Remembering Christmas Village 1982

Christmas Village

Sweet treats and eats to all OIB friends. Christmas Village has been part of the city’s holiday fabric for more than 50 years. In 1982 it became a remarkable story for the entire country.

On December 7, 1982 an arsonist slipped into Beardsley Park and set fire to the Police Activities League’s Christmas Village, that for more than 25 years had been the site of a Christmas celebration for the city’s impoverished children. Reaction to the shocking fire sparked a massive five-day restoration mission that raised the village from ashes. It became more than a Bridgeport story, growing into one that brought out a collaborative crusade of pride, purpose and generosity from people all over the world. More than 100 men and women tirelessly worked around the clock in a restoration effort that normally would have taken weeks. People donated thousands of dollars to construct a new building, masons, electricians, construction workers donated supplies and time and others donated food for the workers.

Toy companies rushed enough gifts to fill thousands of Santa’s toy bags. Nearly 60,000 people visited the village in the days after its reopening. President Ronald Reagan proclaimed on national television, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” With Mayor Lenny Paoletta taking the call, the president phoned in for the reopening of Christmas Village.

Christmas Village turned out to be the best kind of Christmas gift for Bridgeport’s image.



  1. *** IT’S CHRISTMAS, GUYS. The story is about the Bpt. Pal Christmas Village not politics or who would be a good Mayor! Anyone who’s been there with little ones for only $2 knows it’s the Christmas Spirit bomb for small kids during the holidays. As a third-year volunteer there helping with the Christmas Village, Easter Village, little guys winter B-Ball league, summer camp Pal cadets, and Bpt .Pride Marching Band, etc. it’s amazing just how much is done with State and Fed funds and grants that seem to be cut more and more every year! You’ve got to give credit where credit is due and Mr. Marella and his wife Judy certainly deserve lots of that credit for their timeless efforts year after year running the Bpt. PAL! *** MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL AND TO ALL A GOODNIGHT ***

  2. I remember this fire real well because I was a six-month rookie Bridgeport firefighter working that night on Engine 6 on Central Ave. After arriving at the scene of the fire we found there were no working fire hydrants for a water supply so our crew had to carry the fire hose from Livingston St. at Noble Ave up the hill to the fire. That delay allow the fire to spread, other fire companies had to use the water they had in their tank then they had to find another water source. Those firefighters did everything possible to save that building.


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