Dan Quilty was the longest tenant of the Bridgeport Bijou Theater. He rented the 2nd & 3rd
floors ballroom from it's opening in 1909 till his death in the early 1950's. He was a very
successful dance master, and ballroom operator; well known both in Connecticut and New
York. He composed 2 dances in the 1920's, "The Corrigan Hop" and "The Yankee Prance"
which were taught across the nation.
Evenings, Bridgeporter's of all ages climbed the wide, steep steps to Quilty's Colonial
Ballroom to dance the night away to the music of Divito's Band, and other orchestras.
They attended masked balls and Mardi Gras; watched and supported the Blue Ribbon
basketball team from the third floor balcony. And in all those years, he never allowed
alcohol to be sold on his premises.
During the day parents and their children learned to dance at Quilty's dance studio. At it's
peak the school had over 800 students a week. Dan Guilty is credited with teaching Eleanor
Powell how to dance, she started classes with him in 1919 when still a child living with her
parents on Barnum Ave.
The ballroom was even used in the 1920's as a location for the filming of community vanity
films. There were a few of these films made in Bridgeport, people loved seeing themselves
and their children on the big screen. I'm sure they hoped that they would be discovered by
a hollywood agent, and become the next screen star. Sadly none of these films seem to
have survived the years.
I was told that Mr. Quilty left the school to his girlfriend in his will, and a few years after he
passed, she closed it. They were the last tenant, it stayed empty for almost 40 years.
You would think that there would stacks of photos of the wonderful times at Quilty's, sadly
that is not the case, it seems that any photos of these events were lost long ago, I and the
new owner of the Bijou have not been able to find any.
Dan Quilty is not related to my family, but he was such a great part of the Bijou, I felt the
least I could do was keep this small segment of Bridgeport history alive.
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|These photos of the deserted ballroom were taken
in the summer of 2005
Click on any to see a larger photo.
|All Images and text on this site are copyrighted by A. R. Dawe, Earlville, NY., and may not be copied or
reproduced without written permission.