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Bridgeport

Bridgeport: another town with two names.The bridgeport district is bounded on the north side by Elk Creek, on the south side by Malo Paseo Creek, on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the east about 3 miles in from the Pacific Ocean in the foot hills at about the 1000 foot level. It is about 5 miles from the north boundary to the south boundary comprising an area known for it's rich farming soil and scenic vistas. The southern mile of this area was also known as New Haven at about the turn of the century. The rich farming soil is about 3/4 of a mile wide starting at the foot of the hills and extending to the ocean bluffs. The soil reaches about 10 feet in depth at the ocean bluffs. This short stretch of farmland is one of the most productive on the whole coast. The town of Bridgeport, known as Miller to the Post Office due to the existence of another Bridgeport, does not exist today. What remains of the town can be noticed as a small group of houses just south of the Bridgeport Ranch on Highway One at about the 27.5 mile marker.

The expansive beauty of the Bridgeport area can be seen in this photo looking south from the 28 mile marker. What remains of the town can be seen in the small cluster of houses on the left side of the photo alongside Highway One. Point Arena can be seen on the right extending out into the ocean. This photo was taken in June, just after the grain crop has been harvested as evidenced by the light colored fields. All of the land in the foreground is part of the Bridgeport Ranch. The Bridgeport Ship Landing existed on the ocean just off to the right of the photo.

In 1832 a beaver hunting party traveled from the Russian River along the coast to the Columbia River in Oregon. These were probably the first Europeans to traverse the Bridgeport area. The first settler was one Moody who built a crude shelter at the foot of the hills in 1850 before vanishing. Many early settlers arrived after this, some filing timber claims. Bridgeport's most prosperous years extended from 1870 to 1890 with activities including mixed farming, grain and potato raising, sheep and cattle ranching, lumber, wood products, and tan bark. The last sawmill closed in 1966 on the Beall Ranch when all the timber in Malo Paseo Creek had been used up.

Some of the lumber crew at McFaul and Keen's last logging camp located about 3.5 miles east of what is Highway One today.

Life in the early days of Bridgeport was harsh. There were no roads suitable for even the smallest of vehicles and the necessities of life had to be packed in from Point Arena, Cuffey's Cove and the Anderson Valley. The first ship landing chute was erected at Bridgeport Landing in about 1860. After being rebuilt a couple of times after the winter storms destroyed it, the chute became a model for a later one built for the L.E. White lumber company in Greenwood/Elk.

The schooner 'Sadie Danielson' loading at a double warf just south of the Bridgeport Landing at New Haven. The warf was built for the sawmill at Switzer. After a storm washed it away, it was replaced by a chute.

Because Bridgeport Bay was a dangerous place to land goods, ship operators charged high rates. The Bridgeport Landing soon gave way to the chute built at New Haven about two miles to the south. In about 1868, Thomas Walsh started a potato farming industry which flourished for twenty years until plant diseases and competition from Central California forced it into decline. In it's heyday, Bridgeport consisted of a modern schoolhouse, a Post Office, several small businesses, a small hotel, two stores, two blacksmith shops, a wagon making shop, and a combination cabinet and carpenter shop.

A threshing scene taken in about 1914. Note the Bridgeport coastal hills in the background. A. O. Stornetta is pictured on the right, one of the district's early dairy pioneers.

But "Time Marches On".The sawmill ceased operation because of a lack of timber. The production of split timber products and tan bark ceased for the same reason. Potato growing ceased to be a financially important entity. So the district reverted back to it's former sleepy existence.

The Bridgeport School looking north west taken in 1935. From the left, Ken Craig, Warren Galletti, Alma Renaldo, the teacher Mrs. Noriss, Ruby Curti, Mary Curti, Vivian Rinaldo, Evelyn Rinaldo, Darwin Christiansen, Eddy Beall. Photo courtesy of Darwin Christiansen.

Today, the leading industries are dairying, farming, sheep and cattle raising. The coastal plain of the Bridgeport district still consists of large ranches. A new addition to the area are the many large residential parcels recently subdivided from the Gilletti ranch located on the ridge above.

Beautiful Elk Creek empties into the ocean at the north end of the Bridgeport District. In the foreground, Hwy 1 snakes up the famous switch backs of "Dramamine Curve". This curve can be counted on for many an interesting vehicle breakdown during the summer season for the towers of the Elk Garage.

On the north border of the district at Elk Creek, one first encounters the Sugarloaf Ranch, so named for the mound shaped geologic structure rising about the highway on the west side of the road. The old grain silos of the ranch can still be seen against the foothills to the east.

Highway 1 heads south from Elk Creek and Dramamine Curve. The pyramid shaped geologic structure, for which the Sugarloaf Ranch was named, can be seen to the right of the highway. The rich farm land is ready for planting on the right.

Heading south one next encounters the farming land of the Galletti Ranch where peas, grain crops and fava beans are grown. At about the 28.8 mile marker on sees the organic farming of Del Velo Farms where much of the local organic lettuce is grown.

The Bridgeport Ranch, once owned by the local Walsh and Christiansen families, consists of 160 acres of hill and farm land.

At the 27.8 mile marker, the Bridgeport Ranch can be seen in the land surrounding the large white farm house with the skylight and barn. The last large ranch in the Bridgeport district is the Walsh Ranch. The Walsh Ranch, located in what used to be referred to as New Haven is primarily a cattle ranch.

The "Vicious Bull" sign at the Walsh Ranch. This icon of the area identifies the spot to the locals as "the curve at vicious bulls." This set of curves is also well know for traffic accidents.

The Bridgeport District is one of the few areas left on the coast where farming plays a major role. Zoned 160 acres minimum range land, it is home to mainly large ranches. Some smaller parcels exist created before modern zoning ordinances were created. Like many areas of the coast, the zoning makes for heated debate on future development as new houses are proposed. The next time you purchase organic vegetables in local stores, think of Bridgeport where the dark rich farming soil is 10 feet deep.

Elk Coast California