Who You Gonna Call?

Bob Rogers — president of Coastal Tree Experts — has a well-deserved reputation for excellent work, and concern for Westport. Recently, for example, he donated Coastal’s services to Earthplace, for some very important work.

But Bob cares about far more than just customers and their trees.

Recently, he and his company saved not 1, but 2, cats stuck in trees. One was up there for 13 days; the other, 8.

Checking out the scene.

Checking out the scene.

Bob says that he is not in the business of cat rescuing.

But if the job needs to be done, he’s happy to do it.

Just before the rescue, after 8 days in a tree.

Just before the rescue, after 8 days in a tree.

John Weymouth rescues Foo-Foo on Side Hill Road:

(Hat tip to Betsy Pollak)

Katharine Ordway’s Peaceful Preserve

Katharine Ordway was one of those very wealthy, very impressive, semi-mysterious people who lived quietly among us, back in the day.

Her father bought 60% of the stock of a struggling mining company later known as 3M — not a bad career move. She graduated cum laude from the University of Minnesota with degrees in botany and art, and later studied biology and land-use planning at Columbia.

Katharine Ordway was equally at home in social settings and outdoors.

Katharine Ordway was equally at home in social settings and outdoors.

After inheriting part of an $18.8 million estate — real money in 1948 — she became (according to Macalester College) second only to John D. Rockefeller, Jr. as “a private contributor to natural area conservation in American history.”

The quiet woman  helped save over 31,000 acres of Great Plains prairies, a few Hawaiian islands, and land in many other parts of the country. She is revered by the Nature Conservancy for her philanthropy, commitment and foresight.

She lived for decades in a beautiful home off Goodhill Road in Weston. Today, 62 acres behind her estate comprise the Katharine Ordway Preserve. It’s wooded, riparian (the Saugatuck River runs through it), and very peaceful.

It’s also a secret. Though it was opened in 1979 — the year she died — even some neighbors don’t know it’s there.

A spirited group of nature-lovers do, though. Working with the Nature Conservancy’s Connecticut chapter, they’ve contributed hundreds of man (and woman) hours to the preserve. They’ve cleared brush, removed invasive species, planted specimen trees, created a 2-acre arboretum, and cleaned trails.

Now they want local residents to enjoy the fruits of their labors.

The view from a trail high in the Ordway Preserve.

The view from a trail high in the Ordway Preserve.

The other day, Westporter Bob Fatherley invited me to hike the preserve. We were joined by a few others, including Alec Head of Westport; the Conservancy’s David Gumbart, and Mark Mainieri, the property’s steward.

I learned about the legend of Fred Moore. He was Katharine Ordway’s estate caretaker — as well as Weston’s tree warden and fire marshal.

As we walked, the men talked about the many contributors to the restoration of the preserve. They spoke with pride of the 20 trees donated by Weston Gardens, and the pro bono work provided by Weston Arborists (owned by Fred Moore’s son Jeff).

Hiking the Ridge Trail.

Hiking the Ridge Trail.

The arboretum is particularly impressive. Now rid of high brush and invasive plants, it’s a serene habitat for birds and butterflies. (The preserve also hosts deer, coyotes, and plenty of wild turkeys.)

They talked reverently of Katharine Ordway (who endowed not only this preserve, but also Devil’s Den). “She was a woman of means, but also a woman of the earth,” Bob said. “She was one of the first people to take private capital, and make it work for open space.”

“This is a spot of spiritual refreshment,” Bob added. “It is humbling to take care of it.”

A plaque honors Katharine Ordway.

A plaque honors Katharine Ordway.

Katharine Ordway’s ashes were scattered at her favorite site — a place she visited every October, to enjoy spectacular foliage. It’s high on a hill surrounded by mountain laurel, near a large boulder that bears a plaque. Soon, the Nature Conservancy hopes, a small bench will allow hikers to sit and honor the woman who worked so hard to preserve this land, and hundreds of thousands of other acres around the country.

Katharine’s imprint on the American conservation movement remains large. And — although most of us don’t know it — it is especially strong in the town Katharine Ordway called home.

Literally, in her own back yard.

(The Katharine Ordway Preserve is located at 165 Goodhill Road in Weston. It is open from dawn to dusk — no bikes or pets, though. Note that the base of the entrance is severely rutted!)

Some of the preserve's most ardent supporters, at Kay's Trail. From left: Bob Fatherley, David Gumbart, Lou Bregy, Dave Thompson, Alec Head and Mark Mainieri.

Some of the preserve’s most ardent supporters. From left: Bob Fatherley, David Gumbart, Lou Bregy, Dave Thompson, Alec Head and Mark Mainieri.

Bill Scheffler’s Benz Is A Movie Star

There’s something about Michael Douglas and Westport cars.

Growing up here, he was a member of the Downshifters – the high school club that met at the Y to talk about, learn about, work on (and sometimes race) cars.

Last summer, he filmed “And So It Goes” in Bridgeport. Directed by Rob Reiner, and also starring Diane Keaton, it’s about a self-absorbed realtor suddenly left in charge of a granddaughter he never knew existed until his estranged son drops her off. It was released last week.

Besides the familiar Black Rock scenes (and familiar former Westport actor), there’s a familiar car.

Michael Douglas driving Bill Scheffler's Mercedes.

Michael Douglas driving Bill Scheffler’s Mercedes.

Westporter Bill Scheffler’s 1963 Mercedes-Benz 300SE Cabriolet takes a star turn. With the star.

Douglas drives it — and it is featured prominently in the promos.

Scheffler bought the Benz in January 2013, at a Scottsdale auction. It’s a fairly limited production car — about 3100 hard tops and convertibles were made over the model’s 6-year life — and was built to rigorous standards.

The auction catalogue says the 300SE offered “a stirring combination of luxury and performance along with technical specifications better than anything else of its era.”

So how did Scheffler’s car make it onto Rob Reiner’s set?

It was spotted by a “talent scout/car wrangler” while being restored in Stratford.

And so it goes.

Michael Douglas poster

 

 

 

Stupid Party Tricks From DOT

Last month, “06880” reported on a traffic light at the foot of Kings Highway North. The green arrow suddenly — and erroneously — pointed left instead of right, leading drivers directly into ongoing Post Road West traffic.

Today, the light exiting from Playhouse Square shows red and green simultaneously, instead of green only.

Traffic light

The result, of course, is an even longer backup of traffic in Playhouse Square, as drivers try to figure out what the hell is going on.

We’re on Candid Camera, right?

Chip Stephens And Al Gratrix: Westport’s Newest “De-signers”

The town ordinance on signs is pretty clear.

Local organizations can post them for fundraisers: Library book sales, Yankee Doodle Fair, Sunrise Rotary duck race.

Political signs are okay — during election season. As with charity signs, they must be removed promptly.

no signsCommercial signs are strictly regulated. They must be portable. They can’t be attached to a utility pole or fence. They can be displayed only during hours that a business is open. They must be on a “framed chalk board or eraser board.” All of the wording must be hand-drawn. And commercial signs must be located on the property where the business is located.

That’s the theory, anyway.

Anyone with more than 20/2000 vision knows those rules are frequently flouted. Several years ago — in the depths of the recession — 1st Selectman Gordon Joseloff eased the sign regulation. But the ordinance in place now — cited above — is pretty clear.

Al Gratrix is head of the Planning and Zoning Commission‘s enforcement committee. Chip Stephens is the the P&Z chair.

A couple of weeks ago, they started picking up illegal signs. They pulled 100 or so: non-handwritten business signs. Signs advertising office space. Signs for roofers and handymen, tacked 8 feet high on telephone polls.

Al Gratrix with some of the illegal signs.

Al Gratrix with some of the illegal signs…

Just as quickly, the signs reappeared.

Al and Chip went back on the prowl. On Saturday, they yanked 80 more.

Their task may be Sisyphean. (Or, to use a truer Westport reference, dandlelion-esque.)

But it’s an important one. Want to know one of the biggest blights on Westport’s beauty?

The signs are all around us.

...and more signs.

…and more signs.

 

Remembering Buck Iannacone

Alphonse “Buck” Iannacone — the 2012 Memorial Day parade grand marshal, a 61-year PAL volunteer, and a Bronze Star and Purple Heart winner for his military service during the Battle of the Bulge — died Friday. He was 88.

In his 6 decades with PAL, he did just about everything. He was a coach, an organizer, a board member, a field maintenance guy, a fundraiser, and a good friend to thousands of young athletes.

A former US Postal Service worker and local union president, he was also a member of the Saugatuck Volunteer Fire Department, Laurel Athletic Club and a dedicated volunteer with both Special Olympics and Star.

Buck Iannacone (left), the 2012 Memorial Day parade grand marshal this year, with his son and granddaughter. One of Buck's 4 great-grandchild had been born 10 days earlier.

Buck Iannacone (left), the 2012 Memorial Day parade grand marshal that year, with his son and granddaughter. One of Buck’s 4 great-grandchildren had been born 10 days earlier.

Buck received plenty of honors, including a National PAL Award in 2008. He was cited by the Sportsmen of Westport, Norwalk Old Timers and the Connecticut Sports Writers Alliance. Three years before leading the Memorial Day parade, he served as grand marshal of Festival Italiano.

But of all the kudos Buck Iannacone got, one was extra special. In 2001 — dressed in caps and gowns, and marching across stage — he and 5 other World War II veterans from Norwalk received high school diplomas.

Like the others, Buck had left school to join the military. The shrapnel he took in the Battle of the Bulge put him in a British hospital for 8 months.

Buck Iannacone served his country well. And — for the last 61 years — he did the same for Westport.

(Services will be held on Wednesday, July 30, at 9:30 a.m. at Harding Funeral Home, 210 Post Road East, and 10 a.m. at Assumption Church, 98 Riverside Avenue. Internment, with full military honors, follows at Assumption Cemetery, Kings Highway North. Friends may visit the family on Tuesday, July 29, from 4-8 p.m. at the Harding Funeral Home. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Buck Iannacone’s name to the Westport PAL Scholarship Fund, c/o Sam Arciola, 50 Jesup Road, Westport, CT 06880.)

Buck Iannacone and Roberta Troy at the 2009 Italian Festival. He served as grand marshal that year.

Buck Iannacone and Roberta Troy at the 2009 Italian Festival. He served as grand marshal that year.

 

 

 

CL&P Saves The Ospreys

For months, an osprey nest high above a Fresh Market utility pole has fascinated Westporters.

This morning though, the raptors caused a power outage at the shopping center.

CL&P workers rushed to the scene. Merchants and shoppers gathered to watch, as crew members in 2 large buckets examined the scene.

Osprey nest

Everyone expected the nest to be removed.

Instead, the CL&P guys carefully rerouted the electrical feed a few yards away. The nest was undisturbed.

The utility company has taken a ton of hard knocks in the past few years, over their slow response to natural disasters.

This could have been a disaster of another kind. CL&P’s quick — and very wise — response should have them flying high.

Frazier Forman Peters: A Legacy In Stone

Take even a brief drive around Westport, and you’ll see the signs: Able Construction. Milton. SIR.

They and other builders are redefining our town, with new construction that — in its use of stone — often tries to imitate old.

But they need to go a long way to reach the standards of Frazier Forman Peter.

Frazier Forman Peters

Frazier Forman Peters

Best known as an architect — but also a builder, teacher and writer — Peters was born in 1895 to a New York Episcopalian clergy family. He graduated from Columbia University as a chemical engineer, yet quickly grew disgruntled with the industry,

He came to Westport in 1919, hoping to work the land as a farmer. The rocky soil intrigued him, and he soon found his calling as a designer and builder of stone houses.

Peters’ homes can be found from Virginia to Maine — but most are in Connecticut. Between 1924 and 1936 he designed and built at least 41 stone houses in Westport. His designs are revered for their unique fieldstone wall construction method, as well as their spatial organization and sensitive placement in relation to the natural environment.

Susan Farewell wrote:

Were Frazier Peters to build houses today, he’d be receiving all sorts of accolades for being an architect on the leading edge of environmentally-conscious, energy-efficient, sustainable design and construction.

The thick fieldstone walls (as much as 16 inches) typical of a Peters stone house make them energy-efficient; the stones effectively hold the heat in winter and keep the interiors cools in summer….

Frazier Forman Peters designed and built this house for himself, and his 7 children.

Frazier Forman Peters designed and built this house for himself, and his 7 children.

He segregated rooms by giving each one a separate identity, and through the use of step-downs, varied building materials, and interesting transitions. He was also taken by how beautifully European stone structures aged and compared them to American-built frame houses that “droop and pout if they are not continually groomed and manicured.”

Another important component of Peters’ designs was the marriage of the house and its surroundings. He wrote a great deal about this and was especially enamored with the brooks, hillsides, and woods of Connecticut.

Adam Stolpen — who lives in a Frazier Peters house — adds: “He was our first ‘green architect.’  And he was completely self-taught.

“These are definitely not cookie-cutter McMansions. They are homes meant to be lived in. And each one has a bit of whimsy.”

This Frazier Forman Peters house on Riverview Road features The exterior to the Tudor cottage at 9 River View Road features fieldstone facades, slate roof and copper gutters.

This Frazier Forman Peters house on Riverview Road features fieldstone facades, slate roof and copper gutters.

Peters’ work is revered in Westport. (Though not always: a gorgeous one belonging to the late pianist Natalie Maynard on Charcoal Hill, near several of his others, has been torn down.)

Now the architect lives on in more than his buildings. He’s the subject of a book — Frazier Forman Peters: Westport’s Legacy in Stone — by Laura Blau and Robert A. Weingarten.

She’s Peters’ granddaughter, and a noted Philadelphia architect. He’s the Westport Historical Society‘s house historian.

Frazier Forman Peters bookThe handsome, lovingly designed book includes stories of Peters’ life, descriptions of his building techniques and philosophies, and plenty of photos of his Westport houses.

The interior shots are great, showing double-height rooms with central hearths, balconies and built-in casework.

But the exterior photos are even more compelling. Except for one on Greenbrier Road (demolished in 1997), the authors have found shots of every Westport house Peters was known to build.

From the Old Hill section to Coleytown; from Wilton Road to Compo South; from Longshore to Hillspoint, Frazier Forman Peters’ legacy surrounds us.

You just have to know where to look.

(Frazier Forman Peters: Westport’s Legacy in Stone is available at the Westport Historical Society, 25 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT 06880, or by mail at that address [$25 plus $5 shipping per copy]. Click on the WHS website for more information.)

 

August Laska Is GLAAD To Help

As a student at Staples, August Laska produced benefit concerts for Red Cross Haiti relief, and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

August Laska

August Laska

Before entering Middlebury College last January, he spent the fall as executive intern at a Broadway production company.

Now — working this summer at a different production firm — he’s combining his talent and skills for a new benefit.

On Monday, August 4 (7:30 p.m.), Joe’s Pub hosts “Broadway Gets GLAAD”: 10 stars providing a night of music. All proceeds benefit GLAAD, an organization fighting for positive gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender images in the media.

August is definitely stepping onto a bigger stage.

Mia Gentile

Mia Gentile

He and co-producer Kayla Greenspan have booked an all-star cast. It includes Mia Gentile — the 2007 Staples grad now starring in Forbidden Broadway — along with Marja Harmon (Book of Mormon), Ciara Renée (Pippin) and others. They’ll perform a variety of Broadway classics, old favorites and pop tunes.

All are working for free. “That’s not easy,” August notes. “Actors always like to get paid.”

In addition to helping select the singers and songs, August booked the venue. Joe’s Pub is one of the top spots in New York for shows like this.

GLAAD is an organization close to August’s heart.

“The Broadway community closely connected with gay issues,” the former Staples Players star says. “Instead of just giving money to a good cause, having an event like this is a great way to help promote accurate, diverse representation of LGBT people in the entertainment world.”

(For more information on “Broadway Gets GLAAD,” and to purchase tickets, click here.)

Broadway Gets GLAAD

 

 

 

Courtney Kemp Has “Starz Power”

According to the New York TimesCourtney Kemp was “a bookish child, obsessed with presidential politics and learning Yiddish.” She’s still like that: She wears a t-shirt reading “Black Nerds Unite.”

But the 1994 Staples High School graduate — who went on to Brown University, and earned a master’s in English literature at Columbia — is a highly regarded writer in the very mainstream medium of TV. Her credits include “The Good Wife” (for which she received an Emmy nomination), and “Beauty and the Beast.”

Now she’s branched out even further from bookish nerddom. She’s the creator and show runner of “Power,” a Starz series that premiered last month. In the first few episodes alone, there are shootings and fights. One man is set on fire.

Oy gevalt.

Courtney Kemp Agboh

Courtney Kemp Agboh

Known today as Courtney Kemp Agboh, she’s one of the few African American female show runners in the industry, the Times says. “Power” is the first series she ever pitched — or sold.

She was “called the N-word a lot” growing up in Westport, she says. (Her father, Herb Kemp, was a noted advertising executive.) She read college textbooks at age 8, Shakespeare at 10. She made up stories about the pieces on her chess set.

It’s a long way from the nearly-all-white Westport of the 1980s and ’90s to Sunset Gower Studios in Los Angeles, where she works today.

And where her executive producer is Curtis Jackson — better known as the rapper 50 Cent.

Courtney Kemp Agboh with her "Power" producer 50 Cent.

Courtney Kemp Agboh with her “Power” producer 50 Cent.

The Times says that Courtney came up with the idea of the show’s lead role: a man “so good at being bad that nobody in his world would really want him to be good.” That character draws both from 50 Cent and her father.

“Power” — called “a lively premium-cable riff on ‘Law & Order'” by the Times’ Alessandra Stanley — concludes its 1st season tonight. It’s been renewed for the fall.

(For the full New York Times story, click here.)