Category Archives: Longshore

Talkin’ Trees

As eagle-eyed Westporters spot tiny patches of green* around town, can buds on trees be far beyond?

Probably. But as the temperature climbs near 50 — be still, my heart! — it can’t hurt to talk about trees.

Tree warden Bruce Lindsay recently updated 1st Selectman Jim Marpe and the  Westport Tree Board about “tree-related accomplishments” over the past year.

Among the tree projects last year: the median on Jesup Road.

Among the tree projects last year: the median on Jesup Road.

More than 100 were planted in Westport since last spring. Sites include downtown, Town Hall, the transfer station, Staples High School, Veterans Green, Jesup Road and Longshore.

Many were donated by Planters’ Choice Nursery in Newtown. They’ve provided more for 2015, to be used for Main Street improvements, Parks and Rec plantings, on roadsides, and in Tribute Tree and Arbor Day projects.

Donations of trees, planting services and funds also came from the Westport Woman’s Club, Smith Richardson Foundation, and local residents.

In January, Public Works and the Parks and Rec Department conducted a tree inventory on 200 acres of land at Longshore and Compo Beach. The information — including species, diameter, health, risk factors, maintenance needs and potential threats — will be merged with the town’s Geographical Information System.

Ahead: an inventory of trees on all public properties. That will generate a management plan, to be used for years to come.

New trees will add to the beauty of downtown.

New trees will add to the beauty of downtown.

Westporters love our trees — until they fall on our power lines, grow dangerously old or tall, or otherwise cause concern. Thanks to our tree warden and board, it looks like we’re emerging from a long walk in the woods of neglect.

PS: Interested in volunteering with the Tree Board, or learning more about Westport’s trees? Email treewarden@westportct.gov, or call 203-341-1134.

*A color often associated with grass. 

And More Of Winter…

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow on Monday, so we’ll have 6 more weeks of winter.

The good news: Lynn U. Miller will have more time to take spectacular shots like these.

We may not love everything about this time of year. But the very talented Westport photographer helps us appreciate all that we have.

The Longshore entrance road.

The Longshore entrance road.

The Saugatuck River and Riverside Avenue, as seen from Grace Salmon Park.

The Saugatuck River and Riverside Avenue, as seen from Grace Salmon Park.

Edmund Strait Marina, at Longshore. (Photos/Lynn U. Miller)

Edmund Strait Marina at Longshore. Saugatuck Shores is in the distance.  (Photos/Lynn U. Miller)

All You Ever Wanted To Know About Coleytown, But Never Knew To Ask

Mary Gai is many things: an alert “06880” reader. A realtor. A lover of Westport history.

Those 3 elements come together in her fascinating story about the Coleytown neighborhood:

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first saw 277 North Avenue in the early 1980s. But I immediately knew I was looking at history.

Standing hundreds of feet from any road, the dramatic lines of the 1740s saltbox — constructed to avoid taxes the King of England imposed on 2-story houses — had not changed since it was built.

Amazingly, it still exists today — along with a carriage house, barn and surrounding acreage. The fact that it does is due to a series of little miracles. The first was that James Earle Fraser and Laura Gardin Fraser bought sizable chunks of Coleytown starting in 1914, including this property.

James Earle Fraser, at work on a bust of Theodore Roosevelt in his Westport studio.

James Earle Fraser, at work on a bust of Theodore Roosevelt in his Westport studio.

Westport would not be Westport if not for the Frasers.  They were the most famous residents of Westport ever (according to his 1953 obituary). The 1st polo games ever in Westport were held on their property. A year later they founded The Fairfield County Hunt Club.

They were also among the founders of the Westport Beach Club (now known as Longshore), and Shorehaven Country Club.

These politically active, internationally famous sculptors attracted to Westport a dizzying array of internationally famous visitors, including both Roosevelt first ladies, Edsel Ford, the Harvey Firestones, the Mayos, Averell Harriman, the George Patton family, famous poets, architects, writers, activists and philanthropists. Three-time Pulitzer Prize winning poet Edwin Arlington Robinson lived with them in Westport for 15 years.

Public records reveal that the Frasers intentionally purchased property to keep their neighborhood quiet enough for their creativity. They then sold some land to other artists, effectively founding Westport’s famous artists colony.

Former Fraser student and famous sculptor Lila Wheelock Howard and her illustrator husband Oscar bought the old mill and barn on Coleytown Road in 1919. Kerr Eby, world-famous artist and pacifist, bought the Coley homestead from the Frasers in 1923, just a few hundred feet from the Fraser studios. The property that he named “Driftway” became the inspiration for many of his etchings (still sold today). He lived in his beloved old saltbox for the rest of this life.

Water was an important part of the property, for many reasons.

Water was an important part of the property, for many reasons.

Heir to the Montgomery Ward fortune Ward Thorne and his wife Judith bought Driftway from the Eby estate in 1949. They lived there for the rest of their lives as well. To insure that the property be taken seriously by historians, they donated it to the Antiquarian & Landmarks society.

The current sellers are true heroes of preservation. They stabilized and restored the magnificent saltbox, insuring that it will “live on” with its 5 working fireplaces, chestnut beams, floors and gorgeous woodwork. A family addition echoes the saltbox form, and adds functionality for today. They also purchased the old mill and barn to reunite the property and the main building components, which now includes 3 antique homes, 2 barns and 10.5 acres of the original farm homestead.

277 North Avenue today. The original lines of the 1740s saltbox still remain.

277 North Avenue today. The original lines of the 1740s saltbox still remain.

The area is called “Coleytown” because of the Coley family. They farmed their land for 200 years, and had quite a sophisticated operation. Fresh water from the Aspetuck River helped grow grapes, flax, corn, onions and other crops.

The Coley wharf was located on the Saugatuck River just south of Gorham Island. Produce — including grain processed at the Coley mill — was transported on the Coley’s sloop “Nancy” to New York and Boston on a regular basis.

The c.1760 gristmill — replaced by steam power — became a cotton mill by 1840. Batting produced from Southern cotton was sent to manufacturers to fill the need for textiles in Northeastern cities. A piece of cotton mill apparatus still hangs from the barn rafters, and an original millstone decorates the riverfront landscape. A footbridge and waterfall create a gorgeous, unspoiled landscape.

The original mill house.

The original mill house.

The Frasers and 4 other owners of this property not only preserved the antique buildings and land along the Aspetuck River. They also preserved the largely forgotten village center, first called “Coley Ville.”

The mill and converted barn on Coleytown Road were the center of the little village. It included a small green, schoolhouse, shoemaker, blacksmith, yarn manufacturer, horse stables, 5 Coley homesteads, and probably a couple of other shops.

The original Coley homestead.

The original Coley homestead. (All photos courtesy of Mary Gai)

Today, the former village gristmill, barn and the Coley homestead are looking for new stewards. Let’s hope they preserve the character of this special neighborhood — one that has endured even longer than our nation itself.

(For much more information on the property, click here; then follow the “Driftway” links on the left.)

Looking To Make A Splash

Splash — the much-loved Longshore restaurant/patio bar — closed recently. Off-season business at its off-the-beaten-path location was not strong enough to make up for the summertime gold rush.

It’s now on the market. And — according to commercial realtor Skip Lane of Cushman & Wakefield — a top-notch restaurant operator ought to make a great go of it.

Splash restaurant

Splash restaurant

“It’s a fabulous location,” Lane says. He’s right: The handsome building shares space with an inn, sits smack in the middle of a golf course, fronts a postcard-perfect waterfront, and is steps away from tennis and paddle courts, a pool and skating rink.

Lane says one key is for the new owner to work more closely with all the non-summer activity (including that skating rink, and cross country skiing).

Interested in making a new splash at Longshore? Contact Lane: 203-326-5892.

Here’s The Poop On That Longshore Trash Can

It looks like another gorgeous view of the entrance to Longshore:

Longshore entrance

But look closely next to the stone pillar. See the green trash can?

Before you go all WTF on Parks and Rec, you should know this: It’s only there for the winter. With the golfers’ red trash receptables stowed for the season, this is a way for dog walkers to dispose of the little blue “gift bags” they carry (we hope) while strolling near the beach.

Now that we all know they’re there, there’s no excuse for cleaning up after Fido — then casually dumping his dumpings wherever.

2,000 Trees, And Counting

A year ago, Westporters were up in arms over the imminent removal of 15 trees from the Longshore entry drive.

We survived (though the trees did not).

This year’s Longshore tree news is that the town has hired Davey Resource Group to conduct an inventory of the trees in Longshore. All of them.

And the stumps too.

Trees are an important part of Longshore, as this aerial view shows.

There are 2,000 or so trees (and stumps) left in Longshore (minus those 15 controversial tulip poplars and Norway maples). “Specially uniformed Davey personnel” will spend 2 weeks identifying trees by genus and species.

They’ll rank them for health, structure and primary maintenance needs (removal, selective pruning, or removal of dead, dying and/or broken wood).  After the inventory, town officials will receive an action plan for a “5-year urban forest maintenance schedule and annual budget projections.”

No word on what will happen to the stumps, though.

 

Jayne Mauborgne’s Love Letter To Westport

It’s Westport’s 2nd favorite sport, after tearing down perfectly good homes: Bashing our home town. (See? I can’t resist, even in a perfectly good introduction to this story.)

But, of course, there is much — very much — to love about this place. Alert “06880” reader (and longtime Westporter) Jayne Mauborgne sent this along. She wrote it 10 years ago. A real estate agency reprinted it for potential buyers. It’s as relevant today as it was, way back at the dawn of the 21st century. Jayne said:

When I was in my late teens I traveled with my  father, who was in sales. He called on a clothing store, on Main Street.

Part of the pleasure of traveling with him was lunch. This day was no different.  We ate at a Chinese restaurant on Main Street, then took a walk in the back by the water. I remarked to my dad, “when I grow up I hope I can live in a house in Westport.” It was love at first sight.

When Jayne Mauborgne first visited Westport, the Saugatuck River lapped up against the back of Main Street stores.

When Jayne Mauborgne first visited Westport, the Saugatuck River lapped up against the back of Main Street stores.

Many years later the dream became a reality. My husband and I moved with our 2 little daughters to a lovely house in the town of my dreams.

That was 54 years ago, but the thrill of Westport never wears thin. My girls attended public schools here, getting attention one can only dream about.  Teachers were our neighbors and friends, and the caring was overwhelming.

I didn’t work when my children were young. I enjoyed the PTA, made lasting friendships, played tennis, my husband golfed at Longshore, we enjoyed the beach and 4th of July, Staples Players, wonderful restaurants, Memorial Day parades, a first-class library (even before the new building) – too many things to mention.

Nothing beats a Memorial Day parade in Westport.

Nothing beats a Memorial Day parade in Westport.

Life has changed. The girls are professional women. For the last 35 years I have owned my own business. I worked hard. But at the end of each day, just walking at the beach, watching a sunset at Compo or walking at Winslow, my thoughts stray to the wonder of this town. To the familiar faces in the supermarket. The friends and acquaintances I run into in a restaurant or just walking on Main Street. How lucky I am.

The greatest pleasure for me is Winslow Park. What forward-thinking people we have had at the helm of this town, to put 22 of the most valuable acres aside for walking, enjoying or doing nothing at all (which is a lost art in this town). How beautiful to watch the sun go down, see the dogs playing, see their owners having a few relaxed moments from their busy days, moms with carriages, joggers, kids on sleds in winter.

To have such a beach 1 mile from my house is unbelievable. An Olympic pool at Longshore, sailing, tennis courts galore, golf: what doesn’t this town have?

Longshore's charms are endless -- and timeless.

Everyone loves Longshore.

I have had occasion to call the police a few times over the years. I don’t think I have even hung up the phone when they appeared at the door. The same holds true for EMS. The dedication of the people who serve this town voluntarily. Hats off to all of you who give tirelessly of your time and energy — especially as everyone here has a point of view and wants to be heard, even if it is midnight.  And show me another town where you get to meet, eat and chat with the top executives.

Yes, I knew this was the right place for me. So I just want to say “thank you Westport.” You have given me a really nice life,  and if I am lucky I  hope for many more years of pleasure.

Fred Cantor’s Timeless Westport

As an alert “06880” reader, Fred Cantor has seen comments on every side of every debate about the changing nature of Westport.

As someone who came to Westport in 1963, Fred has seen many of those changes himself.

An accomplished attorney, film and play producer and writer, Fred has spent years taking photos around town. Recently, he asked Staples grad Casey Denton to help create a video of those shots.

Fred’s goal was simple. He wanted to document his belief that the essence of Westport’s beauty and small-town New England character — which his family discovered upon moving here over 5 decades ago — remains alive and well.

The video opens with long-ago Westport scenes. There are photos of mom-and-pop stores, the kind that filled Main Street back in the day. Obviously, that’s changed.

But most of the photos are from the recent past — many taken within the past year. And, Fred notes, they are “timeless Westport scenes.” Churches, barns, the Saugatuck bridge, the Minuteman and Doughboy statues, the Mill Pond and cannons — we are surrounded by wonderful history and spectacular beauty.

Fred knows that family businesses are very much with us. From long-time establishments (Oscar’s, Mario’s) to relative newcomers (Elvira’s, Saugatuck Sweets), there are more here than we realize.

Finally, Fred wanted to show that institutions like the Library, Westport Country Playhouse and Levitt Pavilion have been significantly upgraded over the years. The entire community benefits, Fred says, from “the strong commitment to the arts that existed when my parents brought us here over 50 years ago.”

Fred knows this is the perspective of just one near-native. But, he says — as health problems limit how far he can go from home — he is glad he can notice and appreciate more than ever what is right around all of us.

 

New Life For Old Trees

Last January, tree warden Bruce Lindsay determined that some of the mature trees in the beloved entrance drive to Longshore had reached the end of their useful lives. For safety reasons, they had to go.

This being Westport, the decision created a firestorm (figuratively). Many folks lamented the loss of the iconic and beautiful trees. Many others pointed out that nothing lasts forever — and that, though beautiful, they’d become dangerous.

The Longshore entrance road, several years ago.

The Longshore entrance road, several years ago.

The discussion on “06880” was robust. Amid the fury, several commenters suggested that the trees be repurposed for furniture, benches or in other useful ways.

The trees were removed. The entryway still looks great, thanks to the foresight of Parks and Recreation officials 20 years ago who planted replacement trees near the older ones they knew would eventually go.

Now the old trees are back — just as some smart Westporters suggested.

Tomorrow (Monday, November 10, 2 p.m.), a hand-crafted bench repurposed from those trees will be dedicated at the Westport Library, near the copy center. A pictorial exhibit depicts the entire process.

A repurposed table on display in the library.

The repurposed bench on display in the library…

Lindsay, First Selectman Jim Marpe, library director Maxine Bleiweis and “furniture artist” Zeb Essylstyn will answer questions.

Unlike most old trees — which end up in landfill or as mulch — the Longshore specimens live on handsomely. Essylstyn’s Higganum, Connecticut-based company City Bench created 2 tables, plus the library bench. The tables are on display at Town Hall.

...and the Town Hall table.

…and the Town Hall table.

All are on sale to the public. So are additional pieces that City Bench will create. A portion of the proceeds goes to the town’s Tree Fund, to support further plantings.

If you want to buy a table or bench, email info@city-bench.com, or call 860-716-8111.

To simply admire them, head to the library or Town Hall.

Stop, Thief! Thief Stopped!

Whenever we can, “06880” likes to provide public service. We also like to follow up on our stories, and tie up loose ends.

This post does all that.

Last month, a man who epitomizes the word “slimeball” posed as a wedding guest at the Inn at Longshore. He stole an ornamental bird cage used to collect congratulatory cash and checks.

He might have thought that was a bright idea. But he was not bright enough to realize there were video cameras in the lobby.

Longshore suspect

After “06880” — and many other media outlets — published photos of this lowlife, citizens responded. The Westport Police received “numerous” tips, identifying Frank Burnett of Mansfield, Connecticut as the suspect.

Our detectives did their job. They learned Burnett had attended a different Longshore wedding weeks earlier, and returned to commit the crime.

Burnett surrendered to Westport police yesterday. He was charged with larceny in the 4th degree, and posted $2,000 bond.

Frank Burnett

Frank Burnett

No word on whether the newlyweds have gotten their gifts back.