Known Name(s)



56 Beach St. Bridgeport, CT

Establishment Type(s)


Physical Status


Detailed History

The Young Woman's Christian Association (YWCA) Phyllis Wheatley Branch opened sometime between 1898 and 1913. Named after the 18th-century Black poet (who spelled her name Phillis), the Branch was an African American community space and resource center. From 1919 to 1935, the building was also home to the International Institute, which helped immigrants from Europe adjust to their new environment.

The Phyllis Wheatley Branch hosted a variety of services and activities for the community, including dance lessons, school events, and social clubs. Members of the Branch also corresponded with the Civil Rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois and The Crisis magazine regarding several theatrical productions.

Soon after its establishment, the Branch became an integral support system for Bridgeport's burgeoning African American community. During an interview conducted by the Bridgeport Library History Center in 1983, former Superintendent of Schools and YWCA Finance Committee Member, Geraldine Farrar Johnson, reminisced that she and her peers were "not welcome at the main YWCA" and so the Phyllis Wheatley branch became a "haven for Black people."

The Phyllis Wheatley Branch only appeared in The Green Book's 1941 edition, where it was listed as a hotel. A year later, the main Bridgeport YWCA began allowing Black membership, and the Phyllis Wheatley Branch was integrated into the YWCA on Golden Hill Street (see the YWCA Golden Hill Branch, Bridgeport, CT). Today, 56 Beach Street houses the Polish Army Veterans Association of America, continuing the site's role as a cultural and social gathering place.

Listed in the East Bridgeport National Register Historic District

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