Category Archives: Places

Gone Fishin’

Fred Cantor captured this timeless scene yesterday, off Ford Road:

Ford Road - Fred Cantor

Take The Baron’s South Walking Tour — Right Now!

If you couldn’t make last week’s RTM-sponsored walking tour of Baron’s South — or you have no idea how to access the town-owned property, which is (very quietly) open to the public from dawn to dusk* — then this video is for you.

Westport realtor Judy James has created a 2-minute walking tour. Click here to access it, via RealPlayer.

NOTE: There’s no sound. Which is exactly what you experience if you walk Baron’s South yourself.

Except for the birds.

*There are entrances on Imperial Avenue and South Compo Road.

Deep in the Baron's South property. This image was taken from Judy James' video.

Deep in the Baron’s South property. This image was taken from Judy James’ video.

This Old House #8

Once again, last week’s “This Old House” — the photo of a local home, taken in the 1930s for a WPA project, and soon to be shown at a Westport Historical Society exhibit on old houses — remains unidentified. At least, not positively.

Educated guesses ranged from Greens Farms/Wake Robin Road and Prospect Road, to Compo Beach, to Burritt’s Landing and Duck Pond Road. In other words, all over town. Click here to see the photo and comments.

This week’s house looks a bit different from the others in this series — and we see a bit more of the surroundings too.

This Old House #8

Plus, there’s solid information on the state website, where all these WPA photos are archived:

“Circa 1835, Ryan Estate. Location: Faces east on Canal Street; north end of the street and northwest of brook near Main Street.”

Still, WHS house historian Bob Weingarten is unsure exactly where on Canal Street this house is — or if it still stands. If you know, click “Comments.”

And if you’ve got any good stories about the history of Canal Street, add those too!

Hey, DOT: Move Your Asphalt!

It’s been there so long — and we’re so intent on finding an illegal parking spot at Starbucks — that most Westporters seldom notice the asphalt mountain at the state Department of Transportation maintenance facility just behind Walgreen’s and the bank, across from the diner.

But alert “06880” reader Scott Smith spotted it 2 years ago. Yesterday morning, he looked again. The only thing that’s changed: It’s 2 years older. 

Scott writes:

I know that much of the old asphalt scraped off our roadways is recycled into new material to resurface roads. In fact, old asphalt is the most recycled material in the US. Maybe that’s the state’s plan for all this stuff – surely thousands of cubic yards of ground-up asphalt. If so, they’re taking their sweet time to use it.

One view of the asphalt, from Hillandale Road...

One view of the asphalt, from Hillandale Road…

So here’s my question for CT DOT, as well as our local and state elected officials: Is this the best use of such prime Westport real estate?

Seems to me this area could be better utilized for, say, parking school buses and getting them out of their current cramped lot downtown. Or maybe we could work out a deal to move our Parks & Rec maintenance facility from the center of Longshore to this area. (The vehicles and equipment at that rundown facility are used not at Longshore but other Parks & Rec properties around town.) With some screening, perhaps there’s enough room here for affordable housing, which is as much a state issue as a local one.

Our local tax dollars sent to Hartford far out-measure what Westporters get back in terms of state services. You’d think we would have a good case to make for a land swap or lease that would allow Westport to make better use of this property. And there doesn’t seem to be much of a NIMBY issue involved, as most any re-development of the site would be preferable to a mountain of asphalt sitting almost in the middle of town.

...and another. (Photos/Scott Smith)

…and another. (Photos/Scott Smith)

Bridgewater’s Glendinning Goes Green

Bridgewater Associates is the world’s biggest hedge fund. It’s also one of Westport’s leading taxpayers.

But the firm keeps a very low profile. If not for the big buses zipping employees between their Glendinning headquarters complex on Weston Road and a 2nd office at Nyala Farms near I-95 Exit 18, no one would know they’re here.

However, a small blurb in this week’s Wall Street Journal raised concerns with an “06880” reader. The paper said that — after its plan to move to Stamford fell through — Bridgewater wants to renovate its Glendinning offices, and create an underground parking garage.

The project “could require the involvement of the Army Corps of Engineers,” the WSJ noted.

Bridgewater headquarters

An aerial view of Bridgewater’s Glendinning headquarters. Note the parking spaces on both sides of the river.

“Scope of project sounds mind-blowing,” said the email I received. “How come nothing online?”

It’s not as massive as it sounds. In fact, Bridgewater — whose corporate culture has been called “cultish,” “bizarre” and “not for everyone” — has for nearly 20 years been a careful steward of the wooded, riverfront Glendinning property (and an excellent tenant in the hidden-away Nyala Farms complex too).

“This is a unique setting: a beautiful, bio-diverse area,” a company representative told Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission at a pre-application hearing earlier this month.

Bridgewater hopes to increase the functionality of its “somewhat tired” buildings — though not increase their footprints — while maintaining the natural environment that may contribute, in some way, to the hedge fund’s successful management of $169 billion.

The buildings on the Glendinning site are half a century old.

The buildings on the Glendinning site are half a century old.

Glendinning (named for the marketing firm that originally developed the property) sits at the confluence of the Saugatuck and Aspetuck Rivers. It’s in a 100-year floodplain.

To mitigate flooding — a problem in the past — Bridgewater wants to move 170 asphalt parking spaces underground. The new parking garage will be planted over, with bio-filtering greenery.

There will also be a new central green. As adjacent buildings are renovated, coverage will be reduced by 30 percent. Coverage on the adjacent Ford Road parcel may increase slightly.

Natural plantings will restore 1000 feet near the Saugatuck River’s edge. Bridgewater will work with Trout Unlimited to add a new fish ladder too.

A realigned driveway and new bridge will connect the complex with Ford Road. Bridgewater promises to buffer it well.

The river (and dam) on the Ford Road side of the property (left in this photo) will be protected and enhanced, in Bridgewater's plan.

The river (and dam) on the Ford Road side of the property (left in this photo) will be protected and enhanced, in Bridgewater’s plan.

Bridgewater has already met with Westport’s planning, engineering and conservation departments, plus the fire marshal. They’ve talked with the Department of Environmental Protection.

They’ve also sat down with owners of nearby properties, on Weston and Ford Roads.

“This is the best stewardship of a unique natural resource,” a Bridgewater spokesman told the P&Z. Members had several questions, but seemed to appreciate the company’s commitment to green space.

The process is still in the early stages. Applications and reviews are needed by conservation, flood and erosion and architectural review boards, plus the DEP and FEMA. It could be 6 months to a year before the P&Z hears the application.

Bridgewater is a hedge fund, not an insurance company. But it sounds as if they’re borrowing a famous firm’s motto. You know: Like a good neighbor, they’re there.

(To see Glendinning’s full presentation at the P&Z meeting earlier this month, click here; then click “Agenda.”)

This Old House #7

Our house identification project is getting tougher.

Last week’s house — the latest in a series asking “06880” readers for information on homes photographed by the WPA in the 1930s, prior to a Westport Historical Society exhibit — has not yet been positively identified. Click here to see that photo, then scroll down for comments and suggestions.

Here is this week’s house. Unlike the others, we have no clue to its location. There is just one word on the back: “Westport.”

This Old House 7

If you think you know where in Westport it stands — or stood; it may have been demolished — click “Comments” below.

Westport Arts Center: Susan Malloy’s Living Legacy

In her 91 years, Susan Malloy was an exceptionally generous presence in Westport. Her time, energy and financial contributions aided countless organizations in town. The accolades pouring in after her death yesterday morning are heartfelt, well deserved, and broad in scope.

It’s hard to quantify which of so many institutions benefited the most from Susan’s generosity. But at least one most definitely would not be here today without her.

In 1947 a group of Westport artists began meeting informally — “and riotously,” according to a 2002 New York Times story — at various locations in town.

By 1969 they’d evolved into the Westport-Weston Arts Council. Their home was a tiny office in Town Hall.

In 1984, Joyce Thompson told the Times, the group needed its own home. They asked to use the former Greens Farms Elementary School — shuttered a few years earlier, when the student population declined.

After a year of negotiation, they agreed on a lease: $1 a year.

Greens Farms Elementary School was the Westport Arts Center first real home.

Greens Farms Elementary School was the Westport Arts Center’s first real home.

The newly named Westport Arts Center had to raise plenty of money, though. An oil tank had to be buried; steps needed to be installed — in addition to classrooms being converted into studios, halls painted white to use as a gallery, and the auditorium converted into a performance space.

The new center hosted art exhibitions, chamber concerts, children’s sculpture workshops and jazz jams.

But in the 1990s, the Times reports, the school population rose. The town wanted its school back. The Arts Center countered that they’d invested plenty of money in the building.

WACAfter heated negotiations the town paid the WAC over $500,000 to break the lease, and reimburse them for their improvements.

The Arts Center went on the road. They held concerts at the Seabury Center, the library and school auditoriums. They hung paintings wherever they could.

What they really needed was a home.

Heida Hermanns, a concert pianist who settled in Westport after fleeing the Holocaust in World War II, had set up a foundation to fund the Arts Center. But it wasn’t enough. And the settlement from the town had been designated for programs.

Susan Malloy stepped into the breach. “I could see the search was going nowhere,” the Times quoted her as saying. “Nothing was right. This place was too small, another wasn’t even in Westport, so I finally said, ‘OK. I’ll stake the arts center.”

Susan Malloy -- an artist herself -- helped the  Westport Arts Center survive.

Susan Malloy — an artist herself — helped the Westport Arts Center survive.

Her funds covered the rent for 2 years. It also inspired more donations. The result: In June of 2002, the Westport Arts Center opened its own home, on Riverside Avenue.

It’s been there for 13 happy, fruitful, artistic years. The WAC is now as permanent a part of the town as the library or Historical Society (2 other beneficiaries of Susan Malloy’s largesse).

It’s easy to forget the past. In Susan Malloy’s case, she wasn’t looking for praise, or even thanks. She simply saw a need, and filled it.

Think of that the next time you go to the Westport Arts Center. Or drive past it.

Or the next time someone asks you to help out your town, in any way you can.

The Westport Arts Center thrives today.

The Westport Arts Center thrives today.

This Old House #6

Last week’s house — labeled “Cross Highway — near Bayberry or Great Hill Rd. Westport” — has been positively identified as 167 Cross Highway. Click here for that photo, and comments.

This week — in our continuing quest to help the Westport Historical Society identify 1930s-era WPA photos, prior to an exhibition on old houses — we present the Osborn House.

Actually, an Osborn House.

There are 2 by that name in Westport. One — from around 1683-87 — is the oldest surviving house in Westport. Located at 187 Long Lots Road, today it’s the Wynkoop house. (Fittingly, the late Susan Wynkoop was a WHS president.)

The other  house — the one “06880” readers are asked to help identify — could be anywhere in town. The inscription on the back says simply “Osborn Ho. Westport.” Here it is:

This Old House - April 8, 2015

So put on your thinking caps. Click comments if you think you know where it is (or was — it may have been torn down in the decades since the WPA photo was taken).

PS: “Osborn” might also have been spelled “Osborne.” Does that help?

Baron’s South Open Space Proposal Heads To RTM

The clock is ticking on Baron’s South.

The RTM has received 4 petitions to review last month’s Planning & Zoning Commission decision that would rezone 22 acres of that prime downtown property as open space.

It has received a 5th petition too, from a completely opposite view. This one asks the RTM to uphold the P&Z’s open space vote.

The RTM has 30 days to render a decision.

This Monday (April 6, Town Hall auditorium, 7 p.m.), the RTM’s P&Z Committee will meet. Westporters are invited to speak publicly on the open space designation.

On April 20, the RTM P&Z Committee will vote on a recommendation to the full RTM. That body will make a final decision on April 28.

This is a crucial step on determining the fate of 22 acres of wooded land, just a few steps from downtown Westport. If you don’t make your voice heard — in person, or by email (click here to find their contact info; click here for your district) — you can’t say you weren’t warned.

The entrance to the Baron's South property.

The entrance to the Baron’s South property.

The Ospreys Are Back!

In the surest sign yet that our long, nightmarish winter is giving way to spring, Westport’s favorite ospreys have returned.

Last year, they nested on a dangerous high pole near Fresh Market. After they caused a power outage in July, CL&P (now Eversource) rerouted an electrical feed, to save the magnificent birds from harm.

In October — after the birds flew south for the winter* — the utility company relocated the nest to a higher utility pole, 150 feet away. This one had fewer wires. The hope was that the ospreys would return to the less dangerous nest this spring.

They did. Today, Jo Ann Davidson observed them, home again for the summer.

Welcome back!

Ospreys 2 - Jo Ann Davidson

The ospreys' new home. (Photos/Jo Ann Davidson)

The ospreys’ new home. (Photos/Jo Ann Davidson)

*Something all of us should have done.