Category Archives: Downtown

The Way We Were — And Are (Sequel)

If you’re like most “06880” readers, you enjoyed this morning’s photographic trip down memory lane.

You admired the photos. They jogged memories — or, if you’re a newcomer (or just young), you tried to imagine the Westport of yore.

If you were Mark Potts though, you headed straight to Google Street View.

Mark — a 1974 Staples grad who co-founded WashingtonPost.com, served as editor of Philly.com, and is a consultant with clients like the Los Angeles TimesVariety and Silicon Valley startups — now lives in Lawrence, Kansas.

But his heart is still here. And one of his many hobbies is taking creating “then and now” images with “06880” photos. (Click here for last October’s shots.)

Today’s batch was tough, he says. A few unusual photo angles could not be duplicated (the Merritt Parkway shot, for example, was taken from the side of the road). And Mark couldn’t figure out where the Post Road import car shop was.

But the rest worked out fairly well. Enjoy his trip back in time — and back to the present.

Then and now 1 - Saugatuck

Then and now 2 - train station

Then and now 3 - train station

Then and now 4 - downtown

Then and now 5 - Merritt Parkway exit 41

 

The Way We Were

For some reason, people have started emailing me great photos of the Westport of yore.

I know plenty of “06880” readers like them. Longtime residents, expats, even recent arrivals appreciate seeing where what’s changed in our town — and what hasn’t. (Click on or hover over any photo to enlarge it.)

So, without further ado:

A dealer called simply “Foreign Cars” did business on the Post Road near the Southport line, just past Barker’s (or, as we know it today, Super Stop & Shop).

Foreign cars - 1950s - Post Road
This looks familiar: near the train station. In the 1950s, it was Frank Reber and Charlie Cole’s Imported Cars. This photo, and the one above, came from Hemmings Daily, thanks to David Pettee.

Frank Reber and Charlie Coles Imported Cars

A few years earlier, this was the scene around the corner, at the train station. There’s Black Horse Liquors on the corner. The newsstand was Baer’s.

Train station 1950s - courtesy Debbie Rosenfield
Here’s the eastbound view. Both photos are courtesy of Debbie Rosenfield.

Train station 1950s eastbound - courtesy Debbie Rosenfield
This 1949 view of downtown comes (as do all the photos below it) from the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut, via Brian Pettee. Colgan’s Pharmacy was where Tiffany sits today. Across Taylor Place was the trolley-shaped diner. Opposite that — hidden by trees — was the small park behind the old Westport Library. And that car in the middle of the intersection? It was turning onto the Post Road from Main Street, which had 2-way traffic.

Downtown 1948 - copyright Thomas J. Dodd Research Center UConn
Main Street Mobil occupied the current site of Vineyard Vines. In the distance you can see what for many years was Westport Pizzeria.

Main Street Mobil station 1949 - copyright Thomas J Dodd Research Center UConn
Back when the Merritt Parkway was for motoring, this was the signage (watch out for those jagged edges!).

Merritt Parkway exit 41 sign - 1949 - copyright Thomas J Dodd Research Center UConn
And when you came off Exit 41, this is what you saw. Underneath the “Westport” arrow, the sign says “State Police 3 mi.” The barracks were located on the Post Road where Walgreens is now — opposite the diner. Pretty close to I-95 — though in 1949, the “Connecticut Turnpike” had not yet been built.

Merritt Parkway exit 41 - 1949 - copyright Thomas J Dodd Research Center UConn

Oh My 06880 — Photo Challenge #26

Summertime, and the livin’ is — well, for this week’s photo challenge Lynn U. Miller has gone to her wintry files. If you think you know where she shot this scene, click “Comments” below. Of course, add any back stories you wish.

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Meanwhile, last week’s photo challenge was the toughest yet. It took 3 days, but thanks to a cross-continental collaboration between Wendy Cusick of Norwalk and Nancy Hunter (Vancouver, British Columbia), Lynn U. Miller’s mystery was finally solved.

The image was part of a plaque from the Lions Club, commemorating America’s bicentennial in 1976. This was the clue:

Oh My 06880 - June 21, 2015

Here’s the full image:

Lions Club plaque - Jesup Green flag pole

It was located — still is, in fact — at the base of the flagpole on Jesup Green. As I said, hidden in plain sight. Lynn and I got all of you (except Wendy and Nancy!)

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

 

Downtown Changing Daily

With Bedford Square construction kicking into high gear, Westporters are treated to scenes we’ve never seen.

Like this view of Bobby Q’s patio, from Elm Street:

Bobby Q patio

Meanwhile, across the way in the Baldwin parking lot, workers are busily converting the Kemper-Gunn House into the home of Serena & Lily:

Kemper Gunn house

Want a different view? Developer David Waldman offers 2 drone videos of downtown.

The first (click here) shows the Bedford Square project and environs. The second (click here) is a broader perspective, including the Saugatuck River and former Save the Children property — the next property set for redevelopment.

A view of downtown, from David Waldman's drone.

A view of downtown, from David Waldman’s drone.

No Moon This jUNe

This Saturday (June 27), Westport marks its 50th jUNe Day.

For half a century on the last Saturday of June, we’ve welcomed guests from the UN. Lawyers, staff members, security guards — they and their families come here for a full day of sports, beach-going, shopping and fun.

You’d think the organizers would go all out to celebrate 50 years. They’d plan great new activities. Shoot off fireworks. Bring Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to town for a ceremonial something.

Not gonna happen.

Longshore is a favorite destination for jUNe Day guests. (Photo/Carroll Hubbard)

Longshore is a favorite destination for jUNe Day guests. (Photo/Carroll Hubbard)

In keeping with the theme of jUNe Day — a low-key chance for UN workers to get out of the city, and Westport to show off its beauty and hospitality — the event will consist of the usual: a brief hello at Saugatuck Elementary School (10:30 a.m.), then the rest of the day filled with soccer, tennis and golf; tours of Earthplace, the Westport Historical Society, downtown and the Westport Arts Center — and of course, Compo Beach.

Okay, the welcome ceremony will include Senator Richard Blumenthal and recent UN special coordinator for the Ebola risis Tony Banbury. But Banbury lives in Westport. And Blumenthal shows up anywhere there’s a camera.

Children of UN staffers enjoy Wakeman Town Farm. Many UN families seldom leave New York, jUNe Day organizers note. (Photo/Carroll Hubbard)

Children of UN staffers enjoy Wakeman Town Farm. Many UN families seldom leave New York, jUNe Day organizers note. (Photo/Carroll Hubbard)

For all the joy, fun and relaxation it brings more than 300 UN folks and their families, jUNe Day is organized by a tiny group. Just a few core volunteers plan everything. (UN, and every other governmental organization: Take note!)

Michaela MacColl got involved 15 years ago, at the invitation of jUNe Day founder Ruth Steinkraus Cohen. MacColl — whose day job is children’s author — liked what she saw. When Steinkraus Cohen died, MacColl took over.

“I love Westport, but sometimes I’m frustrated by the homogeneity,” MacColl — a 20-year resident — says. “For one day, things are different.” Last year, 35 countries were represented at jUNe Day. (Their flags are the ones you’ll see flying on the appropriately named Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge this Saturday.)

On jUNe Day, the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge brims with flags from around the world. (Photo/Jeff Simon)

On jUNe Day, the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge brims with flags from around the world. (Photo/Jeff Simon)

“It’s always nice to see people gob-smacked by Westport’s beauty,” MacColl says. “But they also meet very kind people here. Westporters really like showing off the town, and they help out in any way they can.”

Local businesses do too. Most of the food is donated by area businesses. (The kitchen is run by a teenager, William Amon.)

Little things stand out. A Syrian family is always the first to arrive, MacColl says. They’ve come every year since their son was born. He’s 20 now.

The weather is usually fantastic. One year though, it rained hard. A Filipino man came, with 2 small children. He told MacColl he’d considered staying in New York. But when he thought about how much work Westport put into the event, he realized he had to be here.

Fifty years is indeed a great achievement. But you won’t see or hear jUNe Day organizers boasting about it on Saturday.

They’ll be too busy helping 300 guests, from all over the globe.

(Volunteers are always needed. To help, contact Andrea Dostal: 203-526-3275; andreasusa@yahoo.com. For more information, contact Michaela MacColl at 203-227-9461, or Bill Hass at 203-454-7685.)

United Nations

Westport’s Ultimate Selfie

Church Lane was closed to vehicles today.

It was filled instead with budding Miggs Burroughses — and the actual artist himself.

Miggs Burroughs paints former first selectman and Westportnow founder Gordon Joseloff.

Miggs Burroughs paints former first selectman and WestportNow founder Gordon Joseloff.

Dozens of Westporters — and visitors from as far as Venezuela — traced family members, friends and random strangers on the blue construction fence surrounding the Bedford Square downtown development project.

Then they picked up paint brushes, and added color — lots of it. The fence will remain up for another 2 years.

There was paint for everyone on Church Lane today.

There was paint for everyone on Church Lane today.

The event — “Westport Paints the Town” — continues through 3 p.m. today. It’s co-sponsored by the Westport Arts Center, Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and Westport Downtown Merchants Association. Turner Construction donated the paint.

Artists, models and supervisors, all hard at work on Church Lane.

Artists and supervisors, all hard at work on Church Lane.

Dereje Tarrant -- a rising 3rd grader at Saugatuck Elementary School -- waits for his mom Zoe to wash a brush. On the wall behind them are images of Dereje and his  dad Tom.

Dereje Tarrant — a rising 3rd grader at Saugatuck Elementary School — waits for his mom Zoe to wash a brush. On the wall behind them are images of Dereje and Zoe.

This little boy was so intent on his creation, he couldn't stop to give his name.

This little boy was so intent on his creation, he couldn’t stop to give his name.

Marla Velez is from Venezuela. She came to Westport with Maria Velez, from Shelton, just for the chance to paint the wall.

Marla Velez is from Venezuela. She came to Westport with Maria Velez, from Shelton, just for the chance to paint the wall.

Jahmane -- the member of the Westport Artists Collective who painted the Minute Man at the east end of the wall -- traced yours truly. In the shot above, he's adding a soccer ball to the wall.

Jahmane — the Westport Artists Collective member who painted the Minute Man at the east end of the wall — traced yours truly. In the shot above, he’s adding a soccer ball to the wall. (Photo/Helen Klisser During)

Alex Andra lives around the corner, on Main Street. She broke up the parade of people, by drawing a cat.

Alex Andra lives around the corner, on Main Street. She broke up the parade of people, drawing this creature.

Duvian Montoya honored the Saugatuck rowers with this painting. (Photo/Helen Klisser During)

Duvian Montoya honored the Saugatuck rowers with this painting. (Photo/Helen Klisser During)

Meanwhile, work continued on Bedford Square during the

Meanwhile, work continued on Bedford Square during the “Westport Paints the Town” event. Construction is expected to take 2 years.

“Welcome To Westport” Video: The Back Story

As the “Welcome to Westport” video continues to rocket around cyberspace — and rack up comments — a bit of background adds some intriguing context.

The film was a group project on “satire” for an Advanced Placement English Language class. While I credited Nick Ribolla for it alone, he wrote and directed it with Jimmy Ray Stagg and Harrison Knapp. It was filmed all in 1 day.

But wait! There’s more!

Part of the inspiration came from a 1985 video called “Westport’s Got It All.” Produced by MCA as a gift for the town’s 150th anniversary, it was a very upbeat ode to the town.

Nick, Jimmy Ray and Harrison subtly satirized the cheesy music, and the opening scene of a man with a newspaper on the banks of the Saugatuck — though I’m sure the Staples juniors have no idea that guy was famed “ABC Wide World of Sports” anchor and Westport resident Jim McKay.

Nick Ribolla (right) channels Jim McKay.

Nick Ribolla (right) channels Jim McKay.

The final line — “Westport’s got it all!” — is a direct ripoff of the 30-year-old video. That’s the mark of great satire: It works for everyone, but it’s especially sweet for those who are in on a deeper joke.

Back in 1985, here’s what Westporters were saying about their town:

  • “I’m worried the town is losing its mix of a variety of people.”
  • “Westporters have extraordinary aspirations for their children. And they’re willing to pay for it.”
  • “Westport has the sophistication of New York, the exuberance of a California town, the quaintness of New England — and a sense of humor.”
  • “We do have latchkey children, as more and more parents go off to work.”
  • “The Post Road is a disaster. But every town has its Post Road. This one looks better than many.”
  • “Commercialization has really changed this town. It’s been good and bad.”

So check out “Westport’s Got It All”:

Then look (again) at “Welcome to Westport” (click here if your browser does not take you directly to YouTube.)

Now tell me Nick, Jimmy Ray and Harrison don’t deserve an A+ for satire.

Some Of You Will Love This Video. Others Will Splutter With Rage.

A video — with the innocuous title “Welcome to Westport” — has been rocketing around the interwebs. At least, that portion of cyberspace that is interested in all things our town-related.

It certainly does not make our town look like Our Town.

Created by Nick Ribolla — a very smart, multi-talented (Players, choir) and energetic Staples High School junior — it offers a teenager’s cynical eye on his hometown. As of last night, it had been viewed nearly 10,000 times.

With jangly music, clever cinematography and near-professional editing, Nick takes on (and down) much of Westport life: our values, our diversity, our drivers, our downtown.

Nick Ribolla, introducing his video.

Nick Ribolla, introducing his video.

More than a dozen “06880” readers have emailed me the link. Some think it’s hilarious. Others have called it “offensive,” “childish” and “anti-Semitic.”

I think Nick has treated everyone equally cynically. (For the record: He’s Brazilian, and a good friend in the video is Indian.)

There are hits and misses. (Though everyone will agree the scene outside Toquet Hall is spot on.)

Driving laws, Nick notes, are

Westport driving laws, Nick notes, are “completely unnecessary.”

It’s something I probably would have made when I was at Staples if I were as talented as Nick, and had all kinds of modern technology at my disposal.

And if I had made it then, I’d probably look back on it now and say, “Wow — that was pretty good. But I can’t believe I actually said…”

Judge for yourself. Here’s the video. Then click “Comments,” to let everyone know how much you do or don’t welcome “Welcome to Westport.” (If your browser does not take you directly to YouTube, click here.)

Duck!

If you’ve never been to a Sunrise Rotary Great Duck Race, here’s the poop:

You pay $20 for a toy duck — one of these:

Duck - ducks

They’re dumped in the Saugatuck River. The one that races fastest downstream earns a $5,000 Visa gift card. Nine other prizes are worth $5,000 more.

This year’s winner was American Pharoah. (Just kidding.)

There was lots more going on at Jesup Green today too. Staples’ Interact Club — a community service organization that works with the Rotarys — sponsored a 5K race.

A dunk tank featured celebrities like Planning & Zoning Commission chair Chip Stephens:

Duck - Chip Stephens

Non-profits, local businesses, even the Fire Department staffed booths. Here’s Charlie Colasurdo, student liaison at Wakeman Town Farm, showing off (of course) ducks (lower right) and an egg:

Duck - Charlie Colasurdo

There was a climbing wall too:

Duck - climbing wall

It’s all for a good cause. Before the race, Sunrise Rotary handed out $34,500 in grants, to 26 area organizations and charities.

Duck - grants

Recipients include Andrew’s Army, CLASP Homes, Connecticut Challenge, Earthplace, Mercy Learning Center, Positive Directions, Project Return and the Susan Fund.

So even if your duck didn’t win, there was plenty to smile about downtown today.

Minute Man 2.0

What can be better than Westport’s Minute Man, down by the beach?

How about a 2nd Minute Man — this one downtown?

Church Lane - 2 - Jimmy Izzo

Jimmy Izzo — the Mayor of Main Street — caught an artist in action yesterday. He was decorating the construction fence in front of the old YMCA, part of the new Bedford Square project.

His name is Jahmane. He’s based in Norwalk, and has exhibited at the Westport Arts Center (among many other places).

Let’s hope this one is not decorated the way our Minute Man friend down at Compo sometimes is.

PS: Who says Westport is no longer an artists’ colony?

Church Lane - Jimmy Izzo

(Photos/Jimmy Izzo)

Meanwhile, in related fence-painting news, the Westport Arts Center, Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and Westport Downtown Merchants Association are sponsoring a “Westport Paints The Town” event a week from tomorrow (Saturday, June 20, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.).

Individuals and families can have their “selfies” outlined on the wall by artists, or can paint their own artistic vision. A $10 per person fee helps cover artists and supply costs. (Professional artists will also participate.)

Tables and chairs will be set up on Church Lane, which will be closed to cars during the event. Restaurants including SoNo Baking Company, Spotted Horse and Pink Sumo will take orders curbside. And a DJ will add music to the art.