Cap'n PeteSM

September 21, 1947 - Down at the end of Short Beach, close by the marine basin, lives a grizzly old fisherman with friendly water-blue eyes, who admittedly leads "the life of Reilly," and who can spin many a fish yarn with such a straight face a listener is stumped trying to distinguish between truth and imagination. His name is Peter Walters, but few know his last name. Short Beach dwellers and scores of others who hire his boats to fish for blues, mackerel, striped bass, flats and weaks, call him Pete or Cap'n. In a shack-Iike cottage which he built himself, Pete with beard unshaven for "more'n a week," puffed on his pipe one warm night last week as he sat in a chair close to a rusty belly pot stove which he put to good use on wintry days. Some members of the "club" sat around listening to him, among them Thomas Hungerford, member of Bridgeports Board of Recreation; George Gibbs or "Gibbsy"; rheumatic crony from Shelton vacationing with Pete and Smitty, Post Publishing company driver, whose official name is Charles Smith. The men were attired in faded, wrinkled dungarees; Gibbsy had his pants rolled up to his knees. Although his face and arms were brown and weather-beaten from the sun, Gibbsys legs were white and skinny stretched out comfortably minus shoes and stockings. "Say fellas" Pete said. "Did I ever tell you the one about that eel I caught out at Fresh Pond?" "Naw, gowon, tell us," the men hurled back in unison as they shook their heads. The "club" knew it was going to be good and already grins had begun to broaden their faces. Wa-ll Pete continued "I wux fishin' out at Fresh Pond one day and lo and behold this here eel sticks his head out'n the water, jes askin to be caught. I had a rope and tied it round its neck, and towed him in a mile to my dock. And say fellas kin y imagine? When I got to shore that dern eel had not got its tail out'n its hole." As Pete chuckled at his own story the men laughed without restraint. The Capn was at it again, spinning yarns. The little house was in apple pie order, fresh colorful curtains hung from the windows. Dishes neatly lined the kitchen cupboard. A crisp flowered slip cover decorated the divan. The floor was swept and shinny. If you're wonderin why this place is so clean," Pete declared. 'Its my daughter. She comes in every week from Shelton. Keeps tabs on me and cleans up around here. Shes a good girl. He puffed again on his pipe, his attention suddenly concentrated on the sky outside. Look at them birds, the way theyre flockin' together means a storm. Which reminds me felIas, did I ever tell you about the day I went to Long Island and a storm came up?" No well the wind blew so hard out there; it blew the anchors right off'n my brass buttons." The club roared again with laughter. Betcha don't believe it. Well, it's true, Pete insisted. Pete, a native of Shelton and a builder by trade first put up stakes in Short Beach 35 years ago. He and a friend had come down the Housatonic River fishing when they learned that a woman was planning to tear down an old shack on the other side of the basin. They asked her if they could buy it. The woman sold it to them for $30 - $15 each; with the condition they move it off her property. We moved it in a barge and set it right across the way there," Pete pointed. And we use it as a summer place. Of course it's been rebuilt and I've built this house I live in and another besides since those days. Six years ago, Pete retired as a carpenter to become a full-time fisherman. He never sells any fish he catches... he gives them away. I was an expert stair builder, but quit workin' five or six years ago. I'm takin it easy now. How old do you think I am? Take a guess. Seventy-three years thats me." He removed his cap which once had been white, to scratch his head. I bought this cap right after Rader and Hayes had their fire and Ive worn it ever since," he commented. The 85 families living down at Short Beach all know Pete. His dock as well as his house is a popular spot. He owns 10 boats which he rents out for their convenience at a $1 or $1.50 a day and minds other boats for a little more than nothing. Many a time, one of the boats he rents comes back without an oar or anchorless. Pete does nothing about it and rarely ever charges the loss to the renter. "You should see this place sometime," Mr. Hungerford declared. "Kids coming in asking Pete if he has some bait, or a hook, or a piece of line. Pete gives it to them for nothing." During the war, Cap'n Peters allowed sailors and soldiers in uniform the use of the boats without charge. "So long as they had a uniform on, Pete let 'em have anything for nothing," Gibbsy said. "Some of the guys didn't appreciate it though and Pete didn't do anything about it. Especially the time two in uniform came and we let 'em have a brand new boat. They never brought it back." Pete builds his own boats and can make one in a week. At present, he's concentrating on a truck vintage 1924 trying to find out what's wrong with it. "It starts all right, and goes, but it makes an awful noise," he said. "I got it all apart now and I'll fix it afore long. I need it to go to the store with." Asked whether he intended to spend the rest of his days at Short Beach, the little old man replied. "That depends on." His voice dropped on the word "on," as though it were the end of a sentence and needed no further explanation. "Depends on what?" he was asked. "Whether they'll let us stay here or not." "The "they" in this case is the Town of Stratford. Pete's house is on land leased by the town. The assessment had at one time been $5 a year and was recently boosted to $75 annually. "I ain't got no complaint with the town. They've been pretty good to me. I don't mind payin' the $75. But there's talk now that the town won't let us own any more property out here. It's all on account of a lot of residents have been leasing their cottages for a lot of money for a season," Pete explained. "I hope it ain't so." The little boatman has had some narrow escapes from that "debbit sea." Once, he went out to Long Island, and on his way back the kicker in his boat gave way. He was in Middleground about eight or nine miles off Stratford shores. He began the tedious work of rowing in, when he spotted a luxury yacht. "They were on deck having a lot of fun, drinkin' champagne, and when they saw me, they said sure, they'd tow me in. But they threw me one of those four-inch ropes. I tied it to my line. They hadn't even got started, when my line untied. That there yacht just kep on goin', leavln' me behind. They didn't even miss me. Well, I started to row in agin, when a man comes along with a speedboat. He throws me a line. This time I tied it good to mine. Boy that was one wild ride coming in. Faster 'n I ever came into the Stratford lighthouse even when I used my kicker. I was soaking wet." Then there was the time Pete went up the Housatonic River with his row boat for a load of wood. "I went up to Turner's dock, filled up my boat and on the way back a tugboat passed me. I got in its whirl and was sucked under. The boat, the wood and I all went under. That tug didn't even know anything had happened. It kept on goin'." Pete held on to the overturned boat, simultaneously trying to paddle into shore with one arm. "My kicker made an awful noise when the boat went over and some man on Turners dock heard it. He saw what had happened, and came out and got me. I don't think I'd have made it without help," he said. It's the same old gang who use Pete's boats and who linger around the shack evenings to hear him talk or play a game of pinochle with him. They come from Bridgeport, Shelton and Stratford. No hard liquor is allowed in the place, and the strongest drink is tea, which Pete brews himself. The Cap'n lives out at Short Beach pretty near all year round unless it gets "really, really cold." "I got a house up'n Shelton, I go to. That's when it is really cold," he said. "Boy, when it gets cold out here, it gets cold. Why I remember the day, I came down and lit the stove, filled up the kettle with water to make me some tea. And when I came back to check if the water was boiling. Guess what I found. Hot Ice..." The club laughed again. "He's off again,' they chuckled, "That's the worse one you've pulled off yet, Pete."


April 29, 1947 - STRATFORD ORDERS COTTAGES MOVED IN PLAN TO RECLAIM SHORT BEACH: Moving toward eventual clearance of a section of Short Beach for public use, the Stratford Town Council has ordered that 12 cottages on town owned land must be moved by owners by April 1, 1948 to new sites in rear rows at the north end of the beach. The owners affected are: Patricia Martinbano, Mount Kisco, N.Y; Blanche Tenny, New York, N.Y.; Francis Dunigan of Bridgeport; Nora Lindley of Trumbull; George Hugo of Stratford; James Borck of Bridgeport; John Vickers of Bridgeport; John Murray of Stratford; Joseph Werner of Stratford; Harvey Sastram of Bridgeport; Arthur Dial of Stratford and Elsie Trefrey of Stratford. Under the resolutions adopted last night by a nine to one vote, Councilman Edward Hawie opposing the move, the Stratford residents owning any of the 12 cottages will be given first preference on the new lots at the north end of the beach near the Marine Basin. Other available lots will be provided for the out of town owners. The cottages will be moved at the expense of the present owners the council voted and the area cleared will be devoted to public beach. Occupancy will not be permitted in any of the cottages on the present location after the present summer season. Discussion of more than two hours resulted before the council went into regular session for a final voter. Previous attempts within the past month to get a vote on the matter resulted in a five-five tie until agreement was reached to provide new sites for the cottages. Town Manager Harry Flood was authorized to complete negotiations with the Lordship Park Association for lease to the town of a one acre tract of land on the so-called Lordship Bluffs to be used as a pubic parking area during the summer months. Entrance to the parking area will be made from Prospect Drive and the town construct a stairway from the Bluffs to the beachfront so that residents of the town may use the so-called Russian Beach. Policing of the area will be provided by the town.


1949 Storm


1950 Storm



Cap'n Pete

Cap'n Pete




Governor at Beach


Short Beach 1954


1972 Short Beach plan

July 27, 1947 - ASSOCIATION OF COTTAGERS AT SHORT BEACH REVIVED: Frederick Kirschner Is Chosen President At Meeting Held Last Monday: Cottages at Short Beach met on Monday evening in the auditorium of Borck and Stevens in Bridgeport and reorganized the Short Beach Improvement Association which had lapsed into inactivity in recent years. There were 104 persons at the meeting and officers were elected as follows: President Frederick Kirschner, Vice-president Thomas Hungerford; Secretary Mrs. Richard Budde; Treasurer Joseph Fennell. The officers and three others will constitute the advisory committee of the Association; the three are George Hugo, Francis Donegan and James Borck. Numerous lively discussions marked Mondays meeting, attention being given such topics as the increases in rentals of town property ordered last winter by Council; the proposed evacuation of a dozen cottages from the beach front, prohibition of living the year around in beach cottages and kindred matters. The Association is to hold another meeting next Monday evening at the beach cottage of Mr. and Mrs. Budde.

September 4, 1947 - 100 Children Pass Tests As Beginning Swimmers: In one of the most successful water safety programs ever sponsored by the Stratford chapter Red Cross 100 children were recorded as having passed the beginners tests, 75 the Intermediate tests, 41 the swimmers tests, nine were successful in junior life saving and three received awards in senior life saving, Mrs. Olivette Husted, executive director of the Red Cross chapter, has announced. The programs were carried out daily from July 1 through Labor Day at Short Beach, Mrs. Husted said, with the town and Red Cross chapter sharing the expenses. Bertram Walls was senior instructor and life guard, assisted by Rowland DeRoucher and a corps of volunteers.

August 3, 1948 - Court Order to Delay Moving Beach Cottages: The Town's plan to enlarge the public bathing facilities at Short beach by the removal of 12 cottages there on land leased from the town has been blocked until October according to Town Manager Harry Flood who said three of the cottages still remain in spite of every effort made by the town to effect their removal. Counsel for the town has filed a wit of removal against the three cottage owners, James Borck, Francis Dunigan and George Hugo who in turn have obtained a stay of execution until Oct 1. The removal of these three cottages would extend the public beach area 200 feet, Mr. Flood said, and "provide bathing facilities at Short beach unequaled along the shorefront. Mr. Hugo one of the cottage owners explained the only reason he had not moved to date was the difficulty in obtaining another site or selling the cottage and he expressed a desire to move as soon as possible under the conditions. The nine cottages have been moved farther back from the beach on town owned land. It was expected to have the new area ready for use before the end of the present season, Mr. Flood said.

March 23, 1949 - TOWN MAY GET SAND TO AID IN CURBING BEACH EROSION: Plans Would Add 100 Feet Along Short Beach Front Town Manager Says: Unless something unforeseen intervenes the Town of Stratford may get more than one million yards of sand to assist in the fight against erosion at Short Beach Town Manager Harry Flood revealed upon his return from Hartford Monday where he attended a meeting with members of the State Water Policy commission and Army Engineers. Flood said that present plans call for pumping at least one million yards of sand onto the Stratford side of the Housatonic River when work is started sometime in July. A part of the sand taken is to be pumped onto the Milford shore he said. For several years Manager Harry Flood has been conferring with Army officials to obtain sand from pumping operations to build up the fast disappearing bathing beaches, but it was not until the Housatonic River dredging project was proposed by the Army that any plan could be worked out so that the town might furnish sufficient area fore the large amount of dumping involved. Studying maps yesterday Manager Flood said that if the sand is pumped onto Short Beach it will add approximately 100 feet to the beachfront in the area used for public bathing.

July 15, 1949 - BUS SERVICE TO SHORT BEACH?: A hearing will be conducted by the Public Utilities commission, Monday July 25 at 2 pm in Room 595, State Office building in Hartford upon application of Harry Burns doing business as the Gray Line Bus Company of Bridgeport for authority to operate a motor bus service to Woodend Road. This application is an outgrowth of another application which was a petition filed by residents for service by the Lordship Railway Company in Stratford in the Frash Pond area and in the area of a housing development known as Woodend Homes. A hearing on that petition was held January 13, 1949 in the Town Hall. The hearing was continued in order that a route suitable to all parties might be worked out. The Lordship Railways certificate has since been transferred to the Gray Line Bus Company. At the same hearing another application by the Gray Line Bus Company represented by Mr. Burns will be heard in regard to the extension of a Stratford local route. Mr. Burns requests authority to extend the companys present service along Main Street and to operate motor buses from the junction of Main Street and Short Beach Road to Short Beach and return. That area in town has long been a source of trouble to ardent swimmers. Bus transportation to Short Beach has been nil and the closest stop still leaves a highly undesirable walk in the hot sun on a dusty road for those who want to swim. It has also been said that by the time one swims, gets ready to go home and walks up that road again, all the refreshing effects of the water are gone.

June 14, 1955 - The Arundel Corporation has started the task of dredging the Housatonic River from Stratford Point to Culver bar. Working around the clock since last Friday night the company has moved some of the sand from the river bottom; plus-a large amount of oyster shells onto Half Moon Cove.

September 5, 1957 - SHORT BEACH DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM UNFOLDED: The proposed 100 acre development program along Short Beach was outlined by the Lordship Improvement Association at a meeting with the Town Recreation Committee last night at the Town Hall. The preliminary plan drawn by a professional planner and landscape architect includes provision for small boat facilities, bathing pavilion and concession, parking area for 4,200 cars, recreation activities and a concert area for municipal events. The area included in the plan is bounded on the West and South by Short Beach Road and on the East by Long Island Sound. About 80 acres are located on the dump being filled in by the town. It is expected that the site will be completely filled within the near future. A special committee of the Association headed by Paul Pjura and including John Banks and George Opdyke has had the plan under consideration for the past year. The plan was drawn by Weld Thayer Chase, site planner and architect who was retained by the Association for the work. The cost of preparing the Short Beach development plan has been underwritten by the Lycoming Division of the Avco Manufacturing Company. The plan includes recreational facilities, picnic area, comfort stations, bath houses and a pavilion. The recreational facilities would include 10 tennis courts, which would be the only set of municipal courts in Stratford, since the Sterling House courts fell victim to the Connecticut Thruway. Also provided for are three softball and one baseball diamond and facilities for basketball, handball, archery, horseshoes, shuffleboard and paddle tennis. Two parking lots are planned, one accommodating 2,700 autos and the other 1,500. The small boat marina would provide an outboard launching ramp, small service area, boat showroom, fuel and marine supply center and a maintenance and storage area. Pjura pointed out that there are very limited public craft launching areas in the Stratford area and that the marina would be a great asset to the large number of small boat owners who need room and can not find it now. Roads within the park would provide for easy control of traffic and parking and for the collection of a parking fee if necessary. Pjura commented that the plan makes available a natural recreational facility. With the growth of Stratford such a facility is badly needed now and will be of even greater value in years to come, particularly for our youngsters. The need for municipal recreational facilities is acute.


SB cottages 1958




Short Beach 1958


Short Beach 1958


SB Park 1959


SB cottages 1959

Lifeguardstation Short Beach

Lifeguard station at Short Beach

August 17, 1958 - Lordship Plan Studied To Revamp Short Beach: Members of the Stratford Town Council interested in the eventual development of Short Beach say that they will ask the Stratford Waterfront Authority to study carefully the plan of improvement sponsored by the Lordship Improvement Association. The Lordship group developed the plan a year ago with the Lycoming division of Avco Manufacturing association underwriting the cost of paying for the landscape architect to layout the area and prepare the detailed plan. Members of the Waterfront Authority who have viewed the plan say they like it and if funds can be found would recommend that work be started without delay. The Town Council last week granted the cottage owners at Short Beach leases for one year expiring on Sept. 30, 1959 at which time all cottages are scheduled to be removed and the entire beach front developed as a public beach and park. Under the plan suggested by Council members the Waterfront Authority after reviewing the plan would recommend that it become a part of the town master plan for development of the beach area. Costs would be ascertained and plans made for a bond issue, as authorized in the special legislation establishing the Waterfront Authority. Councilman Joseph Venables, who fathered the resolution granting one year leases for the cottage owners said, If the Waterfront Authority develops the program we will be ready to take affirmative action at the time the leases expire next year." It was pointed out by Council members that the town now owns, except for the so-called airport seaplane base planned as a small boat marina, all of the land necessary for the park in contrast to the purchases which would be required to develop Long Beach, at the western end of the town.

September 28, 1958 - SWA WILL ACT ON SHORT BEACH PROJECT FUNDS: The Stratford Waterfront Authority intends to ask the Town Council what financial support it can expect in the plan for preparing Short Beach for use as a public bathing beach during the next summer if the present cottage owners are ordered to remove their buildings from the town-owned land after Wednesday. Walter M. Goddard, chairman of the Authority, discussing the matter yesterday, said, "If we intend to prepare the beach for use by the general public which appears to be the wishes of most people in the town, the Council will have to lend some financial assistance. It would be foolish at this time to issue bonds, even though the special act grants us that power, when the amount needed for "the first step in the development program may be so small." Mr. Goddard said that his group has discussed the idea of having the entire beach area from the so-called Marine basin to Half Moon Cove regarded and some new sand placed on top of the present beach area. This, he said, would be the first step in the long range program which would eventually see the construction of pavilions and bathhouses, recreation areas, picnic grounds, and a large parking area. Although no actual vote has been taken, members of the Authority indicate that if Town Attorney Raymond Ganim informs the Council at its October meeting, as he has said he would that the Council no longer has authority, over the beach and that the action of granting one year leases beyond Wednesday was illegal, notices will be sent to all cottage owners ordering them to vacate the premises in accordance with the terms of the leases which expire Tuesday. Meantime members of the Short Beach Cottage Owners association have indicated that they will fight removal of their cottages, at least until the lease for a one year period offered by the Council expire on Oct. 1, 1959. They say that they are also developing in detail a plan for development of Long Beach on Long Island Sound from Lordship to Pleasure Beach which would be far better than spending town funds for development of the Short Beach area on the Housatonic River." Council members have indicated that when the Town Attorney reports on the legality of their action in offering new one year leases to the property owners the matter will be turned over to the Waterfront Authority.


SB cottages 1962


Short Beach 1966


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SB 1969 plan


Short Beach develop 1969

July 9, 1959 - DEVELOPMENT PLANS FOR SHORT BEACH ARE REVEALED THANKS TO LORDSHIP: While the Town Council, the Planning Commission and the Airport Authority jostle back and forth over the future of Short Beach, one section of town and a local industry have joined to offer positive suggestions. The Lordship Improvement Association in a committee headed by Paul Pjura has advanced a detailed proposal for the development of the area as a park. The cost of preparing maps and sketches and planning the proposal has been paid by the Lycoming Division of Avco Manufacturing. Pjura said that the Lordship group had pushed the project as a public service rather that to further any interests of its own. He pointed out that the park would be a public facility and would especially provide bathing and parking facilities which would probably be less used by Lordship residents than by other residents of the town. The plans for improving the park were drawn by architect Weld Thayer Chase. They provide a variety of recreational facilities for youngsters and adults. The beach would be developed into areas set aside for separate use by families and by teenagers with a distinct separation between each. Two blocks of bath houses would also be provided. One end further north or upstream would be set aside as a picnic area. Parking for a total of 3,100 cars would be provided. Parking for 1,400 cars would be on paved areas while the remaining space of 1,700 cars would be on grass. An unusual feature of the plan calls for construction of a large outdoor assembly area suitable for concerts and fireworks. A soccer field would also be provided. There would be three baseball diamonds and three softball diamonds as well as half a dozed tennis courts. The baseball fields would each have 300 feet of room along the foul lines while the softball fields would have 200 feet each along the foul lines. Considerable space would be reserved for ornamental planting. Access to the park would be by a single road connecting with Stratford Road north of Hartland Street. No park traffic would be routed over the nearby residential streets.


Mickey Hanna photo


Mickey Hanna photo

November 29, 1966: COURT USES 1685 LAW: The Connecticut Supreme Court went back into the Colonial records of Connecticut Monday to decide a legal squabble over the ownership of shoreline and the General Court conveyed the land on Short Beach in dispute to the proprietors of Stratford or the Town. The town has begun summary process actions against the occupants of 60 cottages on the beach. Through the Short Beach Cottage Owners Improvement Association, the cottage occupants contended they, not the town, own the land. For years they have paid an annual land rent to the town. When their claim was rejected by Superior Court, they carried their legal battle all the way into the highest court in the state. The Supreme Court, in a unanimous opinion written by Associate Justice John Cotter refused to rule that the cottages dwellers own the land. The dwellers claimed that the 1685 patent did not include their specific property because the beach did not then exist in its present form. Justice Cotter said the Town of Stratford like any other owner of shoreline property would have the benefit of the principle of accretion. In other words the town would also own any shore land added by sea action.

December 1, 1966 - COTTAGES AGROUND ON TOWN BEACH: Just past the public recreation area at Short Beach is a complex of some 60 odd cottages. For six years the Town has been fighting in court with the owners of those cottages. On Monday the State Supreme Court declared the Town the winner in that fight. The battle was waged over ownership of the land on which those cottages stand. Cottage owners, who for years have leased the land from the Town, claimed they had title to the land and the Town made the same claim for itself. The Town had given notice in 1959 that cottage owners would have to vacate the land within one year. Officials had decided to expand the public beach are at that time. It took a title search that went back to the early colonial times, almost 300 years ago in order to support the Towns claim. But former Town Clerk Howard Wilcoxson made that search and came up with convincing proof for the court if not the cottage owners, that the Town received title to the land on May 25, 1685 when it was given a patent designating certain areas to the proprietors of Stratford. The patent was granted by the governor of the colony and the general court. Contesting the Towns right to the property, the cottage owners claimed ownership on three counts by adverse possession and by accretion. All three counts hinged on land transactions made around the turn of this century. A large tract of land in the area was acquired on May 18, 1897 by Charles Curtis. The land owned by Curtis, according to his deed ran east to a creek. But Curtis sold the property to Timothy Ryan who thought he was also buying land east of the creek. It is on the property east of the creek, between the creek and the waterfront that the cottages are constructed. The deeds showing that Curtis did not own and therefore could not sell the contended land were used to disprove all the claims made by the cottage owners first claim was ruled out by the court. The claim to title by adverse possession was overruled because the Association could not prove that it has exercised dominion and control over the property for a period of 15 years. Because the cottage owners had leased the property from the town, the court decided that the Town was apparently still in control of land it owned from the colonial era. On the matter of accretion the cottage owners claimed that some of the contended land did not exist when the Town took possession of its patent and was added by nature to the shoreline. The court dismissed the claim, saying that the Town as owner of the land that may have been added to would be the beneficiary of any accretion. With the resolution of the case, Town officials are not quite sure what their next steps will be. There is a matter of unpaid rent on the cottage land and the timetable for moving or destroying the cottages has not been set. The court ruling established that the Towns claim to title was a better on that the claim made by the cottage owners. The judgment emphasized that the case dealt only with a choice between the two parties. No attempt was made to establish the Towns claim legally against any other possible claims. But Town attorneys indicated that the cottage owners would have used such other claims to support their cause if there were any to be found.

April 24, 1969 - SHORT BEACH REC COMPLEX PROPOSED: Preliminary plans for a multi-faceted recreation park at Short Beach were presented to the Waterfront Authority Monday. The plans are the first phase of a projected master plan for the redevelopment of Stratfords waterfront areas. Richard Warde, project director of the waterfront survey told the Authority that plans will also be devised through his firm Planning Associates for the development of Long Beach area. Warde said though he felt such planning would not be feasible until the Lewis Gut Bridge and dredging issues are resolved. The blue prints submitted by Warde illustrated plans for an 18 hole par three golf course from the projected center to the north side of the park. In the middle of the course would be a marine basin. A new road running perpendicular to the beach from Main Street is proposed as the main entrance to the park and would be immediately to the south side of the golf course. On the other side of the entrance road are several playing fields for football, soccer and baseball. To the east of the playing fields are additional smaller fields and basketball courts. According to Warde the plan is to develop the recreational areas as the hub of a park for Stratford. Cost analyses are presently being devised and the consensus of the Waterfront Authority is that several facets of the park such as the golf course could function on a self supporting basis. The eastern head of the park would consist of a building complex that includes an indoor-outdoor swimming pool. Warde showed color slides of various pools that have been recently built on this scale. The walls of the structure and the ceiling are of special resistant glass allowing the sun in at all times of year. During the summer the eastern wall would open onto the sand beach designed for the eastern most end of the park. Other buildings would include locker facilities, community rooms, a small theater and facilities for an ice skating rink and a performing arts plaza. The eastern end is also planned for picnic areas, a small boat marina and recreational facilities for the elderly including a complex of small court games such as shuffleboard. Our plan suggests Short Beach as a recreational center with emphasis on pool swimming while Long Beach would be designed for swimming in the Sound. Short Beach would be more of a sun beach, said Warde. According to Warde the sand at Short Beach is good while the swimming is bad. Long Beach he said is the opposite. Warde told the Authority that he felt the present political implication of the Long Beach area specifically the Lewis Gut Bridge and the dredging issue leave the recreational development of Long Beach in question. The Waterfront Authority has gone on record as favoring the construction of a bridge across Lewis Gut to get to the western end of Long Beach as the area is by far the best in Town to be considered for use in water oriented recreation. According to Frank Patterson, chairman of the Authority, there are projected plans for a bath house, boat marina, restaurant, cabanas and other facilities for the Long Beach area. The Authority agreed that a cooperative approach to the development of the land should be taken with the City of Bridgeport since it owns a large portion of the Pleasure Beach area. The Bridgeport section functions under the City Department of Parks although it is zoned for light industrial uses the Authority was told.


Basin 1969


Short Beach 1969


Short Beach 1969


Short Beach 1969


Short Beach 1969


Short Beach 1969


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Short Beach 1969


Short Beach 1969


Short Beach 1969


Short Beach 1969


Short Beach 1969


Short Beach 1969

The Night They Burned the Ol' Short Beach Cottages Down

February 14, 1972 - SHORT BEACH COTTAGES SET FIRES RAZE 18 VACANT COTTAGES: 13 Destroyed During Night in Stratford Houses Were Scheduled for Demolition in Park Project Vandals Blamed - Fames Visible in Most of Town and on Turnpike: Thirteen cottages and three garages at Short Beach, Lordship, burned down last night about 11:30 pi and the one remaining for demolition was razed early today, Stratford fire officials reported. Fire Chief Hans Lundgren said today the fires were of an incendiary origin. The fires last night followed a series of other set blazes Saturday night at Short Beach where four other cottages and two garages were destroyed by flames. Firemen battled the blaze at the 13 cottages until 4 a.m. today. A fire at the remaining cottage began shortly before 8 a.m. today firemen said adding that this fire was out before the morning ended. The town owned cottages were scheduled for demolition today to make room for a shorefront recreational facility. Chief Lundgren said all the fires were caused by vandals. The flames from the fires last night were visible over a good portion of town and from the Connecticut turnpike, observers reported. Firefighters from Company Three were summoned to the scene Saturday at 11:33 p.m., approximately four hours after responding to another Short Beach fire, when a ditch filled with debris from cottages already demolished began burning. Chief Lundgren said the cottages were completely engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived. He said the firemen stood by until 3:45 a.m. yesterday to make sure the fire did not spread, but did not attempt to save the structures since they would have been removed this week. The removal operation of 54 cottages at the beach began last week to make way for the Stratford Waterfront Authoritys shorefront park. A fire of suspicious origin destroyed one of the cottages last Wednesday night and two of the buildings were destroyed by a blaze in December. The removal of the 54 cottages at the site sparked much controversy when first proposed, as regular tenants opposed the plan. Most of the cottages were demolished last week and the rest were scheduled to be razed today. Stratford Waterfront Authority chairman David Martin said last week the authority plans to provide a safe, clean swimming area and a new family type beach boat facility on the Short Beach land by Memorial Day. Plans call for shelters, picnic tables and benches, grills and sanitary facilities. Plans also will include an enclosed play area for children with slides, swings and other attractions for youngsters. The Authority has negotiated a contract with Planning Associates, Bohemia, N.Y. for the project, which was estimated to cost $15 million in 1969. Mr. Martin said an adjusted cost estimate is to be made.


Cottage Fire 1971


Cottage Fire 1972


Cottage Fire 1972


Cottage Fire 1972




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SB Pavilion 1971


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SB cottages 1972


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American Legion


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Cottage dump debris


SB cottage #12


SB cottage #11

November 12, 1970 - SHORT BEACH LEASE QUERY: David Martin Chairman of the Waterfront Authority has written a letter to the Town Council asking for a meeting between the Council and the Waterfront Authority sometime during the month of November. The purpose of the meetings is to discuss the termination of leases of the cottages at Short Beach. Under the terms of the leases, either party, the Town or the resident may terminate if it gives a one year notice. (The leases in question are only for the land on which the cottages stand, not for the cottages themselves). The Waterfront Authority is expected to propose that the land on which the cottages stand could be better used as a public recreation area open to all Town residents. The Council is expected to return with a question of how much revenue will be lost when and if the leases are terminated. Each cottage owner pays the Town $200 per season for the use of its land. If the Waterfront Authority is successful in its request there would be two options open to it. The leases could either be terminated as of January 1, 1972 or at a date later than that but before the opening of the summer season in 1972 (when the leases are scheduled to expire). Either of these dates would allow for the one year's notice which the lease requires. The earlier date would seem to be the more logical choice because it would allow the Authority time to tear down the cottages in the spring so that the new recreation area would be ready for the beginning of the summer season. A problem is likely to develop however if the Council objects to the Waterfront Authoritys plan on the basis that it will not have sufficient funds available to develop the area in 1972. If this is the case then the cottages might be allowed to stand until the money for development becomes available. As the question now stands, May of 1972 is the expiration date for the leases. It is expected that the Waterfront Authority will ask that they be terminated some time before that date.

April 16, 1971 - CITY STUDYING DUMP SITE: The city of Bridgeport may require the town of Stratford to halt dumping operations at the town's Lordship dump off Short Beach Road, Stratford. The city attorney's office has asked the city engineer to survey the dump and see if it's intruding on Bridgeport-owned land. City attorney, J. Edward Caldwell said that if it is found that dump operations are trespassing and if no conditions of the deed are found to permit this, he will ask the town to halt the trespass. "If they don't stop we'll take further action" he said. Mr. Caldwell said the city previously transferred about three acres near the dump to Stratford ownership for dump purposes. The land is near the Bridgeport airport, situated in Stratford. He said he recently received complaints that dumping operations have extended outside of this area, onto certain land still owned by Bridgeport. The announcement comes following complaints yesterday that a fire at the dump produced enough smoke to severely handicap airplane landings and takeoffs. Acting Superintendent of Operations Morgan Kaolian said yesterday that "the smoke was the worst we've had in a long time." As a result, air traffic was diverted from the "cross winds" runway near the dump, Mr. Kaolian said. A number of flyers reportedly were preparing appeals to Stratford Health, department director Chester Haberlin, Town Manager Joseph Venables, state Health department Solid Waste director Charles Kurker and elective officials to seek an end to open burning at the dump. They will also seek support from Protect Your Environment club of Stratford in their efforts, a spokesman said. Stratford officials stated that the town must conduct open burning at the dump in order to reduce the volume of dumped materials. They explained that the town is rapidly running out of space to deposit the materials and open burning is utilized as a reduction method. Stratford fire officials said that yesterday's fire occurred when burning operations under a Health department permit got out of hand and reached a pile of trees, causing the black smoke to billow into the air. Firefighters were at the scene for nearly 10 hours until 7:55 p.m. to insure that the flames would not erupt again. Firefighters also returned to the town dump one half hour later at 8:27 p.m. and remained until 9:05 p.m., wetting down the area.

January 13, 1972 - SHORT BEACH COTTAGES TO BE DEMOLISHED THIS MONTH: After a long series of disputes between cottage owners and the Town, the summer cottages at Short Beach are now being prepared for a giant bulldozer. The cottages themselves were actually owned by individuals, but they were constructed on land leased to them by the Town of Stratford. Some time ago the decision was made that when those leases expire on January 1, 1972 they would not be renewed because the cottages were scheduled to be torn down to make way for the development of Short Beach into a town wide recreation area. The feeling of the Town fathers was that since the cottages were built on Town land, the land might be put to better use as a recreation area for all the people of Stratford. They were helped in this thinking by the fact that many of the cottage owners did not live here in the winter and that the Master Plan for the development of Short Beach was far behind schedule. When the leases were allowed to expire on January 1, the cottage owners had 30 days in which to remove their buildings from the land. At the end of that period which expires on January 31, the dozers will move in to level the area. Before that is done however, all electrical lines will have to be removed and the gas and water lines disconnected. The large bulldozers rent for up to $75 an hour. The Town holds a $100 escrow deposit from each cottage owner. That deposit will be forfeited if the cottage is not removed by the January 1 deadline. Because the number of cottages has been steadily diminishing over the years, the Town government now has about $18,000 which has been collected from forfeited deposits. The demolition of the cottages will not come without some bitterness. Even though the area had degenerated over years into what one former Town official described as Stratford's Tobacco Road, the cottage owners staged a long hard fight to retain their leasing rights. That fight ended late last fall and the Short Beach cottages now await the bulldozer.

February 29, 1972 - PLANS SPURRED AT SHORT BEACH: Memorial Day Target Date Set for Stratford Recreation Area: Shooting for a Memorial Day opening, the Stratford Waterfront Authority last night discussed priorities and plans for a family recreation area at Short Beach. Removal of the 54 cottages on the 24.6 acre site was completed February 18, paving the way for the Authoritys initial planning to provide Stratford residents with a complete recreational complex. Eventually the Authority plans to construct an outdoor skating rink, two swimming pools, baseball fields, shelters and other attractions on an area covering nearly 100 acres. In 1969 the initial cost estimate for the entire project was $15 million, Planning Associates of Bohemia, N.Y. is currently updating the original plan to further outline the areas development and bring cost estimates up to date. During last nights meeting the Authority set its first priority at developing the area left vacant when the cottages were removed. By Memorial Day, the Authority hopes to provide Stratford residents with 20 picnic tables, 10 grills, two large shelters, a tot lot complete with gym equipment for children, water lines and electricity at the site. Also planned is an entry control point building with emergency communications equipment providing improved access control in the Short Beach area. Authority Chairman David Martin said a capital improvements budget of $25,000 is currently being considered but has not been approved by the Town Council. The funds will be used for the project. The Authority originally submitted a capital improvements budget of $28,000 for fiscal year 1972-73 but the additional $3,800 was cut by Town Manager Joseph Venables while he was preparing the towns budget. A total of $10,000 was originally earmarked to fund an access road running from Short Beach Road just south of the dump into the beach area. Mr. Martin said however that the Authority hopes to use that money to provide additional facilities at the beach. The Authority is hoping that the Town Council will allow it to use funds not expended during the cottage removal operations to construct the road. The estimated surplus is $10,000. Present at the meeting was First District Councilman John McGrath who said that residents in the area have been asking for many years that such a road be built to alleviate high speed traffic along Short Beach Road during the night. The road would detour traffic before it reached the residential area, providing a direct route to Short Beach rather than allowing cars to curve around the road near the homes. While Authority members have set the beach development as a first priority, the access road has been in the master plan of development since the projects beginning and Mr. Martin said it would be built on a priority basis. Richard Ward, president of Planning Associates attended the meeting and will present plans following the Authoritys guidelines during its meeting next month.


SB cottages


SB new pavilion


Short Beach 1987

April 19, 1973 - NEW SHORT BEACH PARK IS VANDALS TARGET AGAIN: Acting only hours after a new brick and mortar sign base and elaborate wooden sign had been installed at the entrance to the Short Beach Park a person or persons unknown Friday destroyed the bases and stole the sign. The mortar in the posts had not even been given the opportunity to set said Town Manager Joseph Venables. The sign was recovered the following day at Hyde Park. The incident Friday was only the latest in a series of destructive acts by vandals at the park. A bath house concession stand has been defaced more than once and benches in the park have been hacked and cut. Town Manager Venables said Monday he was offering a $25 reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible. It is pretty damn discouraging. The guys that worked on it are just about ready to give up said Venables. The signposts were the work of Highway Department employees James Brooks and Domenic Esposito while the sign was obtained out of town. Waterfront Authority Director Robert Sammis was furious. I guess they (the vandals) think they are funnier than hell. They must think they are proving something. I think these guys have a couple of screws loose and if we ever catch any of them they should be remanded to Fairfield Hills (a mental hospital in Newtown) for psychiatric examination. Sammis and Parks Superintendent Edward Yeomans asked that residents cooperate in a drive against vandalism by taking down the license number of any car seen in an area where vandalism is spotted and inform the police department. The town guys are really mad said Sammis referring to the employees whose work was wrecked. The Short Beach Park has been in the works for more than 20 years, starting off as a town sanitary landfill area. The property to the Northeast of the park is still being used for that purpose. In recent months however the town has been able to make substantial progress in the beach-park recreation area installing a beach house-concession stand, slides, swings, benches, shrubbery and most recently the sign posts and sign which were to be the first part of a neatly landscaped entrance to the park. But vandalism has plagued the park almost from the beginning of the recent improvements and town officials are at or near the boiling point over it.

May 29, 1975 - MAJOR WORK OF WATERFRONT AUTHORITY DESIGN OF FACILITIES AT SHORT BEACH SITE: Stratfords Waterfront Authority was established following a legislative act passed in 1957 which allowed the Town Council to appoint a five member commission to make all ordinances pertaining to the waterfront and its uses. Meeting once a month in their small office in the basement of Town Hall, this town body may possibly be the least heard from Commission in Stratford in terms of controversial issues. The major work of the organization has been the design of a Master Plan involving millions of dollars for recreation facilities on a 20 acre site at Short Beach. The plan includes a community center, golf course, swimming pool, ice skating rink and a games court. According to John Sober, Chairman of the Commission, the $181,500 for the construction of the games court had been approved by the Town Council after a second plan had been submitted changing the location. The Town Council then asked for a public hearing which we had Mr. Sober said. Everyone present spoke in favor of the games courts. I have handed this information over to the Council Chairman and this is where it is at the moment. Designed into the games program are tennis, handball and basketball courts and a deck tennis court, plus added parking. Part of the Master Plan is the eventual elimination of the Stratford dump. This is considered to be a difficulty according to Mr. Sober, since part of the land belongs to Bridgeport. Where fill is needed, the Waterfront Authority has arranged with the Army to take the silt presently being dredged from the Housatonic and dump it in designated areas at Short Beach. Additionally the Commission is concerned with other areas of the waterfront. In fact as Mr. Sober puts it, wherever land touches water if the Waterfront Authority's domain the docks and ramps, piers and moorings and of course the beaches. The Commission has a $17,000 a year operation budget which it spends primarily for lifeguards and beach maintenance at Long and Short Beaches. This year area residents received car stickers which permit entrance to the beaches, included with their tax bills. Making use of the Town computer to issued the number of stickers per cars owned had a twofold purpose says Mr. Sober. It is certainly more convenient for residents and it has taken the burden of paper work away from the Fire Department which had the previous responsibility. With temperatures climbing, beaches will probably be in use before adequately staffed with lifeguards. The four Stratford beaches officially opened May 24th however the seven lifeguards hired to protect swimmers begin their short tem jobs at Long Beach and Short Beach on June 21st. With too few guards to go around, swimming at Lordship Beach is not encourages and the seldom used, Stratford owned part of Pleasure Beach has never been a protected swimming area. There is little doubt that the best beach Stratford has is the expanse of machine sifted sand at Short Beach. The Waterfront Authority is working toward making it a more desirable recreation area despite the dump and the odors emanating from it. The trees planted along Dorne Drive leading to the beach area have met with some unexpected misfortunes. Some have been knocked down and others have died. The Parks Department is cooperating and hopes to put more trees in. In the meantime, the Commission will be looking to the Public Works Department for the general maintenance of the beach and parking lot in preparation for the approaching summer bathers.