Where Westport meets the world…
Subscribe to ‘06880’ — it’s free!
Please support “06880” — thanks!
DISCLAIMERThis blog is personal opinion, and is not representative of the views of the Westport School District or Board of Education.
- Bruce Fernie SHS1970 on Pulling Into An Actual Parking Spot Is So Overrated
- Jamie Walsh on Pulling Into An Actual Parking Spot Is So Overrated
- jerrymacdaid on Pulling Into An Actual Parking Spot Is So Overrated
- Wendy Cusick on You Won’t Believe What Someone Left At Compo Beach Tonight
- buell neidlinger on You Won’t Believe What Someone Left At Compo Beach Tonight
SEARCH THE “06880” ARCHIVES
Bored? Wander through ‘06880’
- Local business
- Local politics
- Looking back
- Oh My 06880!
- Real estate
- Staples HS
- Totally random
- Westport Country Playhouse
- Westport life
Tag Archives: Fred Cantor
Today’s weather is not exactly the get-outside-and-enjoy type.
But a couple of days ago, it was. Westporters did.
And alert “06880” reader/photographer Fred Cantor was there — at the Riverwalk — to capture them.
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!
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.
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.
This morning’s “06880” post — about the 1964-65 World’s Fair Danish Pavilion that ended up in Westport — started out:
urbansuburban 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.)
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.”
UPDATE: Alert 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 FACTS: The 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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Once today’s storm passed, Fred Cantor headed to Compo Beach. Here’s the serene scene:
Plus, he reports, Joey’s was open.
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:
Alert “06880” reader Fred Cantor sends along a photo — and some comments and questions.
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.