History room exhibit taught about Flood of 1955

Flood waters watch over the city of Bristol in this photograph from 1955.

By TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER

STAFF WRITER

Throughout the month of April, Bristol residents were able to learn more about the Flood of 1955 by visiting the Bristol History Room, located on the top floor of the Bristol Public Library, 5 High Street.

Many residents are familiar with the flood, coined “Bristol’s worst natural disaster,” which occurred on Aug. 19, 1955.

Jay Manewitz explained, “The rain came down so fast and furious that the banks of the Pequabuck River overflowed, and it essentially divided the city in half.”

Travel throughout the city was interrupted as roads were flooded, homes and businesses were disheveled, and bridges were damaged, including a bridge in Forestville that was entirely washed away. Park and School streets, and Memorial Boulevard were reported to have been covered in three to five feet worth of water.

“In Forestville, utilities were interrupted, so there was no gas service in Forestville, the electricity went out, telephone service throughout town was interrupted, there were no trains traveling through town, that was interrupted,” said Manewitz. “But, I think one of the key things to take away from this, is that because of the loss of the six bridges people were isolated in the part of town wherever they were, it made traveling almost impossible – so, traveling from one section of Bristol, or just traveling out of town, became treacherous because of the storm. Not surprisingly, it caused millions of dollars worth of damage.”

It was reported at the time that the Forestville Pharmacy, Manewitz said, was “swept from its foundation, was completely carried downstream by the raging flood.”

The Flood of 1955 exhibit opened on Saturday, April 13, and Manewitz said that many residents came in and shared their own memories and stories of the flood.

While researching, Manewitz was almost shocked to learn that two months after the Aug., flood, another flood occurred in October of the same year. While newspapers of the time reported that the Oct., flood was not as severe as the Aug., flood, it caused a considerable amount of damage as well.

The next exhibit to be shown in the Bristol History Room will detail the history of Bristol Hospital, and will open on Saturday, May 11. This exhibit will be the last for the summer months, as the History Room is not open on Saturdays until the fall.

The Bristol History Room is open to the public on Tuesdays from 2 to 4 p.m., on Wednesdays from 2 to 4 and from 6 to 7:45 p.m., on Thursdays from 2 to 4 p.m., and on Saturdays from 9:30 to 11:30 p.m.

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