Black Rock is located at the head of Black Rock Harbor in the City of Bridgeport, approximately two and one-half miles southwest of downtown. Black Rock comprises the residential section of an eighteenth and nineteenth century seaport/shipbuilding center and commercial areas along Fairfield Avenue. Black Rock has two historic districts including the Black Rock Historic District which has two pre-Revolutionary houses, a Federal-Greek Revival housing and manufacturing development, and an early Victorian, shipbuilding community interspersed with compatible late nineteenth and twentieth century structures constructed after the village had become incorporated into the larger urban center. The area is an urban residential neighborhood of twentieth century one- and two-family houses.
The Black Rock Historic District includes the remains of the village of Black Rock, third most important seaport in Connecticut after the Revolutionary War and important shipbuilding center in the years immediately preceding the Civil War. It includes examples of every major American architectural style from the late Medieval of the seventeenth century to the Italianate of the mid-nineteenth, as well as some resort and suburban styles of the later Victorian era.
Black Rock was originally a part of Fairfield and was not joined to Bridgeport until 1870. It is situated on what was once the deepest harbor in the state west of New London, protected on the south and east by Fayerweather Island and on the west by Penfield Reef (cobblestones collected from this reef were used to pave the streets of New York City in the early nineteenth century, causing its disintegration and resulting vulnerability of the port to the onslaughts of periodic hurricanes).
Black Rock was first occupied in 1644 by the Wheeler family as a trading settlement. Major developments began around 1760, when the first shipyard was opened, three commercial wharves built, and residential building lots laid out. There were at least ten houses constructed by the time of the Revolutionary War. Many other people who earned their livelihoods from port activities lived in Fairfleld Center, which was connected to Black Rock by a causeway across Ash Creek.
Two buildings remain from this period, each of outstanding architectural and historical importance. The John Wheeler House at 266-8 Brewster Street was built by a wealthy merchant who represented Fairfield in the colonial legislature. Although in altered condition, it has what is probably the steepest roof pitch and heaviest exposed frame construction in the Bridgeport-Fairfield area.
The Wolcott Chauncey House at 150 Seabright Avenue is a rare example in Fairfield County of a small 1-1/2-story worker’s cottage from the eighteenth century. It was the birthplace in 1772 of Commodore Isaac Chauncey, commander of American naval forces on the Great Lakes in the War of 1812 and first commandant of the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Black Rock saw a good deal of privateering during the Revolution. It was a key link in the Culper Spy Ring, which relayed information out of New York City to Washington’s Headquarters by way of whaleboats across Long Island Sound. These whaleboats were probably beached in Brewster’s Cove behind the homestead of Captain Caleb Brewster, who commanded this phase of the operation.
Black Rock was made a Port of Entry for all of Western Connecticut in, 1790. A government lighthouse was built at the mouth of the harbor in 1807, and a turnpike laid out to Danbury in 1812. By 1830, however, Bridgeport appears to have usurped Black Rock’s place as the center of eastern Fairfield County commerce, and the village turned to ship and carriage building as a means of livelihood.