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City Hall Park

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Originally part of Stratford, Bridgeport became an independent borough in 1800 and was incorporated as a town in 1821. A quarter-acre of land was purchased in 1807 from Salmon Hubbell "to be laid open, kept and maintained forever as a public highway." It was never used as a highway, but eventually became the site of Bridgeport's City Hall and its green.

A c. 1835 Barber woodcut shows the green as a small space ("church row") between the First Congregational Church (North Church) and St. John's Episcopal Church (South Church) bounded by roads and planted with a few trees. The Beers Atlas of 1867 shows the green with the churches along Broad Street and with private houses facing east and west onto the green.

In 1838 the town leaders voted to build a "town house," or City Hall, and a public market on the green between the two churches. However it wasn't until 1851 that a lot to the east of the green was purchased. City Hall, an imposing Greek Revival building designed by Alexander Jackson Davis, was erected on the site in 1854. It also served as the county courthouse for a time.

In the late 1890s and early 1900s distinctive office buildings and banks were built around the green. The Court Exchange building on the south side, built in 1896, is the oldest of these. It was built by a nephew of P.T. Barnum, and the Algonquin Club occupied the top floor. In 1917 the North Church was torn down and the land converted to a parking lot. The Queen Anne-style Barnum Thompson building was built in the 1930s.

The green was extended to its present size in 1965. The temporary parking lot to the east of the City Hall building (which existed from the 1940s when the 19th century buildings, including an opera house, were razed) was added to the green. The present paths and grassy areas were laid out by the Beautify Bridgeport Council of the Chamber of Commerce.

McLevy Green is used and appreciated as an important public space in the downtown center of Bridgeport. Though its original use and function can no longer be perceived, and the streetscape has changed dramatically, the green embodies the history of Bridgeport's early days and of its growth and development in the 20th century.



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