Burroughs Building: The Opportunity to Prosper in the Nineteenth Century

Authored by Megan Sego

Image Bridgeport Public Library Burroughs Building

Burroughs Building, by Jurgen Frederick Huge (1809-1878); 29 ¼” H x 39 ½” W; 1876. This highly stylized ink and watercolor shows the Burroughs Building in 19th Century Bridgeport, located at the SW corner of Main and John Streets (currently the site of City Trust building). The building eventually housed the Bridgeport Public Library on the second and third floor in starting in 1888 until the current Burroughs Library structure was opened at 925 Broad Street in 1927.

Born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1809, Jurgen Frederick Huge immigrated to the United States, particularly Bridgeport, Connecticut at the age of twenty-one. The year was estimated to be 1830, although records officially claiming Huge in directories first appear in 1862 (“Jurgen Huge”, n.d.). Many German citizens immigrated to the United States in the early to mid-nineteenth century as they, “were forced to endure land seizures, unemployment, increased competition from British goods, and the repercussions of the failed German Revolution of 1848” (“Immigration”, n.d.). The port of Hamburg was known as “the Gateway to the World” as over five million European immigrants used the port travel across the Atlantic Ocean to reach the “land of plenty.” Many opportunities were waiting for those willing to make the ship-ward journey (“Genealoger”, n.d.).

Upon his arrival to Bridgeport, Connecticut Huge married Mary Shelton, a resident from the major city, whom he met while he still lived in Hamburg (“Jurgen Huge”, n.d.). Huge’s career was always listed in directories as a grocer and artist. In 1830, Huge became the owner of a grocery store and established a secondary career as a marine artist (National Gallery of Art, n.d.).

The Burroughs Building was painted by Jurgen Fredrick Huge. The building was built in 1872 and painted in 1876. (Lipman 1973) This painting, as well as four others, are currently on display at the Bridgeport History Center at the Bridgeport (Burroughs-Saden) Main Branch Library in Connecticut (“Archive Record” 1995).

The depicted Burroughs Building contained shops, “including Prindle & Whiting’s Tea shop and Sammis & Fairchild’s clothing shop,” and sat at the corner of John Street and Main Street (Bridgeport Public Library, n.d.). The horse-drawn carriages and fashion depict the style of the later nineteenth-century. It is noted that Jurgen Frederick Huge was one of quite a few folk artists in the City of Bridgeport and captured Bridgeport’s progressive grandeur with style and pride.

The goal was to capture the beauty and bustling life of Bridgeport in the mid-1800s with a panache to fine details. Other paintings by the artist include structures of famous architecture and marine scenes including ships from the prospering shipping industry (“Archive Record” 1995). Huge painted Bridgeport with a prideful ode to the prosperity and positive outlook he sought when leaving his homeland.

The Burroughs Building pictured, was donated to the Bridgeport Library Board through the will of Catherine Burroughs Pettingill. Her statement showed the generosity and spirit of the City itself stating, “My object is to benefit as much as possible, the inhabitants of my native place and of this vicinity and also to perpetuate the name of my family…and that this gift will be of great and permanent benefit to this community” (“The History of the Bridgeport Public Library”, n.d.).

The library was an essential place for knowledge acquisition and leisure reading for the community. As of April 25, 1927, a new building would become the home of the Burroughs Library, due to the ever-expanding library collection that would need a larger home. The namesake would remain and her painted portrait would sit in the current library building’s third-floor History Center (“The History of the Bridgeport Public Library”, n.d.). Continued expansion throughout the twentieth century, ensured there would be a branch library in each cardinal area of the large City, in addition to the main branch. Prosperity through hard work, knowledge acquisition and community will always be a reflection of Bridgeport, Connecticut.

“Archive Record.” 1995. Jurgen Huge, 19th Century Painter, Captured City on Canvas –7/27/1995. https://bportlibrary.pastperfectonline.com/archive/525D53B3-6122-4213-9022-435558942553.

Bridgeport Public Library. n.d. “The Original Burroughs Building.” Print, Photographic : BGP-000760. https://bportlibrary.org/hc/ve/vex8/C8B2A2EE-E168-4870-B2E7-041632833526.htm.

“Genealoger.” n.d. German Genealogy — Emigration Records.

“Immigration.” n.d. German – A New Surge of Growth – Immigration…- Classroom Presentation Teacher Resources – Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/presentationsandactivities/presentations/immigration/german4.html.

Jurgen Frederick Huge, Burroughs Building, Ink and Watercolor, 1876, 29 ¼ in. x 39 ½ in., Bridgeport, Bridgeport History Center at the Bridgeport Public Library.

“Jurgen Huge.” n.d. Jurgen Huge – Artist Biography for Jurgen Huge.

Lipman, Jean. 1973. Rediscovery: Jurgen Frederick Huge. New York, NY: Archives of American Art

National Gallery of Art. n.d. “Biography of Jürgen Frederick Huge.” Community Gallery.

“The History of Bridgeport Public Library.” n.d. Bridgeport Public Library.

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