Category Archives: Looking back

What Kind Of “Character”?

We use the term often. We use it casually. We use it without thinking.

“The character of Westport.”

We invoke our town’s “character” when discussing the impact of 2 proposed residential developments, with their state-mandated “affordable housing” units.

We mention our town’s “character” during debates about downtown redesign, plans for Baron’s South, the changes in Saugatuck.

We talk about it every time an old home is torn down, and a new one is erected.

New construction in the 1950s sparked discussion of Westport's "character," just as it does today.

New construction in the 1950s sparked discussion of Westport’s “character,” just as it does today.

This is not a new topic. Westport’s “character” was discussed in the 1950s, when hundreds of new homes — and many new shopping centers — sprung up on what was previously open space.

We talked about our “character” 20 years later, during debates on busing in Bridgeport students through Project Concern. We probably talked about it 100 years earlier, when factories began replacing farms, and 100 years before that, when we were split between patriots and Tories.

But — as an alert “06880” reader points out — what exactly do we mean by “character of the town”?

What is our town’s character? Who defines it? Does it change? If so, how do we acknowledge our town’s new character?

Those are just a few questions about Westport’s “town character.” I’m sure there are more. And I’m sure everyone has his or her own answers, explanations and insights.

We’d like to hear yours. Click “Comments” — and please, use your full, real name.

Who decides the "character" of a place like downtown? Who describes it? Who recognizes if -- and when -- it changes? (Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

Who decides the “character” of a place like downtown? Who describes it? Who recognizes if — and when — it changes? (Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

 

Westport’s PR Pioneer Turns 103

When Joyce Clarke was growing up, few jobs were open to women. She didn’t want to teach, so she took a YMCA course to learn about secretarial duties.

She took a temporary job in a small New York City firm. “I didn’t know what they did, but they were very nice people,” she recalled last week in her warm, sunlit Saugatuck Shores home. “I learned a lot.”

What they did was public relations. Joyce was ready to live out her career as a secretary. But war intervened, and when her boss was called away, her life changed.

That would be World War II. Yes, it was a while ago. On February 11, Joyce — who went on to found a pioneering, legendary women-led PR firm — celebrates her 103rd birthday.

Joyce Clark, in her Saugatuck Shores home.

Joyce Clarke, in her Saugatuck Shores home.

She formed the company with Sally Dickson, a Westport woman whose family was known here for its heating and plumbing business. Starting with $500, a typewriter, telephone and 1-room office, they found a niche  — and succeeded nicely — in a very male-dominated profession.

Sally Dickson & Associates concentrated on “home ec”-style accounts. They were hired by a Fortune 500 company that became the largest American supplier of rayon; helped revive the Good Housekeeping “Seal of Approval”; created a pattern contest for Vogue that was featured in Life Magazine; wrote a book called “A Woman’s Guide to Financial Planning,” and spent 23 years managing the Ocean Spray cranberry account.

Sally Dickson & Associates had a long relationship with Good Housekeeping magazine.

Sally Dickson & Associates had a long relationship with Good Housekeeping magazine.

Good Housekeeping trusted them with a list of over 30,000 women’s clubs across the country. The firm used that gold mine to target mailings for clients like Procter & Gamble, S&H Green Stamps and Borden.

“It was good to be a woman in that industry,” Joyce says. Her vision is gone, and she does not hear perfectly. But — 3 years past the century mark — her mind is incredibly sharp. She remembers names and dates perfectly.

She spent her career in PR because she liked “the freedom of using my mind inventively. I could decide what to do, express my ideas, and then go out and do it.”

The firm’s warm, stylish offices became a comfortable hangout for clients (including men). Account executives brought their daughters to talk to the female founders.

The only discrimination Joyce and Sally faced was from a banker, who said he was not in business to finance “young women.”

Sally Dickson & Associates grew to a staff of 30. Most were female. In 1971 the firm was sold to Donald Creamer. The women continued working, retiring in 1980.

On TV, women served men in the "Mad Men" era. But Joyce Clark and Sally Dickson stood on their own feet.

On TV, women served men in the “Mad Men” era. But Joyce Clarke and Sally Dickson had other ideas.

“In the ‘Mad Men’ era, Joyce and Sally found a way to put females in the forefront,” says Matthew Cookson, founder of his own PR firm who also teaches about the history of the profession.

“That’s important, because the majority of consumers were women. She was excellent at networking, personal relationships, and partnering with clients over the long term.”

Westporter Kim Shaw interned at the firm Joyce founded. “She retired years earlier,” Kim recalls. “But the mere mention of her name commanded such enthusiasm and respect. She was a trailblazer among trailblazers.”

Near the end of their career, Joyce and Sally bought several lots on Saugatuck Shores. On one, they built a home. Sally died in 1999, at 86. Joyce still lives there.

Buying those waterfront properties was “a very good investment,” Joyce laughs knowingly.

The Silver Anvil is one of the highest honors in the public relations industry.

The Silver Anvil is one of the highest honors in the public relations industry.

She regrets very few things. (One is selling her New York City co-op.) She is proud of her work, as a professional as well as a woman. (In 1945 the firm earned one of the first prestigious Silver Anvil awards ever, from the precursor of the Public Relations Society of America.)

“Being women worked for us, not against us,” Joyce says. ” We weren’t the greatest agency in the world, but we were successful enough to be hired!”

In the 21st century, Americans marvel at the long-ago, male-centric world portrayed in “Mad Men.”

But in real live New York — starting 2 decades earlier — Joyce Clarke and Sally Dickson were quietly, determinedly and very effectively proving that women could play that game, too.

On February 11, Joyce turns 103. She’s still going strong.

Danish House Follow-Up: No, No, It Really Is The Philippines!

This morning’s “06880” post — about the 1964-65 World’s Fair Danish Pavilion that ended up in Westport — started out:

It’s an urban suburban myth: The Philippines (or Indonesian) (or Danish) pavilion from the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair ended up as a residence at the end of Compo Cove.

The piece described how the Danish pavilion actually became a Danish furniture store near the Sherwood Island connector. In the final paragraph, I wondered whether that was the same house everyone speculates is on Compo Cove.

I should have checked with Fred Cantor first.

The very alert “06880” reader/avid historical researcher sent along a document from 1991. The 11-page application to the National Park Service — signed by state historic preservation officer John Shannahan — requests that 22 buildings comprising the “Mill Cove Historic District” be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Here’s the interesting part: One of the cottages at the south end of the district has “an unusual history. Originally, this building was a bamboo hut built for the Phillipine [sic] Exhibit at the St. Louis Exposition in the late nineteenth century [sic]; it was dismantled and re-erected on this site about 1900.”

(Well, a bit later. The Exposition was held in 1904.)

The houses that came from the Philippine Exhibit are at the far right in this Google Maps photo. Beyond them (to the right) is Sherwood Island State Park. To the left is the path leading to Old Mill Beach.

The houses that came from the Philippine Exposition are at the far right in this Google Maps photo. Beyond them (to the right) is Sherwood Island State Park. To the left is the path leading to Old Mill Beach.

But wait! There’s more! “A smaller cottage to the rear is also a re-built bamboo hut but it has retained its form and some exterior materials.”

UPDATEAlert reader SW Reid posted in a comment (below): “Brooks Jones built the guest house behind the ‘pavilion’ maybe 25 years ago. He wanted the unit to look like the original structure on the water.”

So there you have it. The house is Filipino, not Danish. But how and why it ended up in Westport remains a mystery.

Until, that is, Fred finds out.

BONUS FUN FACTSThe 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair — also called the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition — was built to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the purchase of the Louisiana Territory by the US from France.

The Philippine Exhibit was the largest (47 acres, 100 buildings), most expensive ($2 million) and most popular at the entire fair.

A bird's-eye view of the mammoth Philippine Exhibit.

A bird’s-eye view of the mammoth Philippine Exhibit.

There were about 1,100 Filipinos at the Philippine Exhibit. They were shown in various stages of cultures, from primitive to highly cultured.

The head-hunting, dog-eating Igorots were the greatest attraction at the Philippine Exhibit, not only because of their novelty, the scanty dressing of the males and their daily dancing to the tom-tom beats, but also because of their appetite for dog meat which is a normal part of their diet.

(Hat tip to Virgilio R. Pilapil — and Google — for the above information. Read much more from him about the Philippine Exhibit by clicking here.)

Philippine Exhibition

 

Has Anyone Seen The Danish Pavilion?

It’s an urban suburban myth: The Philippines (or Indonesian) (or Danish) pavilion from the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair ended up as a residence at the end of Compo Cove.

I’ve walked that path — from Old Mill Beach all the way to the edge of Sherwood Island — and I’ve seen that modern-looking, glass-and-wood house. It’s intriguing — but a former World’s Fair pavilion? C’mon!

Yet a recent email from alert “06880” reader/former Westporter/World’s Fair fanatic Doug Davidoff may shed some light on the legend. At the same time, it raises more than a few mysteries itself.

Doug sent along a clipping from the October 16, 1965 Bridgeport Post. It read:

The Denmark Pavilion at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. (Photo/BrickFetish.com)

The Denmark Pavilion at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair. (Photo/BrickFetish.com)

“The prize-winning Danish pavilion at the World’s Fair has been purchased by the Laerkesen Furniture company, 1400 East State street [Post Road East], and will be relocated here on a two-acre tract adjacent to the Sherwood Island connector.”

The Bridgeport Post story described the 130-by-80-foot pine-and-plate-glass building as designed to be disassembled, then reconstructed “like a giant erector set.”

A “World’s Fair Community” website story from 2001 provides further details. Citing a New York Times account of November 22, 1964, it said the structure was planned to be called Laerkesen’s Denmark House, and would display the company’s Danish furniture and household equipment. The “Tivoli Playground” and “Little Mermaid” reconstruction were also to be included. The pavilion — built for $1.2 million — had been bought for $40,000, and would cost $465,000 to move and rebuild.

A poster touting the Denmark Pavilion.

A poster touting the Denmark Pavilion.

The story added that Laerkesen’s owner Dominick DeCecco had outgrown his original store at 1460 Post Road East (now the Pier 1 shopping center). The new location would be “on the Boston Post Road at the juncture of Route 18 in Westport.”

Of course, there is no “Route 18.” This must have referred to the Sherwood Island connector, heading to the Connecticut Turnpike (now I-95) Exit 18.

The 2001 website story challenged readers to find “Laerkesen’s Denmark House.” (The name came from DeCecco’s wife, the former Dorthe Laerkesen.)

No one could.

Perhaps the “06880” community can crowd-source this. If you remember Laerkesen’s Denmark House — where it was, what it looked like, or anything else — click “Comments” below.

And if you can provide proof that it’s the same building that now sits as a handsome home at the end of Compo Cove — well, fantastisk.

Worlds Fair postcard

 

 

 

Behind The Baron

The Baron is back in the news.

For years, Westporters have talked about “Baron’s South” — the hilly, wooded 30 acres of municipal land, once owned by “the Baron” between South Compo Road and Imperial Avenue. (“Baron’s South” differentiates it from the old “Baron’s property,” the 32 acres across the Post Road on North Compo, renamed Winslow Park after the town bought it nearly 3 decades ago.)

The Baron’s house — Golden Shadows — is in the news too, as Westport debates what to do with that perhaps historic, perhaps blah 1959 home on Baron’s South.

But who was this guy? Was he a real baron? Or was this just a high-falutin’, self-styled nickname, the way Elvis Presley called himself “The King”?

Golden Shadows perfume, by Evyan.

Golden Shadows perfume, by Evyan.

He’s legit. His real name was Walter Langer, aka Baron Walter Langer von Langendorff of Austria. But I guess barons also need day jobs, so he became a chemist (and a Ph.D. doctor).

He founded Evyan Perfumes in the mid-1930s, bought the South Compo estate in 1967, and lived there until his death in 1983. Evyan was meant to “challenge the French perfume industry.”

His wife — the baronness — was British-born Evelyn Diane Westall. She was also known as “Lady Evyan.”

I know this thanks in part to Wendy Crowther. She loves the Baron’s property, and wants to preserve his home. She sent along a couple of fascinating articles.

An ad for White Shoulders perfume.

An ad for White Shoulders perfume.

One — from the “Vintage Perfume Vault” blog (“Where the scent of yesterday’s vogue lives”) — says that Evyan’s famed White Shoulders perfume was launched in the 1940s. It’s remained very popular, through Evyan’s sale to Elizabeth Arden. It may even be “the iconic American fragrance.”

(Fun factIt was named, perhaps, for Lady Evyan’s beautiful white shoulders.)

Wendy also sent a link to a 1987 New York Times story. Back then, all eyes were focused on the baron’s North Compo Road land. A referendum — ultimately successful — was held on whether to acquire the property by condemnation.

The cost was $8.75 million, and the town wanted to act quickly. With the baron’s estate “tangled” thanks to 5 wills and many legatees, the cost was expected to rise in the future.

The baron had bought it in 1970 — 3 years after purchasing his South Compo estate. He was seen as a savior, since the previous owner — developer Albert Phelps — wanted to put a B. Altman shopping center there. (Click here for a fascinating story on the previous history of what is now Winslow Park, including a sanitarium and the most luxurious estate in Westport.)

The Golden Shadows house, looking southwest. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

The Golden Shadows house, looking southwest. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

But back to Baron’s South, and “Golden Shadows.” The estate — which at one point included not only his house but others on the land, plus magnificent gardens and arbors — got its name from another Evyan perfume.

Golden Shadows — the scent — was launched in 1950. The Baron created it himself. The New Yorker called it a “first cousin” to White Shoulders (with a “more nonchalant mien”).

Baron’s South will be a major topic of discussion in Westport, for months to come. We’ll talk too about the fate of Golden Shadows.

As we do, we should remember the man behind the land, the home, and the perfumes that provided the fortune that enabled him to buy — and preserve — such magnificent open space.

Alan Jolley’s Ultimate Adventure

In his 49 years as a Staples math teacher, Alan Jolley has earned tremendous respect and admiration. Future engineers and mathphobes alike look forward to his “Jolley calls” — phone messages to parents saying their kids have done well.

At last, he’s been inducted into a Hall of Fame.

For Frisbee.

Ultimate Frisbee is Jolley’s 2nd love. He founded Staples’ team — the 2nd in the nation — and coached it to national renown. Now he, and 1974 graduates Ed Davis, Ron Kaufman and Dan Buckley, have been recognized for their contributions, as members of the Ultimate Frisbee Hall of Fame. They’re honored as “Johnny Appleseeds,” for helping grow the sport following its founding at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey.

Dan Buckley, Alan Jolley and Ed Davis, at a Staples Ultimate Frisbee reunion several years ago.

Dan Buckley, Alan Jolley and Ed Davis, at a Staples Ultimate Frisbee reunion in 2009.

Columbia High was Jolley’s alma mater, in 1960. Six years later, he arrived at Staples. In 1970 his sister sent him rules for a new sport being played at Columbia.

Some of Jolley’s students — and other teenagers he knew from his work with Boy Scouts and a church youth group — loved tossing Frisbees. He told them about this new “Ultimate Frisbee.”

The group played on an unkempt field behind the old 9 Building, at the east end of Staples. (Field hockey players chased them away, with sticks.) With no other teams in the area, they scrimmaged themselves.

Back then, he was Jon Steinberg. Today this same guy is State Representative Jonathan Steinberg.

Back then, he was Jon Steinberg. Today this same guy is State Representative Jonathan Steinberg.

They created a “uniform” of blue jeans and a light blue turtleneck, with a Staples monogram on the front and “FriSbee” on the back (get it?). Many guys — and girls — wore red bandannas.

They encouraged Weston High to form a team, and played them on April 5, 1973. Staples won 24-9, in the 1st interscholastic Frisbee game in Connecticut. It was also the 1st known coed interscholastic sports event.

On April 14, Staples hosted Columbia High, in the 1st known interstate coed match. Staples beat the sport’s inventors, 18-8. (To be fair, the guests were missing several players.)

But Staples — in fun — declared themselves “National Champions.” The National Observer sent a reporter from Washington to write about the team. His article appeared on May 12, 1973.

Ron Kaufman today.

Ron Kaufman today.

After graduation, the 3 players inducted recently with Jolley continued to evangelize for the sport.

Kaufman has been particularly active. He founded the Ultimate team at Brown University, then sold “flying disc” equipment by mail, through a California store and online.

Kaufman organized a national series of Frisbee festivals (with Wham-O sponsorship), and created World Peace Tours to China and the Soviet Union featuring Frisbee demonstrations, festivals and tournaments.

He asked, “How can you drop a bomb on somebody you’ve played Frisbee with in Red Square?”

By that time, though, Staples’ Ultimate Frisbee team was just a memory. Jolley disbanded it in the late 1970s, after issues with school administrators over issues like insurance.

What a buzzkill.

1973 frisbee team

Staples’ 1973 Ultimate Frisbee team. Alan Jolley is at far left.

 

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead

From the 1920s “lost generation” expats in Paris to the beat poets of 1950s’ Greenwich Village, cultural history resonates with moments in time when great, creative people came together unexpectedly. Without planning to, they created movements of outsize influence.

Perhaps the most famous National Lampoon cover of all time.

Perhaps the most famous National Lampoon cover of all time.

That’s what happened at the National Lampoon in the 1970s. A wildly outrageous, semi-demented group of men and women joined forces to whack social taboos, from politics and race to sex and religion. Nothing was sacred.

Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase and like-minded talents used an irreverent magazine to launch records and movies (“Animal House,” “National Lampoon’s Vacation”) that changed the face of comedy, culture — perhaps even America itself.

For years, filmmakers — including an Oscar-winner — tried to capture that special moment. All those projects imploded.

Now Westporter Doug Tirola and Susan Bedusa have done it.

Their company — 4th Row Films — is in the final, frantic post-production days of “Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon.” The 93-minute documentary weaves never-before-seen archival footage with the magazine’s beautiful and often shocking art, in a film that is already drawing praise and attention.

The National Lampoon crowd, in the 1970s.

The National Lampoon crowd, in the 1970s.

There’s much more to come. It premieres this Sunday (January 25) at the very prestigious, make-or-break-a-movie Sundance Film Festival.

As a kid in Westport, Tirola saw “Animal House” twice at the Fine Arts Theater. He scavenged for new issues of National Lampoon at Bill’s Smoke Shop. He hauled the now-legendary Lampoon 10th Anniversary Anthology from grad school to his 1st apartment to his home here, when he moved back.

Susan Bedusa and Doug Tirola.

Susan Bedusa and Doug Tirola.

After batting around the idea of a Lampoon history film, Susan Bedusa — a fellow Staples graduate, and Tirola’s longtime producing partner — convinced him to contact the Lampoon‘s owners. At a meeting in Los Angeles, they said they’d cooperate — if the original magazine owners signed off on the concept.

Coincidentally, at the height of its popularity, Lampoon publisher and “Animal House” producer Matty Simmons owned a summer home on Lamplight Lane. Belushi, Radner and other stars came here for parties.

Tirola got the rights to the story — including the artwork that was an important part of the magazine. National Lampoon launched the careers of artists who went on to work at the New Yorker, and for “The Simpsons” and “Home Alone.”

Now it’s a race to finish the sound mixing and color correction. Then it’s on to Sundance, and the Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead premiere.

Afterwards, there will be a party.

Togas are optional.

 

Jeff Seaver Recalls A Constellation Of Stars

Last month’s post about “I Love Lucy” and Westport’s Minuteman statue — plus many of the characters in that story — struck a chord with alert “06880” reader/longtime resident Jeff Seaver. He writes:

I first experienced Westport at age 17, visiting the family of a college friend. Ralph and Betty Alswang lived on Fraser Lane. He was a theater designer of note, and we became friends. Eventually he took me under his wing as an intern in theater architecture. (Mercifully, he later suggested I leave the field and “try something more fun.”) In the meantime I helped work on Lucille Lortel’s White Barn and Playwrights Horizons, among other projects.

At the Alswang home I was exposed to an astonishing collection of the special denizens of Westport. This included the Alswangs themselves, Bob and Eileen Weiskopf, and their delightful children.

Ralph and Betty’s house on Fraser Lane had once been the studio of the sculptor James Earle Fraser. With its stone walls, imposingly large doors and windows, and dark slate roofs, the house was an architectural marvel. I understand that Fraser found the villa in Italy, purchased it and had it disassembled and brought here — along with Italian masons — to be reconstructed, stone by stone.

James Earle Fraser and his bust of Theodore Roosevelt, around 1921.

James Earle Fraser and his bust of Theodore Roosevelt, around 1921.

I am told that Fraser’s original for the cast bronze equestrian sculpture of Theodore Roosevelt with an American Indian (now standing at the entrance to the American Museum of Natural History) was created within those walls. Sculptures were rolled out through the 2-story-tall swinging doors on to a massive concrete loading dock, later converted into a patio.

Ralph and Betty had a lively, eccentric home life: 3 vibrant, smart kids; a pair of neurotic Siamese cats; dogs here and there; huge spreads of food; lots of laughter, storytelling and music; remarkable friends, and deeply held — usually radical — political views, loudly expressed over meals.

Ralph was a larger-than-life character. He built a coffee table sturdy enough to stand on to facilitate the delivery of his fabled orations: smart, opinionated, always hysterically funny. And everyone, it seemed — especially my college chums — had secret crushes on Betty.

The Alswang home was open to neighbors and friends like Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Sydney Poitier and their families; director Otto Preminger; actor Gary Merrill (who had been married to Bette Davis); attorney Leonard Boudine (who lived across the street); Lucille Lortel, and many others.

Some were luminaries, some mere mortals, but all of them fascinating, talented folk. I would stumble out of Ralph’s studio, bleary-eyed from work, and find an assembly of guests lounging over coffee at the outsize dining table or enjoying the sun in back. As a naive teenager, I assumed this lifestyle must be how all adults lived.

Ralph Alswang (5th from left), with a galaxy of stars as they arrivefd for a session of the House Un-American Activities Committee in Washington, D. The group includes June Havoc, John Huston, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Danny Kaye, Jane Wyatt and Ira Gershwin.

Ralph Alswang (5th from left), with a galaxy of stars as they arrived for a session of the House Un-American Activities Committee in Washington, D.C. The group includes June Havoc, John Huston, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Danny Kaye, Jane Wyatt and Ira Gershwin.

Sad to say, this extraordinary madness was not to last. Betty Alswang, whose beauty (she was a model in her youth) was matched by her wits, died from cancer. As sometimes happens, Ralph died of a heart attack not long afterward. It was a heartbreaking loss, and the aftershocks left holes in many lives.

But the children carried on the tradition of style, talent and smarts. The Weiskopfs’ son Kim, who became a friend, went on to some celebrity as a TV writer in California. Fran Alswang became a TV producer, working with Michael Moore among others. Hope Alswang has a distinguished career as a curator of the decorative arts at various museums. Ralph Alswang was, among other things, official White House photographer for the Clinton administration. The Poitier children who once scampered around the house have found their own special callings.

Ralph and Betty and their circle remain emblematic for me of the greatest attributes Westport had to offer, when its gravitational pull attracted a constellation of brilliant lights in the theater, visual and literary arts.

Given the changes over the past 30 years in Westport, I’m skeptical such a powerful confluence could occur here again. But I feel blessed to have been invited in briefly, if only as a spectator, during that special time.

Jeff Seaver

Jeff Seaver

I later set about crafting my own dynasty. I got as far as designing and building a beautiful loft in Chelsea, filling it with Siamese cats, and marrying another talented artist.

In 1999, after 25-plus years of carving out a successful career as an artist in New York, I began searching for a life outside of the city. I wanted our 5-year-old daughter to experience exotic, rarefied things like grass, birds and squirrels.

One evening, while scouting locations in Connecticut, I looked up and recognized the road that leads to Longshore. I crossed over from there to Compo Beach, parked by the legendary cannons and stared out across the beach, flooded with recollections. I stopped over at Allen’s Clam House, and took a drive back up north to Fraser Lane, where so many other wonderful memories came flooding back.

Poof — the decision was made.

Historic Designation Sought For Golden Shadows

The best use of the Baron’s South property is still a subject of debate.

But a group of Westporters want to make sure that whatever it is, it includes Golden Shadows.

The 1959 Colonial Revival-style structure — built as a private residence by the perfume magnate Baron Walter von Langendorff (hence the perfume-scented name “Golden Shadows”) — sits in the middle of the hilly property, between South Compo Road and Imperial Avenue.

It’s unoccupied — save for some books stored there by the library, and perhaps some woodland creatures — but it’s still in decent condition.

Golden Shadows, looking southwest. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

Golden Shadows, looking southwest. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

Golden Shadows is listed on Westport’s Historic Resources Inventory. Last April, the Historic District Commission voted unanimously to support its designation as a Local Historic Landmark Property. Now, concerned Westporters want the RTM to weigh in with their vote too.

“On the heels of the Planning and Zoning Open Space Subcommittee’s January 8 vote to recommend re-zoning Baron’s South as open space,” a petition submitted to the RTM reads, “we thought it might also be an appropriate time to establish similar protections for Golden Shadows.”

The petition says that the home could be re-purposed as office space, event space or some other municipal use. (New Canaan did something similar with Waveny Park; Norwalk did it with Cranbury Park.)

The “landmark” designation would help conserve the building’s historic features, preventing it from demolition or inappropriate alteration, while also permitting the town to earn a grant for a needs assessment and plan of preservation.

A view into the central parlor shows a chandelier and circular staircase.  (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

A view into the central parlor shows a chandelier and circular staircase. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

The designation would not force the town to do anything. But it does raise Golden Shadow’s profile, and — if passed — flags it as something the RTM deems important.

2015 will see continued debate on Baron’s South. Now, that debate will include a possibly historic landmark home, standing right in its midst.

Waterbury: Where Westport Minnybuses Go To Die

Or, at least one of them does.

Jennifer Sabella is a 1982 Staples graduate. She lives in Litchfield now. For years she’s passed by a junkyard near the Route 8 Colonial Avenue exit in Waterbury.

Deep in the woods — almost hidden by brush — she spotted an old Westport Minnybus.

Jennifer DeJesus Sabella's 1975 and '76 Minnybus passes.

Jennifer DeJesus Sabella’s 1975 and ’76 Minnybus passes.

Back in the day, they were Westport’s cutting-edge (yet diesel-belching) transportation technology. Driving fixed routes, they ferried people — mostly kids — around town. At least one parent was known to park kids on a Minnybus for a round-trip or two, using it as a vehicular babysitter.

At least 10,000 youngsters used it as a place to escape home, smoke cigarettes, make out.

Jennifer always wanted to take a photo. But that stretch of highway is busy. The junkyard entrance is hard to find. And there’s (of course) a barking dog.

The other day though, there was very little traffic. She pulled over.

And she recorded this little bit of Westport history, now rusting quietly away in the Valley.

Minnybus in Waterbury