On June 24, 2010, an EF-1 tornado struck the Barnum Museum. Colossal winds slammed into the historic structure compromising structural integrity of the building, contaminating the environmental and mechanical systems, shattering windows, and exposing collections to a vicious burst of glass, moisture, and debris. Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy followed, causing additional damage in 2011 and 2012. The Museum has since been engaged in a full-scale conservation effort to recover and preserve thousands of artifacts, and to stabilize and restore the building to its original, majestic state.
Today, operations and public programming have been curtailed to manage the ongoing disaster mitigation and recovery. After an initial cleanup and relocation of the artifacts (with support from many colleagues in the Connecticut cultural community), hundreds of objects have been treated for damage. Once the collection was finally safe and documented, building assessment and stabilization began. To date, steel girders and columns have been installed to prevent further deflection, and reconstruction of the east wall has been accomplished. The massive, iconic dome stabilization was completed in 2018.
The Barnum Museum has made incredible strides in its recovery. Click for chronological milestones achieved as The Barnum Museum strides toward recovery
In February 2019, Avangrid Foundation’s $50,000 grant was given to the museum for assistance needed in the continued revitalization of the Barnum Museum, a national registered historic site. Avangrid Foundation’s support will address an exciting illumination design. The Barnum Museum will work with an historic architectural lighting design firm to create a comprehensive lighting program that will showcase the extraordinary architectural details of the historic Barnum building.
The Barnum Museum’s restoration/re-envisioning is an ongoing effort initiated by damage from three natural disasters which occurred 2010 – 2012 (EF1 Tornado, Hurricane Irene, Super Storm Sandy). The team of historic preservation, engineering and design specialists has been assembled since 2010 and has successfully completed three critical phases of restoration which include: stabilization and repair of timber truss system and roof framing, east wall conservation, and the stabilization of the northwest dome structure.
The current restoration of the historic building focuses on stabilization of the remaining combined roof/attic structure (south and central areas) including rehabilitation of the front, southwest pyramidal roof, four corner finials, the small dome and supporting masonry in the southeast corner of the roof. The project also focuses on the historic restoration and preservation of the decorative exterior façade.
Completed in 1893 at a cost of $85,000, the Barnum Institute of Science and History building was designed by the Bridgeport, Connecticut, architectural firm of Longstaff and Hurd. Sculptor Henri Plasschaert is responsible for the elaborate terra cotta friezes that depict an assortment of foliage and animals, and features historical scenes around the band of the massive dome. Today known as the Barnum Museum, the brownstone and terra cotta structure is an impressive, eclectic blend of styles, predominantly Romanesque Revival. P. T. Barnum (1810 – 1891) gave the land and money to build the three-story, domed structure as a place of intellectual exchange and community engagement, providing education and entertainment to a global audience.
This scope of the Avangrid project will include research, exploration of various lighting options, and the execution of a lighting strategy that will be energy-conscious and historically responsive. Carefully balancing the historic significance of the structure while acknowledging the modern, urban context of Bridgeport’s Main Street, the result will be a brilliant visual beacon in the heart of the city’s active downtown. The visual impact will serve as a point of pride for Connecticut’s citizens and will feature the Barnum Museum as one of the most prominent landmarks in the state.
The Avangrid Foundation is an independent organization that funds philanthropic investments primarily in area where AVANGRID and its subsidiaries operate. AVANGRID, Inc. an integrated energy company headquartered in Orange, Connecticut. It is an affiliate of Spain-based Iberdrola, S.A. and includes wholly owned subsidiaries United Illuminating, Southern Connecticut Gas and Connecticut Natural Gas. For more information, please visit the Avangrid Foundation section of the website: avangrid.com.