Category Archives: Places

Affordable Housing Applications Available Now

For months, Westporters driving on the Post Road near Super Stop & Shop have watched apartments rise on the site of the old “trailer park.”

They’re not done. But applications are now available for the duplex townhouse apartments — all deemed “affordable rentals.”

Hidden Brook apartments.

Hidden Brook apartments.

Monthly rents are $900 (1 bedroom), $1,055 (2 bedrooms) and $1,200 (3 bedrooms).

Applicants must meet income requirements, based on family size, for 50% of the area median income. Click here for more details.

Applications are online (click here), or at the Westport Housing Authority office at 5 Canal Street. You can request an application be mailed to you by calling 203-227-4672.

Applications must be mailed or hand-delivered to the the Housing Authority office at 5 Canal Street, Westport. They will be reviewed in the order they are received. The deadline is July 31.

 

The Mills Of Westport

Nearly a year ago, I wrote a story about the Mills family.

Their home at 54 North Avenue — just south of Staples High School — was slated for demolition. After more than 200 years, there would be no Millses living on the road.

The century-old Mills home at 54 North Avenue has been torn down.

The century-old Mills home at 54 North Avenue has been torn down.

Millses had been farmers and masons. One helped build the original Staples High School on Riverside Avenue. Yet the family seems to be forgotten. I ended the story:

Other long-lived Westport families have schools or parks named for them. The Mills family does not.

But they truly built this town. Their monuments are the countless stone walls, sea walls and foundations that exist to this day.

The piece sparked the curiosity of Mills descendant Jacques Voris. Eager to learn more of his family’s past, he visited the Westport Historical Society. They had almost nothing.

Voris began digging. He thought that Revolutionary War veteran John Mills (1760-1829) — who built #29 North Avenue, the small yellow saltbox that everyone still admires, as a blacksmith shop for his daughter and son-in-law –was the 1st family member in Westport.

29 North Avenue was built by Homer Mills.

29 North Avenue was built by John Mills.

Voris found, to his amazement, that Millses had lived in Westport for nearly a century before that.

Voris learned that his great-great-grandfather represented Westport in the state legislature, and the man’s son had been first selectman. Voris also discovered that a Mills was one of only 3 police officers killed in the line of duty here.

Now he wants to know even more.

For instance, what about the FL Mills Company? An automobile dealership started in Bridgeport in 1908 by Frederick LeClair Mills, it sold Studebakers for many years.

Bridgeport Post ad from August 11, 1959 mentioned a new location on the corner of Post Road and South Maple Avenue, selling Studebakers, Mercedes Benzes and a variety of used cars.

Voris never knew about the dealership. He hopes “06880” readers have details.

So: If anyone remembers the Mills car dealer — or has any other stories about this storied, but often forgotten Westport family — click “Comments” below.

The Mills family, in a horse and buggy.

Enjoying a horse-and-buggy ride: Ida Edith (Beyer) Mills; her son and daughter Ralph and Mildred, and her granddaughter Shirley Mills. This is from no later than 1928; Ralph died that year.

 

[UPDATE] Bear-ly Noticed

Alert — and concerned — “06880” reader Kate Greenberg saw a bear (black or dark brown, she thinks) behind her house yesterday, around 3 p.m.

She lives off the Merritt Parkway (eastbound). The bear was walking in the woods, between her house and the Merritt. She called the police.

She wonders: Has anyone else reported a bear in the area?

It’s been a tough year for Kate. Coyotes killed her dog in the yard last November, just after dusk.

This is not the Westport bear. But it's close.

This bear is from Alaska. Kate Greenberg didn’t get a shot of the Westport bear.

In mid-afternoon, the Westport Police sent this notice:

Westport Police received two separate reports from residents whose properties border the Merritt Parkway of two separate sightings of black bears. In both instances the bear was observed moving through the properties and did not act in an aggressive manner. The following information regarding the handling of bears near your home was obtained from the CT DEEP website. All sightings should be reported to the Police Department and CT DEEP at the numbers below:

If you see a bear:

  • Enjoy it from a distance.
  • Advertise your presence by shouting and waving your arms or walk slowly away.
  • Never attempt to feed or attract bears.
  • Report bear sightings to the Wildlife Division, at (860) 675-8130.

Experience has shown that a single wandering bear can be responsible for numerous sightings reported to the Wildlife Division. Experience has also shown that, given an avenue for escape, bears will usually wander back into more secluded areas.

People should not feed bears, either intentionally or unintentionally. Bears that associate food with people become problem bears that will not be tolerated by all property owners. Connecticut has the habitat to support more bears; however, the future of Connecticut’s bear population depends on the actions and attitudes of the human population.

The probability of a bear attacking a human is exceptionally low. Therefore, the mere presence of a bear does not necessitate its removal. However, the department may attempt to remove bears from urban locations when there is little likelihood that they will leave on their own and when they are in positions where darting is feasible.

The department attempts to monitor bear activity in developed areas in coordination with local public safety officials. Coordination and cooperation with officials on the scene and local police officials is a key, critical ingredient in educating the public and assuring a safe, desirable outcome in such a situation.

These REALLY Old Houses

Recently, we announced the end of our “This Old House” series. The Westport Historical Society had run through the dozen or so homes they hoped to identify, prior to next fall’s exhibit of photos taken as part of a 1930s WPA project.

But you can’t keep a good house hunter down. WHS historian Bob Weingarten has sent along a few more photos from the archives. These too are unidentified.

Even more, they don’t have any labels. They could be anywhere in town. And — because they’re from the late 1800s — most are probably long gone.

Yet “06880” readers are an intrepid bunch. You’ve got an eye for architecture and history — and you remember a lot.

So here goes. Each house is numbered. If you recognize any — or just want to chime in on the subject of really old houses — click “Comments” below. (As always, you can click or hover over any photo to enlarge it.)

And if you know any of the people in the photos, I’ll be truly impressed.

#1

#1

#1

#2

#2

#3

Old house 6

#4

old house 7

#5

#6

#6

#7

#7

Old House 5

#8

#8

#9

Old house 9

#10

 

“It’s Baaaaaack”: The Back Story

Equity One’s offices were closed this weekend, when Westporters first noticed the reappearance of the “paint palette” sign at Compo Acres Shopping Center.

But this morning, a spokesman for the shopping center’s owner provided some background information:

When Equity One became aware that their property manager had discarded
the sign, they set aside funds to replace it. They contacted the Westport Arts Center, which recommended Duvian Montoya.

Working from less-than-clear Google Street View images, he recreated it almost perfectly.

The spokesman said, “It is a shame the original sign was lost. But we are glad we could restore something similar in its place, which hopefully will remain for a long time.”

The new sign ...

The new sign …

... and a view of the original, which Duvian Montoya worked from.

… and a view of the original, which Duvian Montoya worked from.

It’s Baaaaaack!

Antonia Landgraf is many things. She’s

  • New to town
  • An alert “06880” reader
  • And a very alert Westporter.

Tonight, Antonia emailed me:

Is this the sign everybody was in an uproar about when it was removed? It was leaning against a tree today on the corner of South Compo and the Post Road.

Compo Acres palette

Yes! It is!

As “06880” reported nearly 2 years ago, the “paint palette” sign — a fixture at Compo Acres Shopping Center since it was built in the 1950s — disappeared when Equity One bought the property.

Another alert reader — Suzanne Sherman Propp — tracked down the man responsible for the center: Northeast regional manager Glenn Wilson. He sent a curt reply: “We had that replaced and I believe it was thrown out.”

Now, however — without fanfare — it’s back. It’s almost exactly where it sat, for decades. And — judging from the undated photo below — it’s almost certainly the original sign:

The Compo Acres paint palette is gone.

Score one for Equity One.

Now, if they can bring back Silver’s, Carousel Toy Store, Franklin Simon and the luncheonette…

Behind The Golden Shadows Door

Treasure trove from the 1950s — or just a tired, dilapidated old house?

That’s what a group of Westporters — members of the Historic District Commission, town officials and others — tried to figure out yesterday.

Third Selectman Helen Garten led a tour of “Golden Shadows” — the “mansion” built by perfume magnate Baron Walter von Langendorff and his wife on South Compo Road.

The outside of the baron's

The baron’s “mansion.” The architectural style has been called “Hollywood Colonial.”

The baron and his wife bought the property in 1941. The original home had been built by Angus McDonald. The baron tore it down around 1958, and built the current house. (It was not their main residence, though; that was New York City.) He died in 1983. His wife pre-deceased him.

The town now owns it, with the rest of the 22-acre “baron’s property.” We bought it in 1999, and haven’t yet figured out next steps. We’ve batted around ideas — event venue? rental property? museum? — and it’s been (among other things) a crash pad for homeless people. But right now it’s used only to store thousands of books for the annual Westport Library sale.

An HDC subcommittee is considering whether to apply for historic designation for the baron’s home, and several accessory buildings. Here’s some of what they — and I — saw on yesterday’s tour of the mansion.

Golden Shadows 2

The terrazzo entryway leads to the curving stairway above. First floor features include parquet flooring, original fixtures, bleached mahogany walls and pocket doors.

Yes, that's an old computer monitor being stored inside the Italian marble fireplace.

Yes, that’s an old computer monitor stashed inside an Italian marble fireplace.

The architect and builder are unknown.

Though musty, the building is in “better shape than one would think,” Garten says. The HVAC ducts are probably workable. The finishes look good. The floors should be polished, and electrical work is needed. Only one room has sustained water damage.

“It’s got steel girders,” Morley Boyd notes. “It was overbuilt, but that’s allowed it to withstand a lot of abuse.”

A bay window looks out over a beautiful dell.

A bay window looks out over a beautiful dell.

The dining room is tiny. Apparently, the baron and baroness did not entertain much. Guests stayed in other houses on the property.

The formica-filled kitchen features stainless-steel cabinets, lit from within. There’s also a classic, pink 42-inch push-button stove — now worth quite a bit of money.

Golden shadows 5

Interestingly, there are only 2 bedrooms — his-and-her (non-adjoining) suites on the 2nd floor, with French doors leading onto terraces.

There are, however, 5 1/2 bathrooms. All retain their original fixtures.

You don't see free-standing sinks like these every day.

You don’t see free-standing sinks like these every day. And check out the floors!

The house was semi-air-conditioned. Awnings kept out the heat. From the 2nd floor, the baron and his wife enjoyed terraced botanical, English and sunken gardens — and views all the way to the Saugatuck River.

There was a greenhouse, but it no longer exists. This fountain is believed to have been brought to the property from the other land the baron owned -- what we now call Winslow Park, across the Post Road on North Compo.

A greenhouse no longer exists. This fountain is believed to have been brought to the property from the other land the baron owned — what we now call Winslow Park, across the Post Road on North Compo.

The town has cleaned up some of the house — including mold in the basement. The lawn is mowed from time to time, and beams that bent under the weight of the stored books have been shored up.

Eventually, we’ll figure out what to do with the baron’s house. It may be renovated or restored. It may be designated a historic property — or torn down. Time will tell.

Meanwhile, here’s a view the baron and his wife often enjoyed, outside the back of his house.

Golden shadows 8 - barons south

Any non-baron can now enjoy it too — at least from sunrise to sunset, when our baron’s property is open to all.

These Old Houses

It’s finally happened: Westport has run out of old houses.

Well, sort of.

Our “This Old House” series has come to an end. The Westport Historical Society has no more mystery houses to identify, prior to its upcoming show on the changing face of Westport.

Every Wednesday for 3 months, “06880” readers have seen an image of a local home, taken in 1930s by WPA photographers. Some of them had vague notations on the back — “Green’s Farms,” for example — and WHS house historian Bob Weingarten asked for crowd-sourcing help.

You guys nailed the correct location of 9 of the 14 houses displayed — not too shabby. Especially considering that many of the houses have undergone substantial renovations — and some are no longer standing.

They sure don't make 'em like this anymore.

They sure don’t make ’em like this anymore.

Before the series began, the WHS had identified 101 houses out of 133 photos. They’re now up to 110.

The WHS also has priceless historic information about some of the homes, thanks to “06880”‘s superbly alert and knowledgeable readers.

The Historical Society will display the WPA photos in November. That exhibit will highlight differences between the 1930s images and today’s houses. There will also be human interest articles on the house owners; historical and architectural details about the houses, and information on famous people who lived in several of them.

In the meantime, if you have any interesting photos — of homes, or places of interest in town — that you’d like identified, send ’em along. The “06880” crowd is ready to source!

This Old House #16

With the jury still out on mystery house #15 (click here for photo and comments), we turn now to a very old and interesting home.

This Old House - June 3, 2015

Like all in this series, it was photographed as part of a 1930s WPA project. Now the Westport Historical Society hopes to track down its current location, for an upcoming exhibit on the changing face of Westport.

The only clue we have is: “the ‘Old Dykman House,’ built around 1824. It is said to be in the Wilton Road section of town.

If you think you know where it is today — or whether it has been torn down — click “Comments” below.

Towering Over Greens Farms Road

Remember that 120-foot cell tower proposed for a private residence on Greens Farms Road?

It’s on hold — but drivers in the area have recently noticed a smaller tower, near — but not on — the property in question.

Emergency response tower - Greens Farms Road

Hold your texts and emails (if you can get a signal). This is not that cell tower.

It’s Westport’s Emergency Response System — and it’s been there since the mid-1980s. It was installed to warn residents of impending disasters (I’m just guessing, but say, a truck accident involving toxic chemicals on nearby I-95).

The proposed cell tower will be 75 to 100 feet taller than this structure.

So why are people just now noticing it?

A widening project on Greens Farms Road (including a new turning lane onto Hillspoint, visible in the photo above), and resulting deforestation of the area, has made the Emergency Response System more prominent.

As for the cell tower: neighbors, local officials and state legislators are still working to prevent its construction on private property, in a residential zone. The town continues to seek an alternative site on state DOT property.