Category Archives: Real estate

Town Adds Toilets At Old Mill

For years, Old Mill beachgoers have not had access to public toilets.

Now they do:

Old Mill demolition 1

Just kidding!

That’s the scene today, at the site of what used to be 38 and 40 Old Mill. Those 2 houses — badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy — have been torn down.

They won’t be rebuilt. The town will make the land into a park. It’s located adjacent to the walking bridge, just before the privately owned Compo Cove.

Here are 2 more views of what 38 and 40 Old Mill look like now:

Old Mill demolition 2

Old Mill demolition 3

 

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!

Filmmakers Fight To Save F. Scott’s Home

In 1920, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald spent a memorable summer in Westport.

It’s taken a lot longer — more than 2 years — for another pair of locals to make a film about the literary-and-fast-living couple.

But the video project began even way before that.

A 1996 New Yorker story by Westport writer Barbara Probst Solomon linked Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby to this town. But the piece was “ignored by Fitzgerald scholars,” says filmmaker Robert Steven Williams. So he and Staples grad/social studies teacher/historian Deej Webb embarked on their own project.

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, in front of what appears to be their Westport home.

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, in front of what appears to be their Westport home.

They interviewed more than a dozen academics. They dug into Fitzgerald’s archives at Princeton, and presented at a Fitzgerald Society Conference in Alabama. They even interviewed one of the writer’s granddaughters in Vermont — a woman who rarely speaks to anyone.

“What we uncovered was not only surprising,” Williams says. “It made us realize that the Westport Fitzgerald home was much more than just about Gatsby.”

So when clips of their film — Boats Against the Current — are shown at the Fairfield Theater Company on Monday (June 8, 7:30 p.m.), viewers will learn about much more than F. Scott, Zelda, the Roaring ’20s and Westport.

Williams and Webb draw attention to the fact that the home the Fitzgeralds rented — on Compo Road South, adjacent to the Longshore entrance — is for sale. And unprotected.

According to Williams, that means that “anyone could buy it, and make it tomorrow’s ‘Teardown of the Day.'”

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald slept -- and partied -- here.

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald slept — and partied — here.

Williams and Webb will discuss — using over an hour’s worth of clips — why “Westport needs to save this home.” They’ll be joined by Professor Walter Raubicheck (a Fitzgerald scholar from Pace University), and Westport Historical Society executive director Sue Gold.

After all, like Gatsby itself, the Fitzgeralds’ home is a classic.

(For ticket information, click here.)

 

Bedford Square: Looking Ahead

This morning’s rendering of the future look of Bedford Square’s most visible face — Anthropologie, at the corner of the Post Road and Main Street — piqued readers’ interest.

Several asked for more views of the project that will reshape downtown. Here’s a sneak peek. Enjoy!

The dropoff plaza. Retail is on the ground floor; 2 floors of apartments are above.

The dropoff plaza, viewed from Elm Street. Retail is on the ground floor; 2 floors of apartments are above.

A courtyard sits at the crossroads of 3 pedestrian passageways.

A courtyard sits at the crossroads of 3 pedestrian passageways, which link to the rest of downtown.

A view from the plaze, looking toward the back of the old firehouse and gym on Church Lane.

A view from the plaza, looking toward the back of the old firehouse and gym on Church Lane.

There will be 6 residential units in townhouses.

There will be 6 residential units in townhouses.

Another view of the Bedford Building, with Anthropologie as anchor tenant.

Another view of the Bedford Building, with Anthropologie as the anchor tenant.

WSJ Trains Its Lens On Stacy Bass

It’s been a busy month for Stacy Bass.

First, Gardens at First Light — her book on 12 exceptional gardens — was published.

Now the Wall Street Journal has turned its lens on the talented photographer’s home.

Stacy and Howard Bass' home. (Photo/Stacy Bass for Wall Street Journal)

Stacy and Howard Bass’ home. (Photo/Stacy Bass for Wall Street Journal)

A real estate section “Inside Story” describes the waterside home’s initial attractions to Stacy and her husband Howard in 1996: the constantly changing landscape, and the fact that from the property they could see the home where her parents lived when her father died a year earlier.

It was a “nondescript,” 4,500-square-foot, 5-bedroom spec home. They offered $925,000, just below the asking price.

Since then they’ve done 4 renovations — including a gut one with Peter Cadoux Architects.

A 3rd-floor office is light, airy, and offers wonderful water views. (Photo/Julie Bidwell for Wall Street Journal)

A 3rd-floor office is light, airy, and offers wonderful water views. (Photo/Julie Bidwell for Wall Street Journal)

The WSJ piece offers details about every aspect — including, of course, Stacy’s 3 pocket gardens. Each features a unique sculpture, framed by boxwood hedges.

(To read the full story, click here. Hat tip: Jane Sherman)

Stacy Bass, in one of 3 pocket gardens. (Photo/Julie Bidwell for Wall Street Journal)

Stacy Bass, in one of 3 pocket gardens. (Photo/Julie Bidwell for Wall Street Journal)

 

Geiger’s: Going, Going, Gone…

The deconstruction of Geiger’s barn was going well — board by board, piece by piece.

But a couple of days ago, a bulldozer rumbled in, and finished the job.

Now the barn is gone. So is the main building.

Geigers Collage 2

Two acres of flat land sit on the corner of the Post Road and North Morningside. Soon to come: a commercial/residential complex with 12 residential rental units — 2 of them classified as “affordable” — plus a retail building.

And a bank.

This Old House #10

Tom Ryan and Dan Herman were the 1st readers to identify last week’s house as #5 Old Hill Road.

They’re right — sort of. The present structure at that site — opposite the old patriot “training ground” at the intersection of Kings Highway North and Old Hill — was built in 1944. The structure in the photo — part of a 1930s WPA project to document century-old homes — burned almost to the ground in 1943. It was rebuilt looking as much as possible like the original. Click here for the photo, then scroll down for comments.

Here is this week’s house. Like the others, this WPA image will be part of a Westport Historical Society exhibit on the changing face of Westport’s homes. But organizers need to find out where it is.

This Old House - May 6, 2015

The back of the photo gives no location. It says only: “Known as ‘William Lanier Washington House'; Squire  David Coley.”

Coley is a famous name in Westport. Washington is a famous name everywhere.

If you think you know where this house stands (or stood — it may have been torn down), click “Comments.” The more information you can provide, the better.

 

This Old House #9

Narrowing down the neighborhood for last week’s “This Old House” was easy — it said Canal Street, right on the back of the 1930s WPA photo.

But which house exactly? After extensive back-and-forth, both Morley Boyd and Peter Barlow nailed it: 4 Woods Grove Road. This also happened to be the 1st house on what is now a well-populated road (running behind Coffee An’ and Ace Hardware) — and also home to the renowned Westport School of Music. To see the photo and all the comments, click here.

The next house in the series — which asks “06880” readers to identify homes that may or may not still stand, in advance of a Westport Historical Society exhibit on the changing face of local residences — is this:

This Old House - April 29, 2015

The only identification on the back says: “On Training Green.”

Was that where the Revolutionary War militia gathered, near the Kings Highway North/Old Hill Road intersection? Or someplace else — say, Crawford Road off Partrick?

If you can identify this house — or have any information on Westport’s “training green” — click “Comments” below.

Baron’s South To Remain Open Space

In a vote that will resound for decades to come, the RTM affirmed the Planning & Zoning Commission’s designation of the Baron’s South property as open space.

The 22-acre, wooded and hilly property — bordered by South Compo Road, the Post Road and Imperial Avenue — is already home to the Senior Center, on its western edge. But further development — for instance, of a hotly debated senior housing complex — will not take place.

A majority of RTM members — 20 — actually voted to overturn last month’s P&Z decision (4-1, with 1 abstention) designating the entire area as open space.

But 14 members sided with the P&Z. Overruling the P&Z required 24 votes — 2/3 of all members.

A path in Baron's South. (Photo/Judy James)

A path in Baron’s South. (Photo/Judy James)

The roll was called after midnight. Debate was intense but civil throughout the long evening. Many issues were raised, ranging from the importance of open space and the inevitability of more development once construction began, to the speed and propriety of one commission deciding such a major issue for the town.

Some speakers declared that the vote should be about the “open space” decision alone — not the merits of one particular senior housing proposal. The need for senior housing, however, was noted by other speakers.

The baron’s property will now remain undeveloped — an “urban forest” just steps from downtown. Was today’s early morning vote comparable to previous decisions (for example, to purchase Longshore when a developer proposed building 180 houses there — or to allow construction of the Wright Street and Gorham Island office complexes), or a missed opportunity to build on town-owned land?

Check back in a decade or two.

There are already buildings on Baron's South. The baron's Golden Shadows house is shown in the distance.   A debate will begin soon on their fate.

There are some existing buildings on Baron’s South. The baron’s Golden Shadows house is shown in the distance. A debate will begin soon on their fate.

Missing Meeker Musket Ball

Yesterday’s commemoration of the 238th anniversary of the Battle of Compo Hill — with ceremonies honoring the Minute Men who battled the British on the way to and from their arsenal-burning in Danbury — got Mark Yurkiw thinking.

He lives in a very historic saltbox home on Cross Highway.* By the time the Redcoats marched past in 1777, the house — owned by Samuel Meeker — was already nearly half a century old.

The

The “Meeker house” in the 1930s, as photographed for a WPA project. After the Revolutionary War, Benjamin Meeker built the barn in back. It — and the house — still stand today.

As Samuel’s great-great-grandson Edward Franklin Meeker wrote in an application to the Sons of the American Revolution in 1895, the British expedition included a number of Tory guides.

They knew who along the way were Patriots. So en route to Danbury the Redcoats took Samuel Meeker’s son Benjamin and Daniel prisoner. They “sacked and gutted his house,” and butchered his cattle. The brothers were taken to New York, and held in the Sugar House Prison for 18 months.

The Meekers did not go easily. A musket ball was lodged in their front door.

There it stayed for nearly 2 centuries — silent witness to a historic past.

But sometime in the late 1940s or ’50s, the musket ball vanished. “Oral history tells us it disappeared after a local Boy Scout troop visited the house for a tour,” current owner Yurkiw says.

The door today. The hole left by the missing musket ball can be seen on the left side, underneath the knocker.

The door today. The hole left by the missing musket ball can be seen on the left side, near the bottom.

Yurkiw wants the musket ball back — or at least closure. If anyone knows where that small ball is, he’d like to know. He hopes to restore it for future tours, of what is the only known house in Westport still standing that the British passed on their way north.

Click “Comments” if you know. And don’t be shy. The statute of limitations is long gone.

Just like the Redcoats.

*BONUS FUN FACT:  Cross Highway gets its name from the fact that it “crossed” the “long lots” on what is now Bayberry Lane and Sturges Highway, near Long Lots Road.

Daniel Meeker died in 1784. His wife Abigail (Gorham) died 5 years later. They are buried in the cemetery bordered by Greens Farms Road and the Sherwood Island Connector. Daniel's brother Benjamin outlived him by 33 years. He married another Abigail (Burr). This photo -- and information about the Meekers, and the house -- comes from current owner Wendy Van Wie, Mark Yurkiw's wife. She is a law professor and historian.

Daniel Meeker died in 1784. His wife Abigail (Gorham) died 5 years later. They are buried in the cemetery bordered by Greens Farms Road and the Sherwood Island Connector. Daniel’s brother Benjamin outlived him by 33 years. He married another Abigail (Burr). This photo — and information about the Meekers, and the house — comes from current owner Wendy Van Wie, Mark Yurkiw’s wife. She is a law professor and historian.