Tag Archives: Fred Cantor

Gone Fishin’

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

Ford Road - Fred Cantor

Tearing Down A Teardown Sign

The stretch of Hillspoint Road from Hales Road to Old Mill is not an official historic district. But plenty of older, handsome homes line both sides of the street, as it dips gently from I-95 and the railroad down to Elvira’s.

For a long time, a “demolition” sign seemed to doom 158 Hillspoint Road. But the other day, Fred Cantor — who in addition to being an alert “06880” reader is also a very alert neighbor — noticed the sign was gone.

He spotted contractors’ trucks on site. So on one of his walks he talked to a next door neighbor, and a worker. Both confirmed that the home was sold, and will stay.

Score one for preservation!

158 Hillspoint Road is no longer a teardown. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

158 Hillspoint Road — built in 1803 — is no longer a teardown. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

Fred is not content to just spread the good news. He also passes along the history he’s dug up.

According to tax assessor records, Fred says, the original portion of the home was built in 1803.

Fred found information from former owner Sue Braley on WestportNow in 2013, when it was first slated for demolition. Sue — who sold it in 1996 — said it was originally an outbuilding of the Sherwood House at 160 Hillspoint, then modified for human occupation in the early part of the 20th century, when artists and others began coming to Westport for the summer.

Sue writes:

Oral tradition claims that it was a tea room for the tourists, perhaps operated by Edith Very Sherwood, who lived at 160 and was the Westport librarian.  (A subsequent owner was) Richard Seyffert, a portrait and landscape painter who began construction of the studio toward the rear of the property.

Felice Holman Valen (the author of over 20 children’s books, including “Elisabeth and the Marsh Mystery” and others clearly inspired by the nearby mill pond) and Herbert Valen (who worked in advertising and later as a “gag” writer for the New Yorker) owned the property from 1955 to the late 1980s.

Westport’s old homes are disappearing at an alarming rate. How nice to read of at least one that escaped a very imminent wrecking ball.

Two doors away from 158 Hillspoint is #170. It bears a plaque, dating it from 1870. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

Two doors away from 158 Hillspoint, this house bears a plaque dating it from 1870. (Photo/Fred Cantor)


Danish House Follow-Up: No, No, It Really Is The Philippines!

This morning’s “06880” post — about the 1964-65 World’s Fair Danish Pavilion that ended up in Westport — started out:

It’s an urban suburban myth: The Philippines (or Indonesian) (or Danish) pavilion from the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair ended up as a residence at the end of Compo Cove.

The piece described how the Danish pavilion actually became a Danish furniture store near the Sherwood Island connector. In the final paragraph, I wondered whether that was the same house everyone speculates is on Compo Cove.

I should have checked with Fred Cantor first.

The very alert “06880” reader/avid historical researcher sent along a document from 1991. The 11-page application to the National Park Service — signed by state historic preservation officer John Shannahan — requests that 22 buildings comprising the “Mill Cove Historic District” be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Here’s the interesting part: One of the cottages at the south end of the district has “an unusual history. Originally, this building was a bamboo hut built for the Phillipine [sic] Exhibit at the St. Louis Exposition in the late nineteenth century [sic]; it was dismantled and re-erected on this site about 1900.”

(Well, a bit later. The Exposition was held in 1904.)

The houses that came from the Philippine Exhibit are at the far right in this Google Maps photo. Beyond them (to the right) is Sherwood Island State Park. To the left is the path leading to Old Mill Beach.

The houses that came from the Philippine Exposition are at the far right in this Google Maps photo. Beyond them (to the right) is Sherwood Island State Park. To the left is the path leading to Old Mill Beach.

But wait! There’s more! “A smaller cottage to the rear is also a re-built bamboo hut but it has retained its form and some exterior materials.”

UPDATEAlert reader SW Reid posted in a comment (below): “Brooks Jones built the guest house behind the ‘pavilion’ maybe 25 years ago. He wanted the unit to look like the original structure on the water.”

So there you have it. The house is Filipino, not Danish. But how and why it ended up in Westport remains a mystery.

Until, that is, Fred finds out.

BONUS FUN FACTSThe 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair — also called the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition — was built to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the purchase of the Louisiana Territory by the US from France.

The Philippine Exhibit was the largest (47 acres, 100 buildings), most expensive ($2 million) and most popular at the entire fair.

A bird's-eye view of the mammoth Philippine Exhibit.

A bird’s-eye view of the mammoth Philippine Exhibit.

There were about 1,100 Filipinos at the Philippine Exhibit. They were shown in various stages of cultures, from primitive to highly cultured.

The head-hunting, dog-eating Igorots were the greatest attraction at the Philippine Exhibit, not only because of their novelty, the scanty dressing of the males and their daily dancing to the tom-tom beats, but also because of their appetite for dog meat which is a normal part of their diet.

(Hat tip to Virgilio R. Pilapil — and Google — for the above information. Read much more from him about the Philippine Exhibit by clicking here.)

Philippine Exhibition


Fred Cantor’s Timeless Westport

As an alert “06880” reader, Fred Cantor has seen comments on every side of every debate about the changing nature of Westport.

As someone who came to Westport in 1963, Fred has seen many of those changes himself.

An accomplished attorney, film and play producer and writer, Fred has spent years taking photos around town. Recently, he asked Staples grad Casey Denton to help create a video of those shots.

Fred’s goal was simple. He wanted to document his belief that the essence of Westport’s beauty and small-town New England character — which his family discovered upon moving here over 5 decades ago — remains alive and well.

The video opens with long-ago Westport scenes. There are photos of mom-and-pop stores, the kind that filled Main Street back in the day. Obviously, that’s changed.

But most of the photos are from the recent past — many taken within the past year. And, Fred notes, they are “timeless Westport scenes.” Churches, barns, the Saugatuck bridge, the Minuteman and Doughboy statues, the Mill Pond and cannons — we are surrounded by wonderful history and spectacular beauty.

Fred knows that family businesses are very much with us. From long-time establishments (Oscar’s, Mario’s) to relative newcomers (Elvira’s, Saugatuck Sweets), there are more here than we realize.

Finally, Fred wanted to show that institutions like the Library, Westport Country Playhouse and Levitt Pavilion have been significantly upgraded over the years. The entire community benefits, Fred says, from “the strong commitment to the arts that existed when my parents brought us here over 50 years ago.”

Fred knows this is the perspective of just one near-native. But, he says — as health problems limit how far he can go from home — he is glad he can notice and appreciate more than ever what is right around all of us.


Westport At The Crossroads

Fred Cantor is an alert “06880” reader — and a talented researcher with an eye for intriguing stories about Westport’s past.

The other day, he sent 4 clippings from the New York Times. All were from 50 years ago. Westport was in the midst of a historic transformation, Fred said, as the town’s population rocketed skyward.

On February 2, 1964, 1st Selectman Herb Baldwin announced the formation of a Development Commission. The aim was to attract light industry, thus broadening the tax base.

“The move grew out of a recent fiscal seminar where concern was voiced over the town’s high bonded indebtedness, principally due to school construction,” the Times reported. The debt was approximately $12 million.

On June 26, the Planning and Zoning Commission tightened restrictions against new apartment buildings — despite acknowledging the need for apartments serving “older people and young married couples.” The previous day, the Zoning Board of Appeals denied an application for construction of a 48-unit apartment on the site of the Tennex factory on Riverside Avenue.

Many of today's familiar Riverside Avenue buildings were once factories.

Many of today’s familiar Riverside Avenue buildings were once factories.

On October 4, 1964, the Times said that a group of Greens Farms property owners were  “aroused by a proposal to build a department store, a supermarket and a parking lot for 617 cars in their midst, two miles east of the town’s center.” The centerpiece would be an Arnold Constable store.

Opponents cited a traffic hazard for students at nearby Green’s Farms Elementary School, and destruction of the “rustic charm” of the area. One person said, “We don’t want to turn Westport into another Rye or New Rochelle.”

Proponents countered it would add “sorely needed town revenue. They say the chief reason the town has sunk into debt over the last 20 years is that it has resisted business growth.”

The 7 1/2-acre property — bounded by South Morningside Drive and Church Street — would add between $40,000 and $52,430 a year in taxes.

Years after it was proposed, a shopping center was built near Greens Farms Elementary School.

Years after it was proposed, a shopping center was built near Greens Farms Elementary School.

Two months later, the P&Z proposed action to reverse the “hodgepodge” and “visual mayhem” — town officials’ words — of the Post Road. Fifteen properties along busy Route 1 would need special permits for development. New zones would be limited by “natural boundaries, such as topography, existing streets or similar barriers.”

Included was the Greens Farms tract. It took a number of years, but the shopping center — anchored today by Barnes & Noble — eventually was built.

Half a century later, some things haven’t changed. Westporters still debate property taxes and affordable housing.

But we no longer argue about shopping centers. They’re here, they’re there, they’re everywhere.

There’s nowhere left to put a new one.

The Calm After The Storm

Once today’s storm passed, Fred Cantor headed to Compo Beach. Here’s the serene scene:

(Photo/Fred Cantor)

(Photo/Fred Cantor)

Plus, he reports, Joey’s was open.

If You Teach Some Kids To Fish…

Summer vacation ends with a crash on Monday. The 1st day of school is ominously close.

But last evening, a mother gave a lesson of a different type to her kids. Alert “06880” reader Fred Cantor was at Old Mill Beach, and captured this classic Westport scene:

Fishing lesson at Old Mill Beach - Fred Cantor

Willow Tree, Very Pretty

Alert “06880” reader Fred Cantor sends along a photo — and some comments and questions.

Willow - Fred Cantor

Fred says:

I remembered this spectacular tree from last year, on Clapboard Hill Road near Maple Avenue. My wife Debbie and I drove by yesterday afternoon to see if the spring blossoms are still as stunning this year. My photo doesn’t do it justice, but I think “06880” readers will get a sense of how magical this tree is.

Does anyone know what kind of tree it is? It looks like a weeping willow. but I have never seen one with blossoms like these. And I have never seen another tree quite like it elsewhere in Westport.

“06880” readers: help Fred! 

And no, this is NOT a tree that is planned to be cut down.

We hope.



Westport And Tyson Chandler: “The Minister Of D”

In 2010, Staples grad Fred Cantor co-wrote “Monbo Time.” It was a paean to pitcher Bill Monbouqette Monbouquette, and 40 years of Red Sox history.

The legendary Remains — a band that got their start in Boston, but whose lead singer Barry Tashian and keyboardist Bill Briggs called Westport home — recorded the song. They donated half of all revenues from it to cancer research and treatment.

Fred Cantor

Fred Cantor

But Fred is not a Red Sox fan. He loves basketball, and has been a New York Knicks fanatic since before the championship days of Willis and Walt.

So for his encore sports-songwriting effort — again for charity — he’s gone to the hoop.

Fred — who in real life is an attorney — chose Tyson Chandler. The veteran center “epitomizes selfless team play,” Fred says. “I really appreciate that, not only as a longtime fan but also having played on successful soccer teams at Staples and Yale.”

If the Knicks win an NBA title for the 1st time in 4 decades — since Fred was young — Tyson will be key.

Tyson Chandler

Tyson Chandler

First, Fred wrote some lyrics that capture the essence of Tyson’s game. Then he decided to give him a nickname. “I feel he deserves even greater recognition than he’s gotten,” the songwriter says.

Which is how Tyson Chandler became “The Minister of D.”

Next, Fred called Charlie Karp and Michael Mugrage. Both are Staples classmates of Fred’s — and friends dating back to Coleytown Elementary and Coleytown Junior High, respectively.

They’re hugely talented musicians. Charlie left Staples to join Buddy Miles’ band. He played at Jimi Hendrix’s memorial service, and earned a devoted local following with bands like White Chocolate, Dirty Angels and Slo Leak.

Michael toured with Orleans, and composed music for Chaka Khan, Smokey Robinson and Terry Cashman’s classic “Talkin’ Baseball.”

Michael Mugrage (center) and Charlie Karp (right) record "The Minister of D," with sound engineer Tom Hawes.

Michael Mugrage (center) and Charlie Karp (right) record “The Minister of D,” with sound engineer Tom Hawes.

“I wanted a song that combined different elements,” Fred explains. “The lyrics were to be rapped, but I also wanted a funk sound that evokes the era when the Knicks won their 2 titles. And I wanted the song to be part rock.”

“We wanted the music to harken back to the glory days of the Knicks of the early ’70s,” Michael told TheKnicksBlog. The site describes that “New York cool” time of Sly and the Family Stone, and Isaac Hayes, as “an era one imagines Tyson would  have felt right at home in.”

Within minutes of getting together, Charlie and Michael nailed it. After a bit more work, they recorded it with sound engineer Tom Hawes.

They continued to improvise, taking turns on lead and bass guitar, and sharing vocals in different octaves to create harmonies (and a “big group” sound). At the end, they created crowd noise to mimic the Garden.

Tyson’s reps say he is honored by the song. He feels good too that 25% of the royalties go to the Garden of Dreams Foundation, benefiting kids facing obstacles.

And Fred no doubt feels good that he’s written a song about favorite team. Not the Red Sox.

(Click here to hear “The Minister of D.” Search “Charlie Karp & Mike Mugrage” on iTunes to buy it.)

The cover, as it appears on iTunes. It's a ticket stub from a game Fred went to the 1st week the new Madison Square Garden opened. Fred  Cantor calls Tyson Chandler "a throwback" to that era of championship NY Knick teams.

The cover, as it appears on iTunes. It’s a ticket stub from a game Fred Cantor went to the 1st week the new Madison Square Garden opened. He calls Tyson Chandler “a throwback” to that era of championship NY Knick teams.

Remembering Kuti Zeevi

Fred Cantor was a long-time friend of Kuti Zeevi, the Westport jeweler killed during a robbery last night. For many years Fred and Kuti played soccer with the Late Knights, a group of local men who enjoyed both the game, and socializing together afterward. 

Fred remembers the Israeli-born business owner, soccer player and Westporter:

Many years ago someone told me you can learn a lot about a person by how willing he is to pass the ball and share it with teammates.

Kuti was always looking to pass to an open teammate, and it was indeed just one indication of his great generosity — both on and off the field.

Kuti Zeevi (Photo courtesy of WestportNow.com)

Kuti was part of the mini-UN weekend soccer group that has been a fixture in Westport for decades. His passion for soccer was second to none, and it was exceeded only by his passion for his family. He was a loving husband, father and son who epitomized “family values” before that term ever became part of our landscape.

Several years ago Kuti and his loving wife, Nava, suffered the loss of their daughter Tali to leukemia.  While nothing could possibly make up for that tragic loss, Kuti’s soccer teammates tried to offer some level of comfort by staging a soccer tournament to raise money for leukemia research in Tali’s memory.

Kuti, in his selfless fashion, expressed how grateful he was to all of us for organizing the event.

Even though he had some major injuries in his later years, they never dampened his enthusiasm for playing soccer and for competing.  Even when he could no longer run much, he loved to play goalie and wouldn’t hesitate to throw his body on the ground, outstretched, in an attempt to make a save.

There was still a boyish spirit that remained inside him — one that I thought would never succumb to old age — and that was only snuffed out by a murderer’s bullet.

We will all miss Kuti’s smile, and his laugh, and his joy for the game.

And our hearts and thoughts are with Nava.

(A funeral service will be held this Sunday, Dec. 11, 1:30 p.m. at Temple Israel.)

Kuti Zeevi, on a trip to England with the Late Knights soccer team in 1999. He's in the middle of the back row.