Category Archives: Places

Cockenoe Kodachrome

It’s been decades since Bill Whitbeck lived in Westport. (Westport, Connecticut, that is. He’s now in the beautiful seaside town of Westport, Washington.)

But he remembers fondly his days on Cockenoe. That’s the island a mile off Compo. (Which Westport now owns, having bought it in 1968 to save it — and us — from a proposal to build a nuclear power plant there. Click here for that unbelievable story.)

Still, he did not realize how many times his family visited Cockenoe until his father died, and the Whitbecks examined thousands of old 35mm slides.

It seemed like every other roll of film taken during the summers showed camping on the island.

The other day, Bill sent some of the images, from 1958 to ’60.

Bill Whitbeck's sister Joanne, neighbor Bobby Bittner, Bill (waving) and his mom, at the highest area of the sandbar. 1958.

Bill Whitbeck’s sister Joanne, neighbor Bobby Bittner, Bill (waving) and his mom, at the highest area of the sandbar in 1958.

“We brought tents, camping gear and food for the weekend,” Bill recalls. “We’d camp on the western side’s long sandbar. From current photos I’ve seen, it’s almost gone from erosion.”

Other prime campsites were nestled in the trees on the southern side of the island, on higher ground with little trails leading to them. Those sites were usually snatched up first. But if Bill’s family got there early enough on Friday afternoon, they snagged a site for the weekend.

Bill Whitbeck (with pail), his mother, sister and a neighbor digging clams on Cockenoe’s sandbar, now almost totally gone.  This stretch between the sandbar and the higher part of the island in the distance was covered at high tide, though it was shallow enough to walk between the two in 1958.

Bill Whitbeck (with pail), his mother, sister and a neighbor digging clams on Cockenoe’s sandbar, now almost totally gone. This stretch between the sandbar and the higher part of the island in the distance was covered at high tide, though it was shallow enough to walk between the two in 1958.

I was struck by the quality of the colors, and composition of the photos. I told Bill that they seemed like a Life magazine spread on the Kennedys at Cape Cod.

“The colors haven’t faded after almost 60 years,” he agrees.

“Kodachrome film used layers of dyes, as opposed to silver halide crystals found in other transparency films, like Ektachrome of Fujichrome. The silver crystals give most film their ‘grain’.”

Bill Whitbeck, his sister’s fiance, and 2 sisters on the 16-foot outboard his father built. This was its maiden voyage. It was so new, he had not yet installed the windshield. The photo was taken inside Cockenoe’s bay, a perfect anchorage, surrounded by the island’s horseshoe shape. Check out the wooden boats -- there was no fiberglass in 1959.

Bill Whitbeck, his sister’s fiance, and 2 sisters on the maiden voyage of a 16-foot outboard his father built. It was so new, he had not yet installed a windshield. The photo was taken in Cockenoe’s bay, a perfect anchorage, surrounded by the island’s horseshoe shape. Check out the wooden boats — there was no fiberglass in 1959.

In 1994, Bill took his dad for one more walk around the island. He died a few years later.

Breakfast on the south side of Cockenoe, in 1959. The bay is behind young Bill Whitbeck. In the distance to the left is Sprite Island; Saugatuck Shores (still undeveloped) is to the right.

Breakfast on the south side of Cockenoe, in 1959. The bay is behind young Bill Whitbeck. In the distance to the left is Sprite Island; Saugatuck Shores (still undeveloped) is to the right.

Looking east from the camp site in 1959. Some large Army-style tents are on the beach. Families would set them up, then stay on the island for weeks at a time. They made runs back to town once or twice a week for supplies. Whitbeck remembers during a few summers, enterprising young boys would go to Cockenoe on Sunday mornings with blocks of ice, and copies of the Sunday New York Times, Herald Tribune and Daily News, to sell to boaters and campers on the island!

Looking east from the camp site in 1959. Some large Army-style tents are on the beach. Families would set them up, then stay on the island for weeks at a time. They made runs back to town once or twice a week for supplies. Whitbeck remembers during a few summers, enterprising young boys would go to Cockenoe on Sunday mornings with blocks of ice, and copies of the Sunday New York Times, Herald Tribune and Daily News, to sell to boaters and campers on the island.

 

 

Those Pesky Red Lights

This is not stop-the-presses news:

The other day, someone ran a red light in front of Trader Joe’s.

This time though, the driver did not simply scare the crap out of a poor person attempting to exit from Compo Acres Shopping Center, through The Worst Intersection In The Entire Multiverse.

The driver — roaring east on the Post Road — denied running the light.

That did not sit well with Bruce Leavitt. He’s the husband of the woman who was hit. He knows how common it is for drivers to race through the light.

In 20 minutes, he saw it happen more than once. He also saw how tough it is for drivers leaving the shopping center; a large sign blocks the view of traffic coming from the left.

Bruce took this video, of a common sight:

(If your browser does not take you directly to YouTube, click here.)

Now he wants others to do the same. And not just at the Trader Joe’s/CVS Intersection From Hell — anywhere else in town you think there’s a problem.

If we get enough, we’ll publish them on “06880.”

And then we’ll have actual proof, to convince someone — the Connecticut Department of Transportation? Shopping center owners? The Traffic Genie? — to do something.

“Remove a sign. Delay timing on a light. Crack down on light runners…” Bruce suggests.

Send videos (via YouTube or Vimeo format) to dwoog@optonline.net. As the saying goes, “It can’t hurt.”

Unless, that is, you get hit by a Very Important Driver running a very clear red light.

This is the light in question. Drivers exiting from the Trader Joe's lot (dark car) often have to contend with cars flying through the red light on the Post Road, from the left

This is the light in question. Drivers exiting from the Trader Joe’s lot (dark car) often have to contend with cars flying through the red light on the Post Road, from the left

Bob Braczyk’s Business Is Picking Up

Nearly every weekend, Bob Braczyk and his wife Monica Bernier come to Westport from their Manhattan apartment.

Every morning they’re here — rain or shine — Bob joins Mark Yurkiw and his wife Wendy Van Wie on their daily 3.5-mile dog walk. The route includes Cross Highway, Sturges Highway, Meeker Road and Bayberry Lane.

Bob is here to relax. But when he joins the Yurkiws Bob brings a plastic claw, and the biggest recycled plastic bag he can find. He wants to clean the streets of his weekend hometown.

No matter how big the bag — and some are huge — he always fills it up. By the end, he’s stuffing in more trash than it can hold.

Bob Braczyk, with one day's haul.

Bob Braczyk, with one day’s haul. Keeping pace is Wendy Van Wie.

Mostly, Mark says, the garbage is

  • Coffee cups
  • Beer cans
  • Liquor bottles
  • Cigarette packs
  • Fast food wrappers
  • Really gross things

“It’s virtually always the same items,” Mark says. “And I suspect from the same people — who live here.”

It’s great that Bob — who lives here only a couple of days a week — cleans up after us.

But what a shame he has to.

E.T. Bedford’s Horse Track

The Bedfords — for a century one of Westport’s foremost families — have been in the news a lot this year.

Ruth Bedford — who died at 99 in June of 2014 — left $40 million to the Westport Family YMCA, Norwalk Hospital, and Foxcroft School in Virginia. That’s $40 million each.

And the Bedford estate — at 66 Beachside Avenue — is now slated for demolition. So is the family’s 2-story house at 225 Green’s Farms Road, opposite the Nyala Farms office complex.

Alert “06880” reader Neil Brickley has long been interested in the Bedfords. Growing up in Westport, he often heard of their wealth and generosity.

Neil is an engineer. He loves examining aerial photos of old Westport to figure out what went where — before, say, I-95 came through. Comments on “06880” about the Bedfords’ land-holdings piqued his interest.

He was particularly intrigued by this 1934 aerial shot, showing a horse track smack in the middle of Green’s Farms.

1934 aerial photo Wynfromere track

To get oriented: Green’s Farms Elementary School is in the upper right corner. At the upper left, Hillspoint Road runs into the Post Road (McDonald’s would be there today.) Center Street and Prospect Road meet Greens Farms Road at the bottom of the photo.

Neil found that the track encompasses over 10 acres.

However, he was thrown off by a photo in Woody Klein’s history of Westport. A caption of Edward T. Bedford — Ruth’s grandfather, and a director of Standard Oil, the founder of the Westport Y and namesake of Bedford Middle School — is shown riding his horse, Diplomat, over a track “on the spacious grounds of his home on Beachside Avenue.”

Edward T. Bedford

Edward T. Bedford

Neil saw no signs of the track on the aerial photos of Beachside. It’s hard to envision now — with I-95 in the way — but Bedford’s property extended northward, from Beachside Avenue to Nyala Farm and on into the West Parish area.

In fact, there’s a Bedford Drive off West Parish that could have been the south entrance to the track.

The track was called “Winfromere” — believed to be a reference to the term “win from here.” Today, Wynfromere Lane is just north of Bedford Drive.

Neil then found “taking maps” for the Sherwood Island Connector. To build it, they took the property that included the  Wynfromere horse track. The owner was indeed Frederick T. Bedford.

Neil was surprised to see enormous on/off cloverleaf entrances and exits proposed from Greens Farms Road — called “Shore Road” on the taking maps — to the connector. Bedford owned a large swath of land from the railroad tracks up to Hillandale Road. Neil surmises it went only that far because he had previously given the portion at the Post Road for the state police barracks (now Walgreens).

Neil noted the enormous amount of property owned by the Bedfords on Beachside Avenue too, as well as in the Morningside-Clapboard Hill area.

Now, about that story that E.T. Bedford also had a landing strip on his Beachside estate…

Saugatuck Island Splendor

Westport is beautiful on this mid-summer Friday — and no place is prettier than Saugatuck Island. Here’s a view of the canal, with the bridge in the distance.

saugatuck island - 1

The weekend forecast is partly cloudy tomorrow, plenty of gorgeous sunshine on Sunday. Enjoy!

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.