Category Archives: Places

Fire In The Sky

A number of Westporters snapped photos of tonight’s spectacular sunset. Chip Stephens’ shot — taken at Winslow Park — was one of the best.

Sunset - November 22, 2015

Click on or hover over to enlarge.

And so was Chris Swan’s, from the beach:

Sunset -  Chris Swan

Surprise! Merritt Parkway North Avenue Bridge Work Will Not Be Done By Promised Date Of Late October

In mid-September, the state Department of Transportation installed a temporary traffic light on North Avenue. That allowed alternating 1-way traffic to flow over the Merritt Parkway bridge. Repairs had begun in June, and were expected to be done in late August.

Two things happened almost immediately:

  • Traffic returned to normal.
  • Repair work stopped.

It has not resumed. There were not the promised round-the-clock shifts. There were not 2 shifts. There was not enough 1 guy standing there, putting out orange cones for no good reason at all.

There was no way DOT could meet its 2nd completion date — late October — unless an entire Army Corps of Engineers division parachuted in. And then worked harder than they ever had in history. Including wartime.

Scaffolding underneath the Merritt Parkway bridge -- shown here at North Avenue last month -- has been struck 9 times since mid-June.

The Merritt Parkway North Avenue bridge, when actual work was being done.

The spectacular lack of work has continued for over a month. Today, the selectman’s office announced that “unforeseen engineering problems” will further delay the repairs.

With winter coming, the new completion date is “expected to shift to” … June 2016.

And not June 1, you eager beavers. No — June 30, 2016.

“Fortunately,” the news release chirps, “the alternating single lane will continue to operate during the winter months.”

1st Selectman Jim Marpe — whose office has repeatedly pushed DOT to please get to work — calls the latest development “a major disappointment to us all.”

The temporary traffic lights on North Avenue.

The temporary traffic lights on North Avenue.

DOT has told the town “there is no alternative solution at this time.” DOT has assured the town that “it will make all accommodations necessary to leave the bridge job site in a condition whereby snow plows can operate in the winter and that the bridge can be safely traversed.”

I ran the press release through Google Translate. Here’s its translation of DOT-talk:

“Hey, shit happens. Don’t worry. Our latest promise is only 10 months later than the original one. See ya! PS: Hope there’s not a lot of snow this winter.”

The press release concludes with DOT’s official explanation for the delay:

Due to numerous accidental strikes by unauthorized oversized vehicles on the Merritt Parkway (Rte. 15), the integrity of the temporary support system became compromised. The Contractor removed the lower support beam of the system on September 13, 2015 to assess the damage and make repairs. A revised design for a different system providing additional clearance was submitted for review to the District on November 2, 2015.

Due to this delay, which pushed temperature sensitive work into the winter season the Department and the Contractor agreed to resume work in the spring, given the additional challenges, risks and costs of winter weather work. The Town of Westport was also informed and coordinated with to ensure local traffic was accommodated for safe passage over the one lane bridge during the winter.

In the next few weeks the Contractor will conduct dowel bar pull-out tests to verify the condition of the concrete and install additional drainage on the North bound right shoulder of Rte. 15 to alleviate water runoff on the roadway and potential icing issues. The jobsite will be secured for the winter and any height restriction signs on Rte. 15 will be removed or covered until construction resumes in the spring of 2016. We estimate a revised completion date prior to June 30, 2016.

DOT logo


Another Bridge Needs Work

Bridges are all over the Westport news. There’s the uncertain fate of the Bridge Street bridge, and the uncertain date — because work has apparently stopped forever — for finishing the North Avenue Merritt Parkway bridge.

Now a 3rd bridge has grabbed the attention of at least one Westporter.

Alert “06880” reader Jonathan McClure wondered what’s up with the Merritt’s Newtown Turnpike bridge. It’s been encased in wood for a while. He searched the web, but found no explanation.

The Merritt Parkway Newtown Turnpike bridge. (Photo/Jonathan McClure)

The Merritt Parkway Newtown Turnpike bridge. (Photo/Jonathan McClure)

So he contacted the Merritt Parkway Conservancy. Executive director Jill Smyth replied that the state Department of Transportation had safety concerns about stones coming loose from the bridge. To protect drivers and preserve the exterior, DOT braced it with wood.

The Conservancy is working with DOT on repairs. Restoration of the bridge will begin in 2017.

2017!  You know — the same year that work resumes on the North Avenue bridge.

The same bridge, before being encased in wood.

The same bridge, before being encased in wood.

First Fall

Peter Tulupman and his family moved here recently, from Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. This is their 1st New England autumn.

Peter says, “While we may be past peak color, it has been glorious. I’m in awe of the beauty.”

He sends along this shot of Nash’s Pond — one of his favorite new spots.

It too is glorious.

Hover or click on to enlarge. (Photo/Peter Tulupman)

Hover or click on to enlarge. (Photo/Peter Tulupman)

One Man’s Trash…

Alert “06880” reader Ed Paul had already put 75 bags of leaves on North Avenue. He was worried he’d have to start blocking the sidewalk if the town did not come by soon to pick them up.

As he hauled the next group of 20 bags over the other day, he noticed a pleasant-looking older man, with a very long silver ponytail, placing Ed’s filled bags into his own pickup truck.

Ed asked if he’d been contracted by the town to remove the bags.

No, the guys said. After a pause, he said sheepishly, “You caught me in the act.”

Hauling away some of Ed Paul's leaf bags.

Hauling away some of Ed Paul’s leaf bags.

Turns out, he takes the leaves to bury his fig trees.

Apparently they need to get bent toward the ground, then staked in place. This fellow surrounds them with leaves and compost, keeping them above the frost line in winter.

Ed learned something. And that gave him idea.

If anyone else needs extra leaves to bury their trees, he says, feel free to stop by and help yourself. The bags are on North Avenue, just south of Cross Highway — across from the ABC house.

Take only the leaf bags, though. Nothing else is up for grabs!

The Davis Family Signs Out

Yesterday morning was the Davises’ last in Westport.

After 50 years in the same house, Bob (age 93) and his wife Agnes (87) headed south.

Nancy — one of their 5 born-and-raised-in-Westport kids — created a few dozen road signs. No, not the kind you grew so tired of during election season. These were much more personal.

Davis sign 1

They said things like:

  • “All 5 Davis kids had a great upbringing in Westport, thanks to you.”
  • “This is where we learned to ice skate.”
  • “St. Luke’s and the diner will miss you on Sundays.”
  • “The Minuteman statue will wonder where you went.”
  • “Enjoy this view one more time. Drink it in.”
  • “You have lived here a long time. You made a good life here.”
  • “Godspeed, Mom and Dad. I love you.”

Nancy placed them along Greens Farms Road, down South Compo to the beach, then back through Saugatuck. Mary Lou — another daughter — made sure her parents saw the signs as she drove them toward I-95, and on to their new life.

Davis sign 2 (2)

Bob and Agnes leave behind half a century of involvement here: Little League, Boy Scouts, PTAs, the Norwalk Hospital, mentoring, the Perkin-Elmer Retiree Club.

Davis sign 4

“I know I’ll miss my folks,” Rick — one of their sons — says.

“But I think they’ll miss Westport just as much.”

Davis sign 3

Davis sign 5

Just Another Day In Paradise: The Sequel

Compo and Old Mill were not the only local places looking lovely this weekend.

An  “06880” post earlier today spurred a couple of alert reader/photographers to send in their own images of fantastic already-well-into-November scenes. Enjoy!

Catherine Onyemelukwe drove by this Ford Road scene earlier today. It was so beautiful she stopped, turned around, got out, and captured the scene forever.

Catherine Onyemelukwe drove by this Ford Road scene earlier today. It was so beautiful she stopped, turned around, got out, and captured it forever.

Life in Fairfield County is good -- and gorgeous. (Photo/Amy Saperstein)

Life around here is good — and gorgeous. (Photo/Amy Saperstein)

The view from Saugatuck Sweets' plaza, across the river. Sweet indeed! (Photo/Amy Saperstein)

The view from Saugatuck Sweets’ plaza, across the river. Sweet indeed! (Photo/Amy Saperstein)

Click on or hover over any photo to enlarge it.


Public Session Set For Bridge Street Bridge

“06880” readers have weighed in — often, and from many perspectives — on what should and should  not be done with the Bridge Street bridge.

Soon, officials will have to listen.

A public meeting on Monday, November 23 (7:30 p.m., Town Hall auditorium) is the first chance for citizen input on the future of the historic structure (also called the William F. Cribari Bridge)

State Representative Jonathan Steinberg and Connecticut Department of Transportation officials will offer a progress report on the bridge rehabilitation study report. Citizen participation is encouraged.

The controversial Bridge Street Bridge. (Photo/Michael Champagne)

The controversial Bridge Street Bridge. (Photo/Michael Champagne)

First Selectman Jim Marpe says:

While the study report is in its early stages, I believe it will be helpful for the DOT to present its preliminary findings with regard to the bridge’s physical condition. This will provide a forum that is earlier than would normally be scheduled by the DOT. Westporters will have an opportunity to express their views on the bridge’s history, significance to the Saugatuck area, and potential rehabilitation options.  All interested parties deserve the chance to engage with the DOT early on in the process, before the DOT begins the critical portion where rehabilitation options and other recommendations are developed.

I want to insure that DOT staff with direct knowledge of the project, as well as the staff expert on the treatment of historical assets, will be available. Recognizing that historical considerations are a concern of many Westporters, I am grateful that the DOT has confirmed that key personnel with direct knowledge of the RSR will attend the session to address questions and concerns.

The project manager, lead project engineers, the consulting firm leading the report, and DOT architectural historian Mark McMillan are scheduled to appear.

They’ve Been Working On The Railroad

In mid-September, “06880” reported on the removal of a number of scrub and pine trees, on both sides of the Greens Farms railroad station tracks. They were endangering high voltage lines, and could not be trimmed.

Now there’s more work being done at the station. An alert reader sent this photo:

Greens Farms train station

“This is so close to the water and wetlands,” he says. “A lot of birds migrate through here. And a lot of warblers live in there.”

Rest easy. It’s temporary.

According to Foti Koskinas (the deputy police chief who oversees maintenance and operations of the Greens Farms and Saugatuck train stations on behalf of the town), an approximately 180 square foot area of hillside — bordered by parking spaces, the parking lot driveway, train tracks and New Creek Road — is being worked on.

It had been filled with tree stumps, railroad ties, bolts, debris and garbage.

This weekend, the area will be cleaned up. Plantings are going in. The sidewalk under the tracks is being replaced. Four additional parking spots will be added.

It should all be ready by Tuesday. The birds will return shortly after.

These Old Houses Earn Historic Honors

Just when you think every old house in Westport has been sacrificed to the teardown gods, you hear this:

The Westport Historical Society recently awarded its 300th house plaque.

And you realize sometimes there is hope.

The WHS historical home plaque program began in 1978. It’s a way for homeowners to honor the heritage of their house (and town). Plaques identify the original owner, and date of construction.

They’re available (for a $300 donation) for any house at least 100 years old; any house within a local historic district (regardless of age), and houses less than a century old if either a special event occurred there, a prominent person lived in it, or it was designed by a noted architect.

53 plaques honor homes that are more than 200 years old. The 1st one dates to the 1680s, marking a structure built by John Osborn. The newest is on a 1941 house owned by famous jazz pianist, lecturer and critic John Mehegan.

The most recent plaque — #300 — goes to an 1803 home at 268 Wilton Road. In 2014 that house was featured on “06880,” as an example of renovation rather than demolition.

Presenting the 300th historical house plaque are (from left): builder Peter Greenberg, Westport Historical Society president Ed Gerber and WHS house historian Bob Weingarten. (Photo/Laurence Untermeyer)

Presenting the 300th historical house plaque are (from left): builder Peter Greenberg, Westport Historical Society president Ed Gerber and WHS house historian Bob Weingarten. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

The awarding of that plaque coincides with the opening next Sunday (November 8, 3 p.m.) of a special WHS exhibit. “Window to Westport’s Past and Present: WPA Images of Historic Houses” is a collection of 131 photographs of local homes. Taken in 1935 — during the depth of the Great Depression — they were largely the work of WPA photogapher (and Westport resident) T. O’Conor Sloane.

The WHS show pairs those photos with current images of the same houses. Most were taken by WHS house historian Bob Weingarten.

If the concept sounds familiar: It is. Last spring, “06880” ran a weekly series — “This Old House” — in which readers helped identify some of the structures that are now part of the exhibit.

268 Wilton Road in a 1935 WPA photograph...

268 Wilton Road in a 1935 WPA photograph…

The featured photographs portray a wide range of Westport history. There’s the Kings Highway North residence of Pulitzer Prize winner Van Wyck Brooks, and that of George Hand Wright, a founder of our “arts colony.”

The former homes of Paul Newman and Martha Stewart were photographed for the WPA project — decades before their later owners became famous.

One of the show’s crown jewels is the Wynkoops’ Long Lots Road home. Dating to the mid-1680s, it’s considered Westport’s oldest structure. And yes, 268 Wilton Road — the one with the 300th historical plaque — is in the exhibit too.

So, of course, is 268 Wilton Road — lovingly preserved, restored and renovated (and moved back from the busy street) by Able Construction partner Peter Greenberg.

...and the same home today.

…and the same home today. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

There’s much more on the walls of the Westport Historical Society — fittingly, one of Westport’s most treasured old homes itself. As a plaque near the door proudly notes, Bradley-Wheeler House was built in 1795, and remodeled in 1867.

(The Westport Historical Society exhibit opens with a reception this Sunday, November 8, 3-5 p.m. It runs through March 26. For more information, click here.)