Category Archives: Places

Surprise! The Post Office Is Too Small!

The brainiacs who moved the post office from downtown to Playhouse Square have finally realized that the present location is just a teeny-tiny bit cramped.

They’ve embarked on an expansion project. That’s the good news.

Post office - interior

The bad news is, the scene above is not substantially different from the way it’s looked for the past 4 years.

Be Careful Out There!

Just because you’re in a crosswalk, don’t think you’re safe.

On Tuesday a woman was struck by a car on Riverside Avenue, near Jr’s Hot Dog Stand.

As noted on WestportNow, one car stopped — legally, as it must — to let her cross. A very impatient driver drove around the stopped vehicle, hitting the pedestrian.

Office workers told WestportNow that the crosswalk has been the site of “numerous pedestrian accidents and near misses.”

The crosswalk on Riverside Avenue, at South Sylvan. It's pretty clearly marked.

The crosswalk on Riverside Avenue, at South Sylvan. It’s clearly marked.

It’s not the only one like that in town.

At the other end of town, the crosswalk between Goodwill and Stop & Shop is notorious for anyone trying to cross over to buy Westfair’s sushi or deli. Drivers who do stop there always worry about getting rear-ended by drivers flying by.

The crosswalk between Goodwill and (shown at the left) Stop & Shop.

The crosswalk between Goodwill and (shown at left) Stop & Shop.

A bit west, the crosswalk by Sasco Creek Village was where popular Westport schools custodian and Trader Joe’s worker Billy Ford was killed in December 2008.

That crosswalk now features a warning sign, with blinking lights. Unfortunately, they’re hard to see in daytime. So they might actually do more harm than good. Pedestrians may have a false sense of security after pushing the button.

The crosswalk where Billy Ford was killed now includes blinking lights on the right. They're hard to see -- but the white markings are not.

The crosswalk where Billy Ford was killed now includes blinking lights (right). They’re hard to see — but the white markings are not.

Bottom line: Pedestrians in marked crosswalks have the right of way. Drivers who see a pedestrian crossing — or about to cross — must stop.

But this is Westport. Our town is filled with Very Important Drivers. So pedestrians must expect the expected.

Like some asshat trying to go around a stopped vehicle, just to save 3 extra seconds.

Baron’s South Fate Could Hinge On RTM

The Planning and Zoning Commission has spoken. By a 4-1 vote (1 abstention) last week, they approved an amendment to rezone all of the 22-acre Baron’s South property as open space.

Now there’s at least 1 petition circulating — probably more — asking the RTM to overturn that decision. Petitioners want to reopen the decades-long discussion of using the town-owned property for senior housing.

The official P&Z notice of the decision will be published Friday. Petitions must be submitted within 7 days of that notice.

RTMThe RTM would then have 30 days to act. The decision can be overturned by a 2/3 affirmative vote. That means 24 of the 36 members — no matter how many attend, it’s still 24.

This is one of the biggest RTM decisions in years. A vote to uphold the P&Z decision means that 22 acres of land — hilly and heavily forested — just steps from downtown will remain open forever (perhaps enhanced by an arboretum).

A vote to overturn the P&Z keeps the door open for other uses. The most recent 165-unit senior housing proposal involved 3.3 acres.

If you’d like your voice heard in this debate, contact your RTM members. Click here to find their emails. (Don’t know your district? Click here!)

 

This Old House: #3

“This Old House” is a new series on “06880.” Every Wednesday we’ll show a Westport house, photographed in the 1930s for a WPA project. They’ll be featured in an upcoming Westport Historical Society exhibit on preservation in Westport — but we need readers’ help in identifying them.

The jury is still out on where the 1st house (posted last week) was located — or whether it’s even standing. It’s near the corner of North Avenue and Cross Highway, but we’re not sure exactly where. Click here, then scroll down to “Comments” to see the ongoing debate.

At least that had a relatively clear location. All we know about this one is a single word on the back: “Coleytown.”

This Old House - March 18, 2015

If you recognize it — or think you do — hit “Comments” below. As with all houses in this series, it may have already been demolished.

Westport Woman’s Clubs: In 19th-Century Home, Addressing 21st-Century Issues

Bedford Hall — the Westport Woman’s Club‘s newly renovated, recently dedicated event space — is very modern.

Costing $120,000, it includes a state-of-the-art AV/home theater system, recessed and cove LED lighting, new halogen stage lights, and much more. It will be Westport’s go-to space for weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, art shows, memorial services and much more, for years to come.

But its story begins 108 years ago.

In 1907, a group of Westport women decided to do something about the muddy, horse manure-filled streets of downtown. They put on a fair, raised money, and built sidewalks.

By 1925, the Westport Improvement Association had added sidewalks -- and gotten rid of mud and manure on Main Street. The entrance to what became the Westport Woman's Club (the "Bedford House" portion of the YMCA) is on the right side of this 1925 photo.

By 1925, the Westport Town Improvement Association had added sidewalks — and gotten rid of mud and manure on Main Street. The entrance to what became the Westport Woman’s Club (the “Bedford House” portion of the YMCA) is on the right side in this 1925 photo.

That “sanitary” project led to others: bathrooms at Compo Beach. Hot lunches and vaccinations (!) in the schools. More sidewalks on Compo Road.

A few years later, when E.T. Bedford was building his YMCA, that same group of women — now called the Westport Town Improvement Association — asked what he was doing for the ladies. He modified the Y’s design, giving them a separate entrance on Main Street. It was called “Bedford House.”

That’s where the Westport Woman’s Club — as it was known by the 1930s — held art shows, conducted dental screenings, handed out scholarships and hosted the visiting nurses’ offices.

“It was a very popular club to be in,” says current WWC president Dorothy Curran. “It was also the de facto health department in town.”

WWC logoIn 1945, as men returned from war and new families began moving to Westport, demands on the Y space increased. Bedford’s son Frederick continued his father’s commitment to the Woman’s Club, buying an 1881 house at 44 Imperial Avenue for the organization to use.

It was a beautiful waterfront home, with a big veranda. But it was in disrepair. And because there was no meeting space inside, it sat unused for 5 years.

In 1950, as the Saugatuck Church prepared to move its 1832 meetinghouse from the Post Road/North Compo corner, several hundred feet across US 1 (to its present site near Myrtle Avenue), it put its 1866 Sunday school building on the market for $2,000.

The WWC was interested. It would cost another $18,000 to move it to Imperial Avenue, and renovate the interior. Frederick Bedford agreed to pay half the cost of the purchase, moving and renovation price.

In September 1950 — a couple of weeks after the church made its slow, famous trek across the Post Road — the 2nd, less famous building was cut in half. The 2 sections then made their own journey west.

Photos depicting the Saugatuck Congregational Church's Sunday School building move hang in its current  home on Imperial Avenue.

Photos depicting the Saugatuck Congregational Church’s Sunday School building move hang in its current home on Imperial Avenue.

When the Sunday school building was reassembled and joined to the Imperial Avenue house, the clapboard matched. “It was meant to be!” Curran says.

A kitchen was added. Dedicated the following June, the hall was used for the WWC’s active theater club, and rented to outside groups.

Over the years, the room grew old. Rental income dropped.

The gazebo and gardens are a lot lovelier in spring, summer and fall.

The gazebo and gardens are a lot lovelier in spring, summer and fall.

But the space is great. It’s centrally located. There’s a garden with a gazebo, for wedding photos ops. And so much parking! In 1955 the WWC granted the town 2 acres of riparian rights. The land was filled in, and now the club has 100 parking spaces to use in perpetuity.

Westport is one of only 2 Woman’s Clubs in the state with their own clubhouse. (The other is in Greenwich.) They share space with 2 tenants: Connecticut Braille Association, and the Westport Young Woman’s League.

The WYWL was formed in 1956, when a group of younger Woman’s Club members realized they were doing much of the group’s work, but had no representation on the board. The split made the New York Times.

Westport Woman's Club president Dorothy Curran stands proudly outside the organization's Imperial Avenue home.

Westport Woman’s Club president Dorothy Curran stands proudly outside the organization’s Imperial Avenue home.

At the time, the Young Woman’s upper age limit was 35. It became 40, then 50. Now there is no limit at all.

Today, the median age of Woman’s Club members is “a bit older” than the Young Woman’s group, Curran says. But in many ways the 2 clubs are similar.

The WWYL organizes the Minute Man Race and CraftWestport, and awards many grants.

The WWC runs the Yankee Doodle Fair, art shows, the Nutcracker Tea, Curio Cottage, Westport food pantry — and donates to many of the same organizations as the WWYL.

Which brings us back to the new Bedford Hall. The $120,000 project — funded mostly by Lea Ruegg and her son Erhart, and completed in January with a stage, Steinway baby grand piano, maple floors, crown moldings and seating for over 100 people — will be the site this Wednesday (March 18, 12-1:30 pm) of the 1st-ever event co-sponsored by the Westport Woman’s Club and Westport Young Woman’s League.

A Steinway piano and modern lighting are just 2 features of the new Bedford Hall stage.

A Steinway piano and modern lighting are just 2 features of the new Bedford Hall stage.

It’s a panel, breakout discussion and brown bag lunch on the topic: “What is the role of women’s volunteer service organizations in the 21st century?” The public is welcome.

After so much help from 2 philanthropic Bedfords, it’s fitting that 44 Imperial Avenue finally has a “Bedford Hall.”

And fitting too, that a pair of well-run, very generous women’s organizations — both born in the 20th century — are joining forces in their shared 19th-century home, to address 21st-century women’s issues.

(For information on renting Bedford Hall, contact Susan Loselle: 203-227-4240 or 203-246-9258; westportwomansclub@sbcglobal.net or seloselle@gmail.com)

The handsome, 19th-century interior leads into the modern Bedford Hall (rear).

A handsome, 19th-century interior leads into the modern Bedford Hall (rear).

Saying Goodbye To The Bedford Estate

The Bedfords giveth.

And the Bedfords taketh away.

One of the town’s most philanthropic families — think the YMCA, schools, the Westport Woman’s Club and much, much more — has long owned property on Beachside Avenue.

But Ruth Bedford died last June, at 99. Now her estate, at 66 Beachside, is slated for demolition.

Bedford demo

The sign notes that 3 buildings are intended to be torn down. All are 114 years old.

The Bedford family also owns a 2-story house at 225 Green’s Farms Road, opposite the Nyala Farms office complex. It too was built in 1900.

And it too is slated for demolition.

Kunepiam

Ed and Cameron Castillo have lived in Westport less than 4 months.

But they’re discovering a lot about their new town. Thanks to “06880,” for example, they learned the history of their home: the carriage house for The Cockeroft family’s country estate on Stony Point Road, that hidden gem on the west side of the train station.

(The red door that separates their yard from the parking lot makes for a fantastic commute, Ed jokes.)

But one thing stumps them: an engraving just above the door, on the side facing the station.

Kunepiam

“Kunepiam,” it reads — surrounded by what look like Native American pictograms, and perhaps settlers.

Ed’s Google search for “Kunepiam” returned absolutely nothing.

So he’s turning to an even better source: the “06880” crowd.

If you know what the word means — or where the engraving comes from — click “Comments.”

And that traffic jam you see the next time at the station, near Ed and Cameron’s house? That’s the “06880” crowd too, looking even more closely at this mystery.

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. 

Greens Farms Post Office: Back In The Day

Our recent story about the sign on the Greens Farms post office spurred alert “06880” reader Seth Schachter to action. He sent along this photo he found on eBay, from decades ago:

Greens Farms PO - 1950s

Seth says it’s from the 1950s. He’s probably right. The sign above the windows — while similar to the current one — does not include a zip code. They were introduced in 1963.

06838

Like many nearby residents, Nico Eisenberger appreciates the Greens Farms post office.

It’s convenient. It’s friendly. There’s always plenty of parking.

It’s a shame, Nico says, that the sign looks so dilapidated.

Greens Farms PO

He writes:

I don’t know the ways and means of helping a federal property, but if I were a more crafty carpenter and sign maker, I’d just do it in the middle of the night.  Maybe someone local could talk to them, and offer to make a new sign.

Nico’s right — that might run afoul of all kinds of regulations. But if anyone with sign-making talent wants to stop in to the post office and ask — well, there’s seldom any wait.