Category Archives: Organizations

Big Toot

The other day, an alert (and noise-sensitive) “06880” reader asked:

Do you have any idea how long the trains are going to blasting their horns through Westport? It started before we went away March 1st. I’m sure they must be getting a lot of complaints.

Though I live a couple of miles from the tracks, I’ve actually heard the horns myself. Well, maybe they’re car horns from drivers trying to navigate the increasingly chaotic Playhouse Square parking lot. Whatever.

I sounded out (ho ho) Aaron Donovan. He’s an MTA spokesman, and — because “06880” is “where Westport meets the world” — a 1994 Staples graduate.

He reported back:

This is a result of the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s long-term project to replace all the New Haven Line overhead wires, which were first installed in 1907. These original wires use antiquated “fixed termination” technology, which unfortunately allows the wires to sag ever so slightly during periods of high heat (it isn’t visible to the naked eye) or contract during periods of extreme cold, causing operations problems for trains. The DOT is updating the wires, more formally known as catenary, with a state-of-the-art “constant tension” system that will better accommodate the extreme temperature that can impact our region.

catenary lines

The good news is that this is the very last leg of the project. The DOT recently completed the section between Southport and Bridgeport, and are now turning attention to the section between Norwalk and Southport. In the current phase of the project, DOT’s contractors are out on the tracks digging holes to sink foundations for the gantries from which the new wire system will be suspended. For the safety of all personnel who are on or near the tracks, trains are required to sound their horns when approaching work zones.

The project is scheduled to be completed in September 2017.

Thanks, Aaron! That’s a lot more information than those signs that say “Good Service”!

(To learn even more about the DOT project, click here and here.) 

This Old House #8

Once again, last week’s “This Old House” — the photo of a local home, taken in the 1930s for a WPA project, and soon to be shown at a Westport Historical Society exhibit on old houses — remains unidentified. At least, not positively.

Educated guesses ranged from Greens Farms/Wake Robin Road and Prospect Road, to Compo Beach, to Burritt’s Landing and Duck Pond Road. In other words, all over town. Click here to see the photo and comments.

This week’s house looks a bit different from the others in this series — and we see a bit more of the surroundings too.

This Old House #8

Plus, there’s solid information on the state website, where all these WPA photos are archived:

“Circa 1835, Ryan Estate. Location: Faces east on Canal Street; north end of the street and northwest of brook near Main Street.”

Still, WHS house historian Bob Weingarten is unsure exactly where on Canal Street this house is — or if it still stands. If you know, click “Comments.”

And if you’ve got any good stories about the history of Canal Street, add those too!

Come One, Come All To The Maker Faire!

It’s crunch week, as organizers get ready for Saturday’s 4th annual Mini Maker Faire.

6,000 attendees are expected at Connecticut’s largest event focused on creativity and innovation.

Naturally, you can expect the unexpected. Like a Human Foosball table, a Nerdy Derby (Pinewood Derby with no rules), and Marshamllow Shooters.

It takes human beings to design and make a Human  Foosball Table. Hard at work last weekend were (from left) Cecilia Fung, Kerstin Rao, Michael Miller, Vijay  Rao and Jeff Boak.

It takes human beings to design and make a Human Foosball Table. Hard at work last weekend were (from left) Cecilia Fung, Kerstin Rao, Michael Miller, Vijay Rao and Jeff Boak.

The event has quickly become a highlight on Westport’s annual calendar. Over 100 “Maker” exhibitors — specializing in arts and crafts, science and engineering, robots and rockets, electric cars, boats, sustainable living, even puppets — will open their arms to anyone who likes to tinker (or hang out with those who do).

It’s a family friendly day — meaning (of course) there’s food and music too.

The poster says: “Make. Build. Design. Hack. Eat. Drink. Listen. Learn. Connect. Create. Play.”

Need another reason to go? If you register for free tickets online (to help make sure there’s enough “stuff” for everyone) — and bring your printed-out ticket to the Maker Faire — you’ll be entered in a contest to win a 3D printer.

You were expecting maybe a gift certificate? How un-Faire.

The Mini Maker Faire is this Saturday (April 25, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.) at Jesup Green and the Westport Library. Click here for more information.

Maker Faire poster

Farmers’ Market Grows Into 2nd Delicious Decade

All farmers’ markets open in a burst of optimism.

Many — up to half — don’t make it past 2 years. Most — another 30 percent — fail by year 5.

The Westport Farmers’ Market is not like most.

As the Imperial Avenue institution prepares for its 10th season, it’s not just a success. It’s flourishing wildly — reaping rewards not just for farmers and food-lovers but entire families, and even Fairfield County non-profits.

Westport Farmers Market 2Sustaining a farmers’ market for a decade is just like farming: It takes patience, persistence and plenty of hard work.

When Lori Cochran took over as executive director 5 years ago, the market was limping along. It had begun in the Westport Country Playhouse parking lot with great backing from Dressing Room owners Paul Newman and Michel Nischan, plus tremendous town support from selectmen Gordon Joseloff and Shelly Kassen.

After half a decade it was popular with a core group of shoppers and a small number of farmers. But there was no marketing, community outreach or special programming.

Working with Rebecca Howe, Lori dedicated herself to making the farmers’ market an integral part of the town. “Not to be cheesy, but all of us here live, eat and breathe this,” she says.

On the food side, Westport’s market has the strictest requirements of any in the state. All vegetables are organic. The fruit is grown without pesticides or herbicides. Anyone selling prepared food must use at least one locally produced ingredient, for every item — ideally, from another market farmer.

That develops a strong community of vendors who support each other.

Lori created a partnership with Staples High School and the Gillespie Center. The Westport Farmers’ Market buys local food; students in Staples’ culinary program prepare it, and market volunteers serve it at the homeless shelter just across Jesup Road.

Every week, the market hosts a different non-profit. The organization showcases its work. Many create special programs for market-goers.

The Farmers’ Market works closely with the Bridgeport Rescue Mission too. Members come to the market every Thursday. They collect food, donated by vendors. Back at the mission, a chef helps them use the ingredients to prepare great meals.

On the 3rd Thursday of every month, a local chef offers demonstrations. Only those who use farm-to-table ingredients participate. The waiting list is long, Lori notes.

Farmers MarketEach spring, several Staples seniors work at the market as interns. One has gone on to head up the organic market at his college; another founded a community supported agriculture organization at hers. They’ve grown up knowing the importance of a local farmers’ market.

So do younger kids. Thanks to partnerships with the Westport Library and Westport Arts Center, youngsters hear stories involving food, and make arts projects with vegetables. Lori is thrilled to help nurture a new generation of Westporters who understand the importance of farmers’ markets.

This year, the Westport market will introduce an “Ambassadors” program. “A lot of times people buy great stuff, but they get home and don’t know what to do with it all,” Lori explains. “So every month we’ll feature 1 lunch and 1 dinner recipe, featuring ingredients from the market. We’ll have ‘ambassadors’ right there, suggesting the best ways to use certain products.”

Lori Cochran-Dougall

Lori Cochran

Lori is proud that the Westport Farmers’ Market has become such an integral part of the community. (Along with its novel addition, the 4-year-old Winter Market held at Gilberties’ Herb Garden.)

“Westport is an incredibly dynamic, supportive place,” Lori says. “Jim Marpe and Avi Kaner (1st and 2nd selectmen) do everything they can for us.”

Her mission this year — beginning on opening day May 21, and continuing through the fall — is for every Westporter to enjoy the farmers’ market bounty.

“We bring quality, healthy food from local farmers right to people’s back yards,” she says. “Everyone supports everyone else.”

They eat very well while doing it, too.

(The Westport Farmers’ Market kicks off its 10th season on Thursday, May 21, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Imperial Avenue parking lot. The “official celebration” on Thursday, June 11 features music, activities, and a tribute to the 8 founding farmers who are still there.)

Now Playing: Westport’s Latest Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Inductee

As reported last December, Mark Naftalin was elected to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

The longtime Westporter played keyboard for the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. The legendary seminal blues-rock group joined Ringo Starr, Green Day, Joan Jett, Lou Reed, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Bill Withers as members of the “Class of 2015.”

The induction ceremony took place Saturday night, in Cleveland.

If you weren’t there — and no jokes about Cleveland, please, they’re very sensitive folks — here is the band’s “Born in Chicago” jam:

The clip below is a lot longer. It’s the induction speech itself, beginning with words from Mark:

Want even more? HBO airs a special on the entire evening. But you’ll have to wait — it’s on May 30.

 

A Few Hours To Honor The Minute Men

They’re called the Minute Men, but they spent 8 years fighting the Revolutionary War.

It took a couple of years to renovate Westport’s Minute Man statue.

The annual Minute Man Road Race is actually 2 races — 5K or 10K — which take considerably longer than a minute to run.

So it’s fitting that Westport will celebrate “Minute Man Day” next (Sunday, April 26), with a series of activities that take 300 minutes (5 hours, if you failed math).

Minute Man Road RaceThe activities — commemorating the 238th anniversary of the British march from Compo Beach to Danbury and back again (our Minute Men did a pretty good job against them), and celebrating the renovation of Henry Daniel Webster’s 105-year-old statue — begin at noon on Sunday, April 26, soon after the Minute Man Race.

Departing every 15 minutes from 12 to 1:30 p.m., Westport Historical Society docents (including yours truly) will lead guided tours. We’ll start at the Ned Dimes Marina (definitely not a Revolutionary War facility), and make stops at the old cemetery and Minute Man statue. There are special children’s activities at the marina. Net proceeds from a suggested donation of $10 (ages 13 and up) go toward the ongoing care of the statue.

From 1-5 p.m., a recreated Revolution militia encampment will be set up on Jesup Green. The Connecticut Society of the Sons of the American Revolution color guard performs musket demonstrations. This event is free.

At 2:30 p.m. in the Westport Library, conservator Francis Miller will describe how he restored the Minute Man statue. This one is free too.

The Minuteman statue. In the distance is Minuteman Hill.

The Minuteman statue. In the distance is Minuteman Hill.

At 3 p.m. — also in the library — history lecturer Ed Hynes discusses the Danbury raid. He’ll talk about the 4-day adventure, which included noted brigadier general Benedict Arnold. If you don’t know which side he was on — or even if you do — this promises to be very educational.

In fact, the entire day is worth more than a few minutes of our time.

Minute Man Day

This Old House #7

Our house identification project is getting tougher.

Last week’s house — the latest in a series asking “06880” readers for information on homes photographed by the WPA in the 1930s, prior to a Westport Historical Society exhibit — has not yet been positively identified. Click here to see that photo, then scroll down for comments and suggestions.

Here is this week’s house. Unlike the others, we have no clue to its location. There is just one word on the back: “Westport.”

This Old House 7

If you think you know where in Westport it stands — or stood; it may have been demolished — click “Comments” below.

Westport Arts Center: Susan Malloy’s Living Legacy

In her 91 years, Susan Malloy was an exceptionally generous presence in Westport. Her time, energy and financial contributions aided countless organizations in town. The accolades pouring in after her death yesterday morning are heartfelt, well deserved, and broad in scope.

It’s hard to quantify which of so many institutions benefited the most from Susan’s generosity. But at least one most definitely would not be here today without her.

In 1947 a group of Westport artists began meeting informally — “and riotously,” according to a 2002 New York Times story — at various locations in town.

By 1969 they’d evolved into the Westport-Weston Arts Council. Their home was a tiny office in Town Hall.

In 1984, Joyce Thompson told the Times, the group needed its own home. They asked to use the former Greens Farms Elementary School — shuttered a few years earlier, when the student population declined.

After a year of negotiation, they agreed on a lease: $1 a year.

Greens Farms Elementary School was the Westport Arts Center first real home.

Greens Farms Elementary School was the Westport Arts Center’s first real home.

The newly named Westport Arts Center had to raise plenty of money, though. An oil tank had to be buried; steps needed to be installed — in addition to classrooms being converted into studios, halls painted white to use as a gallery, and the auditorium converted into a performance space.

The new center hosted art exhibitions, chamber concerts, children’s sculpture workshops and jazz jams.

But in the 1990s, the Times reports, the school population rose. The town wanted its school back. The Arts Center countered that they’d invested plenty of money in the building.

WACAfter heated negotiations the town paid the WAC over $500,000 to break the lease, and reimburse them for their improvements.

The Arts Center went on the road. They held concerts at the Seabury Center, the library and school auditoriums. They hung paintings wherever they could.

What they really needed was a home.

Heida Hermanns, a concert pianist who settled in Westport after fleeing the Holocaust in World War II, had set up a foundation to fund the Arts Center. But it wasn’t enough. And the settlement from the town had been designated for programs.

Susan Malloy stepped into the breach. “I could see the search was going nowhere,” the Times quoted her as saying. “Nothing was right. This place was too small, another wasn’t even in Westport, so I finally said, ‘OK. I’ll stake the arts center.”

Susan Malloy -- an artist herself -- helped the  Westport Arts Center survive.

Susan Malloy — an artist herself — helped the Westport Arts Center survive.

Her funds covered the rent for 2 years. It also inspired more donations. The result: In June of 2002, the Westport Arts Center opened its own home, on Riverside Avenue.

It’s been there for 13 happy, fruitful, artistic years. The WAC is now as permanent a part of the town as the library or Historical Society (2 other beneficiaries of Susan Malloy’s largesse).

It’s easy to forget the past. In Susan Malloy’s case, she wasn’t looking for praise, or even thanks. She simply saw a need, and filled it.

Think of that the next time you go to the Westport Arts Center. Or drive past it.

Or the next time someone asks you to help out your town, in any way you can.

The Westport Arts Center thrives today.

The Westport Arts Center thrives today.

Remembering Susan Malloy

Susan Malloy — a longtime Westporter, arts patron and philanthropist — died early this morning, of complications from pneumonia. She was 91.

Though she kept a low profile, Malloy’s mark on Westport was broad and deep. She donated generously to a variety of cultural institutions, including the Westport Arts Center, Westport Historical Society (for which she drew a 4-color map of 1960s-era downtown), and the Westport Library (which hosts an annual arts lecture in her name).

Susan Malloy

Susan Malloy

Malloy also supported the noted “Years in the Making” documentary — which pays homage to Westport’s arts legacy — and the Whitney Museum in New York.

An artist herself, she had her 1st New York gallery show in 2009 — in her mid-80s.

In 2012 — at 88 — Malloy published her first book. A “Guide to Paris” for young people, it contains sketches she made the previous year on a trip to France with her niece Ann Sheffer, and Malloy’s 17- and 10-year-old grandchildren.

Malloy’s family began summering in Westport in 1937, when her father Aaron Rabinowitz followed his mentor Lillian Ward (of Henry Street Settlement fame) here.

The family home — “Robin’s Nest” — was a farmhouse at the corner of Bayberry Lane and Cross Highway.

After Malloy married, she and her late husband Edwin lived for many years in one of Westport’s oldest homes, in the Old Hill district. In 1986 they moved to a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired property on Dogwood Lane.

Services are set for this Friday (April 17), at 11 a.m. at Temple Emanu-El in New York City.

 

And The Winner Is…

…Marc Litvinoff, and the Levitt Pavilion.

Recently, the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce put out a call for photos. The winner would grace the front covers of the new Visitors Guide/Membership Directory and map.

Here’s what you’ll see:

Levitt - Marc Litvinoff - Chamber of Commerce cover

The shot of the new Levitt Pavilion was taken from Grace Salmon Park, on Imperial Avenue. It also shows the west bank of the Saugatuck River — and a stunning sky.

Litvinoff’s photo was chosen from over 600 entries, by dozens of Westporters.

“We had to make some tough choices. There were so many we could have used. But in the end, we felt this one said ‘Westport,'” says Chamber executive director Matthew Mandell.

The guide will be released in May. The Levitt kicks off its new season in June.

The view that Litvinoff captured so well is available every day of the year.