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The Marina Park Historic District, situated predominantly on the campus of the University of Bridgeport in coastal Bridgeport, Connecticut, is comprised of the remaining homes of the industrial aristocracy of Bridgeport's Gilded Age. The prestigious and elite neighborhood of its day, Marina Park was created and populated through the efforts of famed showman and entrepreneur, Phineas Taylor Barnum. Barnum made his home in Bridgeport in the mid-nineteenth century. While continuing to develop his enterprises in the 1860's and '70's, Barnum also served as state representative and Bridgeport mayor. He purchased a significant amount of Bridgeport property, both commercial and residential, and enticed emerging industrialists of the Gilded Age to develop their businesses in Bridgeport.
Marina Park increased in residences, accumulating over fifteen opulent and architecturally magnificent properties by 1920. The neighborhood's heyday lasted a generation, until the automobile took some Marina Park builders to new estate districts far from the city. The Junior College of Connecticut purchased the remains of the original P.T. Barnum estate in 1941 from the heirs of Barnum's granddaughter, Jessica Seeley Marshall, for the core of its expanding campus. The purchase, transacted with a modest $1,000 down and the promise of an additional $9,000, was made possible by the vision of the Junior College trustees and the civic generosity of Barnum's descendents. The Junior College, chartered as the University of Bridgeport in 1947, continued to add other historic homes to the campus by purchase or bequest, often from heirs of the original owners.
The Parmly House, built in 1890 by Lavinia L. Parmly, a wealthy New York widow who used the residence as a summer home. Mrs. Parmly was descended from a long line of prominent Bridgeporters. Acquired by the University of Bridgeport in 1950, the house has since served as executive administrative offices.
The University of Bridgeport is the primary custodian of the remaining physical legacy of P.T. Barnum's beloved Marina Park development, owning nine homes and two carriage houses that are part of the nationally and locally designated Marina Park Historic District, established in 1982. An additional seven University-owned houses are worthy of the same designation, possessing comparable period and architectural significance to the properties of the District.
Brilvitch, Charles W. Marina Park Historic District [including University of Bridgeport]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1982.
Halstead Associates. Historic Site Report: Lavinia L. Parmly House. 1989. Bridgeport, CT.