Category Archives: YMCA

One Last Look Back

The Kemper-Gunn House has moved. The old YMCA Bedford building begins renovations soon, becoming an anchor of the new Bedford Square.

But Westporters can’t stop looking back.

Alert “06880″ reader Jonathan Rohner sent this fascinating postcard showing the Y and the Westport Bank and Trust building (today it’s Patagonia):

YMCA and bank in 1920s or so

I love the cars — all looking the same — parked or driving haphazardly on the trolley-tracked Post Road.

I love the elm trees framing the Bedford building, and how peaceful downtown looked.

Equally alert “06880″ reader Scott Smith contributed this photo, from a decade or so later:

YMCA witih old cars

I love the hand-colored blue sky. The bike leaning casually against the tree on the left.

And check out the front-in parking job of those cars in front of the Y. That would never fly today.

I was especially intrigued by another image Scott sent. This one shows the Westport Hotel. The area was called Hotel Square. Westport Bank and Trust had not yet been built:

Westport Hotel - site of old Y

The hotel had a pool room. Youngsters were not permitted inside. Edward T. Bedford vowed to give them a place. In 1923, he built the YMCA.

The rest is history.

And now, a new chapter has begun.

 

How Do You Move A House? Very Slowly. And Carefully.

Today is moving day in downtown Westport.

The Kemper-Gunn House is being relocated across Elm Street, from its perch on the corner of Church Lane to the Baldwin parking lot.

Curious Westporters gathered at dawn to watch the landscape-changing event. JP Vellotti was there too, snapping special photos for “06880.”

Here’s his 1st set. More will follow, when the dust — and the house — settle into their new “home,” later this morning.

The house has been lifted off its foundation. After 125 years, it's ready to be relocated.

The house has been lifted off its foundation. After 125 years, it’s ready to be relocated.

The media was there. TV crews quickly learned how to park their large vehicles in Westport.

The media was there. TV crews quickly learned how to park their large vehicles in Westport.

A small tree is suddenly discovered to be in the way.

A small tree is suddenly discovered to be in the way.

Planning & Zoning chair Chip Stephens, 1st selectman Jim Marpe, 2nd selectman Avi Kaner, and moving company representatives pause for a photo.

Planning & Zoning chair Chip Stephens, 1st selectman Jim Marpe, 2nd selectman Avi Kaner, developer David Waldman and an associate pause for a photo.

Java had free coffee, courtesy of the Chamber of Commerce. Villa del Sol jumped on the bandwagon, offering free margaritas. But not until lunch!

Java had free coffee, courtesy of the Chamber of Commerce. Villa del Sol jumped on the bandwagon, offering free margaritas. But not until lunch!

The Kemper-Gunn is not the only change coming to Church Lane. The old Westport Y Weeks Pavilion will soon be demolished.

Kemper-Gunn is not the only change coming to Church Lane. The old Westport Y Weeks Pavilion will soon be demolished.

This is the slowest crossing of Elm Street ever. (All photos/JP Vellotti)

This is the slowest crossing of Elm Street ever. (All photos/JP Vellotti)

Waaaay Before The Ivy

Since we’re looking back at the YMCA in its pre-ivy days — check out yesterday’s 1964-era photo — we might as well do it right.

Alert — and history-minded — “06880″ reader Patty Mraz Graves sends along this postcard from the 1920s 1930s. There was no ivy — but the elm trees mentioned in yesterday’s post were already mature, and handsome.

YMCA1920s

Two things have not changed much from nearly a century ago, though.

There was plenty of traffic.

And the cars were big.

The More Things Change…

Many Westporters are lamenting the loss of 3 cherry trees. Cut down last week as part of the new Bedford Square project, they stood outside the downtown Westport Y seemingly forever.

“Seemingly forever” is actually 50 years.

A very alert “06880″ reader found a Westport Town Crier clipping from March 15, 1964. The paper reported that despite spraying, pruning and feeding, a “venerable” tree succumbed to Dutch elm disease.

The "venerable elm tree" frames the Y.

The “venerable elm tree” frames the Y.

For 100 years or more, it stood on that exact same spot: in front of the Y.

The elm tree is removed after toppling.

The elm tree is removed. It was taken to the “city dump,” and burned.

In its place, the Town Crier said, 3 flowering Japanese cherry trees were planted. Twelve feet high, they were donated by Westport garden center owner (and very active citizen) Alan U. Parsell.

They flourished there for exactly half a century.

In 2064, I’m sure “06880″ — or whatever replaces it — will run a nice looking-back story on the “venerable,” lovely trees that for 50 years framed handsome Bedford Square.

The Westport YMCA, after the Dutch elm was removed. Note the lack of ivy too.

The Westport YMCA, after the Dutch elm was removed. Note the lack of ivy, too.

 

Y Not?

What’s up with this very ordinary photo?

YMCA parking lot

It’s part of the Westport Y’s parking lot, off Wilton Road. It shows a small number of the many cars that are no longer jockeying for a spot downtown.

I went to the new Y today, for the first time. I liked the spacious, airy fitness center.

I did not like the very cramped locker room. (I was a member of the Men’s Health Center at the old Y. I miss the gym clothes and towels, too.)

And I wonder why so many able-bodied people take the elevator instead of the stairs. It’s a health and wellness facility, people.

Meanwhile, here’s what the Y’s Bedford building looks like today. With the trees (and ivy) removed, you can see a pair of gargoyles that were hidden for years.

YMCA ivy removed

That view won’t last, I’m sure. Get ready for big changes downtown.

That Was Quick

Last Thursday, Bedford Square Associates took ownership of the former Westport Y. The complex – including the 1923 Tudor building — will be transformed into a retail, restaurant and residential center.

Today, the iconic Kwanzan cherry trees in front of the Bedford building were chopped down.

YMCA trees

All that’s left are memories.

YMCA in spring

 

A Developing Story

Ever since the Wright Street and Gorham Island buildings were erected in the 1970s — and those were quite some erections — Westport has been consumed by construction.

Even so, 2014 stands out as a landmark year.

Here are some of the developments — as in, real estate developments — that have occurred in the past few months. Or are occurring right now.

  • The Y moved into its new home. The Kemper-Gunn House is being moved across Elm Street to the parking lot, and Bedford Square will soon rise downtown.
  • The Levitt Pavilion finally completed its renovation. Nearby, plans for Jesup Green — with possibly reconfigured parking, a new Westport Arts Center and a renovated library — are in the works. And, of course, committees and commissions have been talking all year about new ideas for all of downtown.
  • Across the river, Save the Children has skedaddled. That fantastic waterfront property will be redeveloped, such as the adjacent Bartaco/National Hall buildings have been reimagined recently.
The west side of the Saugatuck River is also part of the new downtown plan. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer for DowntownWestportCT.com)

The west side of the Saugatuck River includes the old National Hall and the relatively new Wright Street building. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer for DowntownWestportCT.com)

  • Compo Acres Shopping Center is being renovated. The Fresh Market shopping center — and the one across the Post Road, with Dunkin’ Donuts — will get a facelift (and new tenants) soon.
  • Applications have been made for housing on the site of the Westport Inn. Across town, there are rumors of new housing on Hiawatha Lane, near I-95 Exit 17.
  • Senior housing has been shot down on Baron’s South. But it won’t remain undisturbed forever.
  • Phase II of Saugatuck Center has been completed. Phase III — on  Railroad Place — is coming down the tracks.

That’s a lot — as in, lots of building lots.

And nearly 2 months still remain in this year.

P.S. Oh, yeah. The beach too.

 

Returning A Few Crumbs

The Y in downtown Westport is closed, and it won’t be coming back.

But Crumbs may be.

Business Insider reports that the luxury cupcake chain will begin reopening stores this month. They were shut in July, due to a cash crunch.

A Manhattan store will reopen Tuesday. Another 25 will follow, including the Westport location behind Tiffany.

That’s good news for cupcake lovers. Even better: With the Y gone, there’s plenty of parking nearby.

(Hat tip to Stacey Henske)

Crumbs

RIP, Y

The 90-year-old downtown Y is in its death throes this weekend.

This is the final day for the institution that since 1923 stood handsomely on the corner of the Post Road and Main Street. (And, less elegantly, on Church Lane since 1978.) It has withstood floods, hurricanes, Prohibition, the rise of post-war suburbia and the decline of mom-and-pop shops — plus much, much more.

Tomorrow, the Y is outta there. The new Mahackeno facility — bright, shiny, fresh, airy and modern — opens at 5:30 a.m.

We will miss plenty about the downtown Y. Like this:

YMCA in spring

And this:

YMCA original

And this:

YMCA lobby 1923There’s plenty we won’t miss, though. Like this:

blog - Y 1

And this:

blog - Y 2

And this:

blog - Y 3

A new day is dawning.

At Mahackeno — and downtown.

It’s Official: New Y Opens On October 6

The original proposal came around the turn of the century. The groundbreaking was 18 months ago. The ribbon-cutting was last month.

Now, finally — with unanimous approval from Westport’s Water Pollution Control Authority (aka the Board of Selectmen) — the Westport Family Y will get a Certificate of Occupancy.

At 5:30 a.m. on Monday, October 6, the new facility at Mahackeno will officially open.

The view of the new Y, from Mahackeno.

The view of the new Y, from Mahackeno.

Y officials originally thought they’d open around Labor Day. The delay involved approval of the private on-site waste-water disposal system.

So — less than 2 weeks from today — downtown will suddenly become less congested. Parking spots will open up on Church Lane and off Elm Street.

There’s plenty of room at the new Y, on Allen Raymond Lane (formerly Sunny Lane).

As for traffic on Wilton Road: We shall see.