and softened to form various items; and ambergris, used in expensive perfumes.

Turnpikes provided connections to coastal and inland towns, but weather could wreak havoc on the roads throughout the year. Overland travel was supplemented by steamboat service which began in the 1820s, with the initial run to New York City made in 1824. New England, with its fast flowing rivers, was the first region of the country to embrace the Industrial Revolution, and therefore became an early center for railroad development. One of those railroads was the Housatonic (HRR), which was chartered by the state legislature in 1836 to construct a line through the river valley of the same name in western Connecticut from the border with Massachusetts to a port on Long Island Sound.

Initially, backers were undecided on which coastal endpoint to chose, and as was typical at the time, cities vying for the honor furiously worked to raise funds to buy stock in the railroad. Bridgeport would win the fight, raising $150,000. Service from Bridgeport began in 1840, and two years later the line was completed to the Massachusetts border. The arrival of the railroad gave Bridgeport a vital economic boost. By marrying the deep harbor and the railroad, the town became an important transfer point. Goods arriving by ship were unloaded and sorted and then packed onto the trains for distribution north into the state’s interior.

Building on the apparent early success of the HRR, a group of investors sought a charter for the Naugatuck Railroad (NRR) in 1845, and it opened to traffic four years later. Its original northern terminus was to be Waterbury, center of a growing brass industry, but it was eventually extended further north to Winsted, near the Massachusetts state line. Today, Metro North’s Waterbury Branch follows the right-of-way of the Naugatuck Railroad. Although the HRR and the NRR provided routes into New England, Bridgeport lacked good, reliable overland connections to the region’s chief international ports and financial centers: Boston and New York City.

A rail route to New York City was initially stymied by geography. The undulating Connecticut coast, which contained many of the state’s oldest cities, was a trial for railroad builders as it was marked by numerous streams and rivers that would have to be bridged. The challenge was not undertaken until the New York and New Haven Railroad (NY&NH) was chartered in 1844. In 1848, the line reached Bridgeport and a year later it had opened between the two named endpoints. At the western end, direct access onto Manhattan was provided over the New York and Harlem Railroad. To the east, the New Haven and New London Railroad was chartered in 1848 to build a line between its namesake cities, which opened in the summer of 1852. That same year, another line was organized to link New London with Stonington, Conn., the terminus of the Boston-bound New York, Providence, and Boston Railroad.

In retrospect, the three railroads serving the city—none of which were in direct competition with one another—were rather forward thinking and efficient in sharing a series of depots along the Pequonnock River. The HRR erected the first depot about one block south of the present Amtrak/commuter station; a round house was located next to it. When the NRR and NY&NH entered the city in 1849, they also used the facility. In 1861, the NY&NH chose to construct a larger station a few blocks to the north; although the HRR and NRR did not help finance the building, they did eventually rent out space. Historic images show the station as a long two story brick structure with a hipped roof. Evenly spaced pilasters and windows created a regular rhythm of bays across the facades, and the platforms were protected by wide canopies.

In 1872, the NY&NH merged with the rival Hartford and New Haven Railroad to form the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad, commonly referred to as the “New Haven.” It quickly became the dominant freight and passenger railroad in southern New England, absorbing smaller lines—including the Housatonic and Naugatuck—in order to control the route between Boston and New York City. By the 1920s, the New Haven had more than 2,000 miles in its portfolio and it was estimated that it carried 10 percent of American passenger rail traffic.

The railroads, maritime shipping connections, and financial resources out of New York City combined to allow Bridgeport to blossom into a prime industrial center whose goods could be shipped just about anywhere across the nation or world. Factories produced a variety of products such as hats, garments, precision instruments, and armaments. In the late 19th century, the city was best known for an essential Victorian household product: the sewing machine. Elias Howe invented the first practical sewing machine and patented his creation in 1846. A decade later, he opened a factory in Bridgeport, but his line was overshadowed by that of the Wheeler and Wilson Manufacturing Company. Allen Wilson developed the four motion feed that allowed for quieter and smoother operation. Subsequently, Wilson and his business partner Nathaniel Wheeler produced the most popular sewing machines of the 1850s and 1860s, and their models won numerous prizes in national and international fairs.

Bridgeport also supported numerous companies that specialized in the manufacture of metal goods such as steel and brass wire, sheeting, and tubing. In the downtown post office’s Art Deco lobby, outfitted in black and tan terrazzo and gray variegated marble, a series of murals by Arthur Covey in earthy yellows and browns depicts the city’s vibrant manufacturing sector. Two panels offer a glimpse into the Bridgeport Brass Company. Against a background of steam clouds and steel girders, a group of men feed brass between the cylinders of an enormous rolling machine to flatten the metal into sheets, while others turn their attention to stamping out brass shells. A third panel takes the viewer onto the assembly floor of the Singer Sewing Machine factory; light streams in through large windows to brighten work stations where men in overalls tighten loose screws.

Manufacturing created thousands of jobs and attracted immigrants who flocked to the city and built communities based on shared experiences and culture. As the city expanded, the area around the old station became a dangerous, congested mess. Trains arrived at street level, thereby interacting with pedestrians, carriages, and newly invented automobiles, and tracks crossed one another, resulting in back-ups. To solve this problem, the New Haven spent approximately $5 million to elevate the tracks through downtown.

The raising of the track bed demanded a new station, which was constructed in 1904-1905 on the site of the present BTC bus terminal. The station stood at the apex of a wye, with the New Haven’s main line heading east across the river and the leased Housatonic line continuing northward up the riverbank. Designed by local architect Warren R. Briggs in a simplified Romanesque style, the base of the station below the viaduct was composed of granite while the two upper floors were of buff brick. Passengers had to ascend to the second level to access the platforms which were sheltered by extensive canopies.

From afar, the station was identified by its 115 foot high tower capped with a pyramidal red slate roof. Its facades had grouped trios of elongated but narrow round-arch windows while its four corners sported copper gargoyles that provided a playful element long remembered by many travelers. Inside, the brightly lighted two story waiting room was covered by a beamed ceiling from which hung large metal chandeliers. Closed in 1973, the station remained standing six more years until it was destroyed in a suspicious fire.

One of the most prominent advocates for elevating the tracks was Phineas Taylor Barnum—better known by his initials P.T.—a grand showman who adopted Bridgeport as his home and served as its mayor in the 1870s. He died a good decade before the railroad improvements were made, but he did have great influence on the development of the city, working to attract industries and backing the construction of major institutions such as the city hospital.

His long career culminated in 1881 with the formation of the great traveling Barnum and Bailey Circus. That year he also constructed a winter headquarters for the animals and performers in Bridgeport. Passengers aboard the New Haven trains were delighted when the camp and its animals came into view. Barnum’s projects made him a rich man, and he built a series of fanciful houses, the first of which was called Iranistan. Designed by well-known architect Leopold Eidlitz, it was an eclectic ménage of Turkish, Moorish, and Byzantine elements recognized at a distance by its onion domes. Within its walls, the showman entertained leading figures of the age, including humorist and writer Mark Twain and abolitionist Horace Greeley.

P.T. Barnum’s legacy can be explored at the Barnum Museum, located a short walk from the rail station. The Romanesque structure is decorated with carved stonework and terracotta panels; looking closely, a bust of Barnum can be found in the frieze. After gazing at a model of Iranistan, visitors may enter a recreation of the house’s library. Children marvel at “Baby Bridgeport,” a 700 pound stuffed elephant born at the Winter Quarters. One of the most popular exhibits is a 1,000-square foot model of a five-ring circus. Its 3,000 hand-carved, miniature sculptures are arranged in various tableau showing the activities and games of a typical circus. Pa-Ib, a 4,000 year old Egyptian mummy, also surveys the scene. Other areas of the museum contain exhibits devoted to the city’s industrial and social history.

Amtrak does not provide ticketing or baggage services at this station which is served by 14 daily trains.