Bridgeport, CT Steeplechase Island Ballpark Fire, Aug 1907

Bridgeport CT Pleasure Beach Fire 8-18-1907.jpg


His Connecticut Steeplechase Is Destroyed as Was His Coney Island Property.


With No Water Pressure, the Whole Island Is Threatened--The Loss Is $60,000.

Special to The New York Times.

BRIDGEPORT, Aug. 18--Some one dropped a lighted cigarette under the bleachers at George C. Tilyou's Steeplechase Island, where the Chicago National League baseball team and the Bridgeport team were warming up for an exhibition game this afternoon. Forty minutes later the bleachers, grand stand, the Steeplechase building, and the earthquake house had been destroyed by flames. The total loss is $60,000.

At the time the fire broke out the bleachers and grand stand were filled with 5,000 men, women, and children. A small boy was the first to see the flames and shouted that there was a bonfire under the bleachers. Some men looked at the incipient blaze and remarked, "Ah, let it burn."

It looked at that time as if a cup of water would have been sufficient to kill it, but the fire caught some waste paper and dry tinder, and then ignited the woodwork of the bleachers. There was a scrambled for safety, but in spite of it the very best order prevailed.

Men shouted that there was plenty of time and the great crowd acted with splendid judgment. There was no hurrying and everybody had left the grand stand when the flames attacked it.

Then the fire spread to the Steeplechase, and that structure was completely at the mercy of the flames twenty minutes later. There is no water supply on the island sufficient to fight a fire, and the wind was blowing the flames toward the main cluster of buildings in the centre of the island.

Manager Paul Boynton attempted to blow up the front of the Steeplechase building with dynamite to stop the progress of the flames. The attempt was a failure, but luckily there was a shift in the wind, and any further spreading of the fire was stopped.

The Fire Department was called out from this place, but was unable to get to the Island, there being no dock heavy enough to land any of the steamers. Hose companies were shipped over to the island, however, but there was no pressure to the water, and the buildings were allowed to smother themselves out.

Besides the two structures mentioned Robert Weber's cottage was destroyed, with all its contents. There was some damage to the bathing pavilion and to the booths of the east side of the Trail.

Mr. Tilyou has a very small insurance. Mr. Weber's loss is about $3,000.

After the fences, grand stand, and bleachers were destroyed the ball teams played five innings to satisfy those who had paid admissions. Every foul ball went over into the smoldering section and was consumed.

About 10,000 people clustered about the diamond to watch the game. It was a free exhibition except to those who had paid before the fire broke out. The Chicago team won by the score of 3 to 1.


Three weeks ago yesterday Mr. Tilyou's Steeplechase Park, at Coney Island, was destroyed by fire, at an estimated loss of $1,000,000.

A representative of Mr. Tilyou said at Coney Island last night that Mr. Tilyou would certainly replace all of the structures destroyed at Bridgeport yesterday. There was some insurance on the Bridgeport property, Mr. Tilyou's representative said. How much he did not know.

The New York Times, New York, NY 19 Aug 1907