Monday, March 8th, 2004


Bassick's History

Stratford's borough of Newfield, changed its name to Bridgeport in 1800. By 1821, the town of Bridgeport had acheived its independence. For many years the western boundary of town was Park Avenue. Bridgeport was incorporated as a city in 1836. The West End and Black Rock sections of Bridgeport were annexed from the Town of Fairfield in 1870.
The West End of Bridgeport is thought to have derived its name from a butcher displaying a sign, "The West End Meat Market," at a butcher store. Henceforth, people began to refer to this portion of the city as "The West End." Perhaps it is no coincidence that this area also forms the western boundary of the city.
While the sense of neighborhood changes with each passing generation and wave of new immigrant group, people of the West End have always maintained a strong sense of pride and identity with their community. West Enders take great pride in living in one of the most culturally diversified areas of the state and perhaps the nation.
Hungarian immigrants settled by the thousands in the West End of Bridgeport and the Town of Fairfield in the late 19th century. By the early 1900's, Fairfield County was said to have had the second largest Hungarian population in the United States.
Immigrants who came to America at this time were paid approximately $1.50 a day for factory work. Hungarians of all religious backgrounds helped each other. Samuel Greenbaum, a Hungarian Jew, became treasurer of The West Side Bank. The bank helped the recent immigrants to establish credit and get loans and mortgages. John Renchy was one of the first Hungarian immigrants elected to political office in Bridgeport when he became a member of the Board of Alderman.

During World War I, business in Bridgeport boomed. Factories ran twenty-four hours a day and weekly wages doubled and tripled. A shell inspector at a war munitions plant, at the height of the war, could earn as much as $65 a week, a sum equivalent to almost one thousand dollars now.
The population of Bridgeport, like all manufacturing cities of the time, saw a huge increase. In just 18 months, the population increased 40%. Prior to the war there were 1,900 vacant homes in Bridgeport. During the war people had to double up to get a room to rent. The school population went from 820 students to a record 1621!
The demand for school space was enormous. Eventually the site of a new junior high school in the West End was identified. Lindencroft, the former home of P.T. Barnum, would be razed to make room for the new school.

Lindencroft was built by Barnum in 1860. It was located at 1171 Fairfield Avenue. Lindencroft was named for the many Linden trees located on the property. In 1888, Edmund Chase Bassick purchased Lindencroft and renamed it "The Miner's Rest" in recognition of Mr. Bassick's mining adventures throughout the world. The new name was never popular with the locals and the name of the property soon reverted back to Lindencroft.
The mansion was set far back on Fairfield Avenue, a major city thoroughfare. Along the streetline was a majestic cast iron fence supported by many heavy granite posts topped by granite balls. Some of these posts still exist.

Tall iron gates led the way to a circular driveway paved with cobblestones. In the center of the circle were several fountains, the largest of which contained a sculpture of Poseidon. A wide Victorian porch stretched the full front of the house. Stone slabs led to the porch from the drive enabling easy access to the house by visitors arriving by carriage. Two life-size cast iron lions guarded this entrance from either side. It is from these lions that Bassick High School chose it's school mascot.
The inside of the Lindencroft mansion had ceilings that were from twelve to fourteen feet high, heavy and extensive woodwork, parquet floors and huge rooms. The home was ideal for entertaining. The famous small circus performer and Bridgeport native, Tom Thumb, was said to have met his future small wife, Lavinia Stratton, at Lindencroft
On the right side of the house in the front was the library which had a heavily carved fireplace with bookshelves on either side. The upper part of the side walls were covered with Japanese grass paper down to the chair rail. Below this, laid up like brick, were many Italian marble slabs measuring about four by ten inches. During demolition the marble was found to be simple and inexpensive stained glass. It appears that P.T. Barnum's reputation as a consumate showman continued long after his death.
In the upstairs and downstairs halls and in the major rooms were a number of beautiful crystal chandeliers. The house was lighted by gas and the chandeliers gave a soft, warm, yellow glow. The house also had a battery-operated burglar alarm system which was known for going off for unknown reasons.
In the back of the house was a large stable and carriage house. William Donnelly, the family coachman, lived in the carriage house with his wife. The stable had stalls for eight horses.
The demolition of this grand home in 1924 made room for the construction of Bassick Junior High School. The E and F Constuction Company was awarded the contract after submitting a bid for $692, 946. Architect E.G. Soothey designed the Georgian style plan to be set back 100 feet from Fairfield Avenue leaving "ample room to the south of the building for a large athletic field..."
Bassick Junior High School opened in the fall of 1929 with an enrollment of 1034 students in grades seven through nine. Bassick soon was converted to a senior high school. A large addition was added in 1968 at a cost of $3.5 million and renovation of the old building took place shortly thereafter.

Bassick High School circa 1932

Bassick High School has educated students from the West End and South End of Bridgeport and from the towns of Fairfield, Trumbull, Easton and Monroe when it served as a large regional high school earlier in the century.
Throughout its history, Bassick High School has offered classes and clubs in areas as diverse as: cobbling, marksmanship, etiquette, and equestrian training. During World War II, 158 Bassick students even received flying lessons.
Today, Bassick continues to provide quality education for its diverse population.