Way Back When … 1915
In 1915 Rev. Stephen F. Chernitzky was quoted in the Bridgeport Evening Farmer as saying “Bridgeport is the largest Hungarian city in America. … Here in Bridgeport, one out of every ten men is Hungarian. … The Hungarians of the country have nowhere else more chance and hope for material as well for social welfare, than right here in Bridgeport.”
The history of the Hungarian community in Connecticut and in the Bridgeport/Fairfield area will be explored next week in “History Bites Lunchtime Chat” on Wednesday, March 28, 12:30pm at the Fairfield Museum, 370 Beach Road. The documentary film “Searching for Wordin Avenue” will be shown. The film depicts the fortunes of a Hungarian immigrant family in Bridgeport during the first half of the twentieth century and offers coverage of Hungarian festivals there along with interviews, stills, dramatizations, and historic footage. Scarcely a trace of the once bustling immigrant community exists in Bridgeport today. The lecture is free for members. A $5 donation is suggested for non-members. Bring a bagged lunch, and beverages/dessert will be provided.
By some estimates, about 1.5 million Hungarians entered the U.S. between 1861 and 1913, with the peak year being 1907. In Fairfield, Hungarians were the largest new immigrant group to take up residence in town between 1900 and 1930. Hungarians settled in several areas of town when immigrant leaders and entrepreneurs purchased large lots, subdivided them into smaller, less-expensive lots, and offered to sell them to their countrymen.
Timko Street bears the name of Frank Timko, an early Hungarian immigrant who came to Fairfield and in 1906 purchased local property. He sold about 20 plots to other Hungarian families. Other streets in Fairfield named after Hungarian statesmen and nobles include Rakoczy, Andrassy, Hunyadi, and Apponyi streets.
The Fairfield Museum has a collection of Hungarian documents, photographs, books and more named after the late Robert D. Kranyik, a Fairfield resident who was the driving force behind the creation of the Hungarian archive.
In addition, its newest exhibition An American Story: Finding Home in Fairfield County features also profiles two Hungarian immigrants. The exhibit features a series of photographic portraits and biographical narratives that show how eight individuals from Cambodia, Congo, Cuba, Hungary, India, Rwanda, and Syria have rebuilt their lives and created a sense of home.
It is open daily 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information visit Fairfieldhistory.org/exhibitions-2/an-american-story/. The exhibition is presented with CIRI and sponsored by Newman’s Own Foundation.
The Fairfield Museum & History Center and Museum Shop, located at 370 Beach Road, are open seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Members of the Museum and children under 5 are admitted free. For more information, call 203-259-1598 or visit Fairfieldhistory.org. The Fairfield Museum relies on funding from individuals, corporations and foundations.