Category Archives: Places

Sticking With Poetry

Some folks wander around Westport, waxing poetic about their surroundings.

If you’re on Sturges Highway, you’ll find poetry — literally.

Mark Yurkiw and Wendy Van Vie walk their dogs every day. Around the corner from their house, there’s “poetry on a stick.”

Poetry 1

Anyone is welcome to enjoy the offerings, which change regularly.

Poetry 2

Robert Frost took the road less traveled.

If you’ve got a choice in Westport, try Sturges Highway.

Golden Shadows Gets Trimmed

Westporters continue to debate the best use for Golden Shadows.

But no one can argue that the area in Baron’s South — once the handsome home of Baron Walter von Langendorff and his wife — looks a lot better today than it did yesterday.

This morning, historic preservationists Morley Boyd and Wendy Crowther organized a work party. They and Planning & Zoning Commission members Al Gratrix and Chip Stephens were joined by Mike Bernie, one of the baron’s original landscapers.

Golden Shadows is hidden from view, in the middle of the property. (Of course, the town owns Baron’s South, and it’s open from sunrise to sunset.)

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take care of it. Nice to see some concerned Westporters lend a helping hand.

Golden Shadows cleanup 2

Morley Boyd and Wendy Crowther, hard at work.

Golden Shadows cleanup 1

Chip Stephens (left) and Al Gratrix get their hands dirty.

Golden Shadows cleanup 4

The still-impressive hillside near Golden Shadows, after trimming, raking and weeding.

Golden Shadows

Golden Shadows

 

About Those Bike Lanes…

Sandy Rothenberg is an alert “06880” reader, and an even more alert bike rider.

Sandy writes:

There are “Bike Route” signs posted on Compo Road South, from the Post Road to Greens Farms Road. However, the lane is in bad shape. Some places are not wide enough to ride in. The pavement is broken up, and there are other hazards. Also, the lane ends at Greens Farms.

Bike route 1

Even the “Bike Route” signs look ratty.

This is not Westport at its finest. Wouldn’t it be be nice to be able to ride safely to the beach?

Yes, it would.

Bike route 2

Not inviting to cyclists — but inviting an accident.

Meanwhile, while not as urgent a need as fixing our bike lanes: How about when they’re redone, mark them “Bike Lane” rather than “Lane Bike.” No one reads from the bottom up.

(Photos/Sandy Rothenberg)

(Photos/Sandy Rothenberg)

 

Merritt Parkway Bridge: The Sequel

Last night’s post about the total lack of work being done on the behind-schedule Merritt Parkway North Avenue bridge surprised many Westporters.

At least, we figured, a horde of workers would gather this morning — doing a day’s work for a day’s pay.

Here was the scene at 9:45 a.m.:

Merritt Parkway bridge

According to the alert “06880” reader who took this photo:

There is 1 small pickup truck and a jeep parked near Northside Lane. There is 1 worker on the bridge, and a giant pile of dirt. Maybe something is happening underneath the bridge, but this does not look like a swarm of activity. School opens in 2 weeks.

A Very Interesting Definition Of “Working Around The Clock”

The target date of August 17 for restoration of the Merritt Parkway North Avenue bridge is near. It won’t be met.

So you’d think — particularly with penalties written into the contract — that crews would be working feverishly on the project.

Perhaps day and night.

In fact — according to James Lomuscio, writing last Friday for WestportNow — state Department of Transportation project engineer Shalal Hussein had said the week before that his crews were indeed “working around the clock.”

The weather this evening was beautiful. There was no heat, little humidity, and not a hint of rain.

There was also not a hint of any work being done on the bridge.

Merritt Parkway North Avenue bridge

The alert — and concerned — “06880” reader who sent the photo above says, “This was taken at 7:30 p.m. tonight, on a clear evening. NO ONE is at the North Avenue Merritt bridge work site.”

She adds that according to a neighbor on Northside Lane, the crew shows up at 7 a.m. and leaves by 3 or 4 p.m.

“The lack of activity tonight was no aberration,” the neighbor says. “It is the norm.”

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!