Category Archives: Places

Happy Friday!

And what better way to welcome the weekend than with Stacy Waldman Bass’ photo of this morning’s sunrise over the Sherwood Mill Pond?

Sunrise over Mill Pond - Stacy Waldman Bass

Enjoy the day!

Another View Of Baron’s South

No, this is not another political view of the town-owned property that was — until a recent Planning & Zoning Commission decision — a possible site for senior housing.

This is a historical photographic view:

Baron's South - back in the day

Alert “06880” reader JP Vellotti found this shot of what is now the site of Fairfield County Savings Bank, on the corner of the Post Road and Compo Road South.

This view was taken from the current site of Winslow Park, across the Post Road, by the daughter of then-owner Dr. Ruland. JP got the photo from his grandson.

It’s interesting to note that the handsome architecture mirrors that of the buildings still on the west side of Baron’s South — the law and other offices on Imperial Avenue.

A Beautiful Bridge — If You Can See It

Every day, alert “06880” reader Jane Sherman drives over the small North Avenue bridge that crosses the Saugatuck River.

And every day she is dismayed to see the weeds and grasses that have grown up along it, since its reconstruction last year.

The North Avenue bridge. (Photo/Jane Sherman)

The North Avenue bridge. (Photo/Jane Sherman)

She called Public Works. They told her there is no money available for maintenance. They’re busy trimming trees on Easton Road, and doing other jobs to protect public safety.

Jane says, “I’m distressed. I feel like stopping and weeding the area myself.”

But she knows they’ll just grow back. Weeding is not a one-time job.

“This bridge is beautiful and new,” Jane says. “What a shame that Westport intends to let the site deteriorate.”

Westfair Village: Westport’s Throwback Neighborhood

Right after World War II, local real estate developer B.V. Brooks Sr. built Westfair Village for beneficiaries of the GI bill.

Located on an old onion farm directly behind Westfair Shopping Center — Brooks’ strip mall opposite what is now Stop & Shop — Westfair Village’s circular streets featured modest Capes on 1/3-acre lots. He named the roads “Westfair” and “Fairport” — combinations of Westport and nearby Fairfield — as well as “Dexter” (the nickname of his son, B.V. Jr.) and “Brook” (presumably short for his own last name).

In the nearly 70 years since then, Westfair Village has seen many changes. Homeowners added 2nd floors, rebuilt their interiors, and enlarged their small houses. Some became teardowns, replaced by bigger homes (though none qualify as “McMansions”). Large trees provide shade, on once-open lots.

Westfair Drive today. (Photo/Google Maps)

Westfair Drive today. (Photo/Google Maps)

But 7 decades have not changed one element of Westfair Village. It is still a true neighborhood. Mothers push babies in strollers. Kids ride bikes. Folks take after-dinner walks. Everyone looks out for each other.

There are block parties, holiday parties, and welcome-to-Westfair parties.

In a 21-century touch, there’s also an active website through which residents share news, advice, and recommendations for doctors, lawn services and babysitters.

John DeLibero bought his house in 1983, for $102,000. The other day, he and his partner Ron Johnson invited me over to see the neighborhood they love.

John DeLibero (left) and Ron Johnson in the back yard of their Westfair Village home.

John DeLibero (left) and Ron Johnson in the back yard of their Westfair Village home.

Ron grew up in one of the 1st suburban subdivisions, in Huntington, Long Island. Everyone knew everyone else. There was the same small-town feeling when he lived in Washington, Connecticut.

In Westport, he says, “people lead more independent lives.” John adds, “It’s hard to know your neighbors when you live on a street that everyone races down at 40 miles an hour.”

That’s why they love Westfair Village. No one drives quickly; the streets are too narrow and curved for that.

With houses close together, they really do know everyone else. And it’s a diverse mix: doctors, retirees, actors, financial folks, house painters. Plenty of people work from home.

The neighborhood has gone through cycles. Returning soldiers and their young wives raised families. Kids grew up; some moved away, others bought nearby. The parents stayed — some until they died.

Today the homes are once again filled with young families, just starting out.

One of Westfair Village’s attractions is affordability. Prices rose from $350,000 a decade ago to $1.125 million (new construction) just before the meltdown. Prices for original (rebuilt) homes are still shy of $600,000.

This home in Westfair Village started out as a Cape. The 2nd floor was added later, and the floor plan -- the same in every home -- was reworked.

This home in Westfair Village started out as a Cape. The 2nd floor was added later, and the floor plan — the same in every home — was reworked.

Building lots are another story. Two homes on Brook Lane recently sold for about $2.3 million.

But Brook Lane is on the far edge of Westfair Village. Mostly, it looks not substantially different than it has for the past 70 years.

The homes are a bit bigger. The foliage is lusher.

Yet up and down the circular roads, kids still play, parents still chat, and couples still stroll.

It’s not a place that time forgot.

Just a place where time moves — wonderfully — a bit more slowly.

 

Poop Plea

Haskins Preserve is an astonishing site on Green Acre Lane (off South Compo Road) administered by Aspetuck Land Trust. Its 16 acres are filled with woods, meadows, ponds, dams, and a spectacular assortment of rare trees.

Many Westporters have never heard of it. Those who have, treasure it as an oasis of beauty and solitude.

Most do, anyway.

Dog waste is a mounting problem at the Haskins Preserve. And it’s not just droppings on trails and paths. Some owners actually take the time to wrap waste in plastic bags — then leave them lying around.

Some sleazeballs “hide” the poop behind rocks and trees. Others are more brazen. They dump the dumps within sight of a sign saying, “Please remove dog waste.”

Steward Jamie Walsh has posted a video documenting this spectacularly rude and seriously obnoxious behavior.

Why don’t the stewards just put garbage cans at Haskins Preserve?

“We’re a volunteer organization, with a limited budget and resources,” Jamie explains. “It’s not practical for someone to empty them on a regular basis.

“And it would attract wildlife that would feast on the remaining garbage, which would then be strewn all over the parking lot.”

Haskins is a preserve — not a park. Is it too much to ask that if you bring your dog with you, then you take your dog’s business out?

For some Westporters, the answer is apparently: yes.

Haskins Preserve: no place for dog poop.

Haskins Preserve: no place for dog poop.

 

Close Encounters Of The Mercedes Kind

For 40 years, Paul Greenberg has been a serious cyclist. He rides about 5,000 miles a year, and is an avid racer.

For 12 years he’s commuted to work by bicycle, from his home near the beach. First he rode to Greenwich. Now it’s a bit shorter: Stamford.

Fly6He takes a shortcut through the train station, to East Norwalk. Paul rides with a very bright headlight, designed for night mountain biking, plus a bright rear light. He wears reflective clothing.

Recently, he added a Fly6 rear-mount bicycle camera. Over the past few years, drivers have become much more aggressive. He figures if there’s a hit-and-run from the rear, at least there will be video of the incident (and licence plate information).

On Wednesday around 6:30 a.m., he was biking to work through the station’s eastbound parking lot. He slowed down approaching the intersection, where many commuters make a wide left turn without looking from beyond the railroad bridge.

A woman in a Mercedes barreled eastbound on Saugatuck Avenue, cutting across the road to get to the lot entrance (below).

Paul Greenberg screenshot

Paul  jerked his bike left as he saw her. Commuters walking from their cars shook their heads in disbelief as she blasted by.

Paul assumed she would stop and apologize. But she just plowed ahead, as if  nothing had happened.

Only when he pedaled to her car and talked with her did she become apologetic.

Sort of.

Here’s Paul’s video of his near-miss. It’s titled: “Was She Sorry She Almost Hit Me, Or Sorry I Caught Her?”

Sorry. That’s a rhetorical question.

 

Peace Pole?

3rd Selectman Helen Garten has performed many roles in the Marpe administration.

Her latest: detective.

She’s been asked to sniff out the story behind the “peace pole” that stands at the entrance to Town Hall.

Peace pole

“No one I’ve asked can recall how or when it got there,” she says. “Many people have never noticed it before.”

Including, most definitely, me.

If you know when, why and how that sign got there, click “Comments.”

PS: The Westport Sunrise Rotary’s “Make Peace” booth at the Mini-Maker Faire had its own, similar peace pole.

PPS: September 21 was the International Day of Peace.

About That Winslow Park Painting…

On many weekends over the past few years — probably while stuck at the Post Road/Compo Road traffic light — drivers have noticed a man and an easel in Winslow Park.

He’s set up on the grass. Facing banks on the other 3 corners, he’s been hard at work, painting.

Youngsters crowd around the unfinished painting.

Youngsters crowd around the unfinished painting.

Who is he?

Alert “06880” reader Russell Sherman reports that his name is Stanley Lewis. An accomplished artist, he’s finally finished his work.

It’s on display at the Betty Cunningham Gallery in New York, through October 25.

Stan Lewis Winslow Park painting

Lewis and his wife Karen live in Northampton, Massachusetts. But they spend a lot of time in Westport. Two of their 3 children — daughter Catherine and son Tim — have moved here.

Lewis loves Westport — and not just because he’s got 4 grandchildren in town, and the scenery is beautiful.

There are little things, like this: A year or so after he began painting, the town put up a new Winslow Park sign. It was right in the line of sight he was working on.

When Parks & Recreation director Stuart McCarthy heard of the problem, his crew moved the the sign.

Who says Westport is no longer an arts community?

Hurry! This eBay Offer Won’t Last Forever!

You can get anything you need for your life on eBay.

For death, too.

Right now, for example, you can bid on a Willowbrook  cemetery mausoleum. It fits “two (2) caskets and one (1) urn” comfortably.

The Willowbrook mausoleum.

The Willowbrook mausoleum.

The starting bid is just $2,900.  Thanks to PayPal, 12 months financing is available.

The sellor (loulou0605) has 100% positive feedback.

But that’s not all! There’s “free local pickup”!

The auction ends Wednesday, at 10:25 a.m. So act now.

This offer will expire before you do.

(Here’s the direct eBay link to this mausoleum offer.)

Hark! Shakespeare Didst Nearly Come To Stony Point

In many communities, no one wants to live next to the railroad station.

Westport is not “many communities.” Here, Stony Point is one of the most desirable spots in town.

Ann Sheffer — a longtime resident of that winding, riverfront peninsula whose entrance is directly off the train station parking lot — sent along a Westport News clipping that tells the fascinating back story of Stony Point.

Stony Point today (left of the river). The train station and tracks are at top.

Stony Point today (left of the river). The train station and tracks are at top.

Written in 1977 by Shirley Land — who knew everything about everything — it describes a New York banker, his wife and 2 daughters. They lived in a handsome Victorian mansion with “turrets and filigree curlicues.” The grounds included an enormous carriage house, gardener’s cottage, barn and hothouse.

It was the Cockeroft family’s country home, built around 1890. They traveled there by steam launch from New York City, tying up at a Stony Point boathouse.

The Cockerofts’ was one of “the 3 great showplaces” in Westport. The other 2 were the Hockanum mansion on Cross Highway, and the Meads’ estate on Hillspoint.

After the daughters inherited the home, the New York, New Haven & Hartford railroad inquired about purchasing some of the land for a new train station. (The original one was on the other side of the river.)

The sisters agreed, but only if the railroad built a solid brick wall, 1675 feet long, to provide privacy and quiet.

The Stony Point wall today. It separates the peninsula from the train station.

The Stony Point wall today. It separates the peninsula from the train station.

When the 2nd daughter died, she bequeathed the estate to the Hospital for the  Crippled and Ruptured (whose name was later changed, mercifully, to the New York Hospital for Special Surgery).

But the property fell into disuse. Eventually the hospital sold Stony Point to Birmingham and Asti, real estate developers.

Around 1950, Lawrence Langner of the Theatre Guild, Lincoln Kirstein of Lincoln Center and arts patron Joseph Verner Reed tried to build an American Shakespeare Theatre and Academy there. Proximity to the train station was a major piece of the plan.

The price for all 21 acres: $200,000.

But, Land wrote, “the hand of fate and the town fathers combined to defeat the efforts of the theatre people.” Many residents objected. There were also concerns that it would draw audiences away from the Westport Country Playhouse. (Others argued that a Shakespeare Theatre would enhance the town’s reputation as an arts community.)

The theater was never built in Westport. It opened in the aptly named town of Stratford, Connecticut in 1955, and was moderately successful until ceasing operations 30 years later.

In Westport, the Cockeroft estate remained empty.

The entrance to Stony Point.

The entrance to Stony Point.

In 1956 Westporters Leo Nevas and Nat Greenberg, along with Hartford’s Louis Fox, bought the property for residential development. Before they could start, however, vandals attacked the main house. They ripped out bathtubs, hacked up fireplaces, and smashed mirrors and statues. The developers asked the fire department to burn what remained to the ground.

All that remains of the original estate, Land wrote, is “the charming gate house, an immaculate gray and white Victorian structure just inside the gate; a pair of antique marble urns on the site of the old mansion where a newer home now stands; and the fine carriage house-garage, remodeled to be sure, but bearing the visible imprint of bygone grandeur.”

Oh, and a few small doors set into the long brick wall. Once upon a time, they must have provided an amazing view.