P.T. Barnum was born in Bethel, Connecticut, in 1810 and lived in nearby Bridgeport for his final four decades, during which time he served as its mayor, established some of its public works, and died and was buried there in 1891. Today, the town is home to a museum and a statue dedicated to him.
The unique, yellow and red stone and terracotta building was designed by Barnum himself as an institute for science and history. It wasn’t until years later that it became a museum dedicated to him. Among some of the wonders of this three-story museum are a preserved elephant, a facsimile of his original Fiji mermaid, a 1,000-square-foot miniature circus, and an authentic, unwrapped mummy named Pa-Ib.
Barnum’s statue is located just down the road a bit from the museum in Seaside Park, which overlooks Long Island Sound. Barnum is buried in Mountain Grove Cemetery, which is located at the intersection of Dewey Street and Mountain Grove Street, not far away from either the museum or the park.
Unfortunately, in the past few years since Hurricane Sandy, the Barnum Museum no longer allows admittance into the beautiful Victorian building. For those looking to view the Fiji Mermaid and other mysterious exhibits: they have been locked away in storage. The remnants of Tom Thumb’s collection, including his walnut shaped carriage and bed, are among the few exhibits on display in addition to the miniature of Barnum’s Circus.
Adapted with Permission from The New England Grimpendium by J.W. Ocker.
Know Before You Go
They are only open on Thursday and Friday. Admission is by donation.