Tag Archives: Greens Farms Elementary School

Westport Arts Center: Susan Malloy’s Living Legacy

In her 91 years, Susan Malloy was an exceptionally generous presence in Westport. Her time, energy and financial contributions aided countless organizations in town. The accolades pouring in after her death yesterday morning are heartfelt, well deserved, and broad in scope.

It’s hard to quantify which of so many institutions benefited the most from Susan’s generosity. But at least one most definitely would not be here today without her.

In 1947 a group of Westport artists began meeting informally — “and riotously,” according to a 2002 New York Times story — at various locations in town.

By 1969 they’d evolved into the Westport-Weston Arts Council. Their home was a tiny office in Town Hall.

In 1984, Joyce Thompson told the Times, the group needed its own home. They asked to use the former Greens Farms Elementary School — shuttered a few years earlier, when the student population declined.

After a year of negotiation, they agreed on a lease: $1 a year.

Greens Farms Elementary School was the Westport Arts Center first real home.

Greens Farms Elementary School was the Westport Arts Center’s first real home.

The newly named Westport Arts Center had to raise plenty of money, though. An oil tank had to be buried; steps needed to be installed — in addition to classrooms being converted into studios, halls painted white to use as a gallery, and the auditorium converted into a performance space.

The new center hosted art exhibitions, chamber concerts, children’s sculpture workshops and jazz jams.

But in the 1990s, the Times reports, the school population rose. The town wanted its school back. The Arts Center countered that they’d invested plenty of money in the building.

WACAfter heated negotiations the town paid the WAC over $500,000 to break the lease, and reimburse them for their improvements.

The Arts Center went on the road. They held concerts at the Seabury Center, the library and school auditoriums. They hung paintings wherever they could.

What they really needed was a home.

Heida Hermanns, a concert pianist who settled in Westport after fleeing the Holocaust in World War II, had set up a foundation to fund the Arts Center. But it wasn’t enough. And the settlement from the town had been designated for programs.

Susan Malloy stepped into the breach. “I could see the search was going nowhere,” the Times quoted her as saying. “Nothing was right. This place was too small, another wasn’t even in Westport, so I finally said, ‘OK. I’ll stake the arts center.”

Susan Malloy -- an artist herself -- helped the  Westport Arts Center survive.

Susan Malloy — an artist herself — helped the Westport Arts Center survive.

Her funds covered the rent for 2 years. It also inspired more donations. The result: In June of 2002, the Westport Arts Center opened its own home, on Riverside Avenue.

It’s been there for 13 happy, fruitful, artistic years. The WAC is now as permanent a part of the town as the library or Historical Society (2 other beneficiaries of Susan Malloy’s largesse).

It’s easy to forget the past. In Susan Malloy’s case, she wasn’t looking for praise, or even thanks. She simply saw a need, and filled it.

Think of that the next time you go to the Westport Arts Center. Or drive past it.

Or the next time someone asks you to help out your town, in any way you can.

The Westport Arts Center thrives today.

The Westport Arts Center thrives today.

Greens Farms School, Back In The Day

This morning’s post about Westport’s constantly changing school landscape inspired alert reader Seth Schachter to go his archives.

He’s lived here only 4 years, but he’s got a great sense of history. Seth writes:

This post card is from the early 1900’s. From what I was told, the school was in the same location as today’s Greens Farms Elementary School. It is my guess and understanding that the oldest section of today’s GFS (referred to on the inside as “the fountain area”) is probably this post card image.

Early Greens Farms School

Is this in fact the current site of Greens Farms Elementary School? If readers have any information on this original building, please click “Comments” below.

Water Pipe Rupture Closes Greens Farms Elementary

No one knows what perils tonight’s deep freeze will bring.

But — for the 2nd straight day — Greens Farms Elementary School will definitely not be in session.

Tonight, principal John Bayers sent this update on the ruptured water pipe that knocked out classes today:

The bulk of the damage occurred in the art room and the first and second floor hallways in that area. The maintenance staff, as well as outside contractors, made great progress today in addressing the issues brought on by this situation, but they will need additional time tomorrow to continue their work.

To ensure that we address all concerns appropriately, Dr. Landon, the maintenance staff and I have decided to close the building for students tomorrow (Tuesday). We anticipate reopening the school on Wednesday.

The closing also forced postponement of the chorus/5th grade orchestra concert. A makeup date has not yet been set.

Greens Farms Elementary School

Greens Farms Elementary School

Unearthing Time Capsules, Wherever They Are

Different things keep different people up at night.

Dave Kokoszka recently wrote:

Something has puzzled me for a long time. When I was in 1st grade, a capsule was buried at Greens Farms Elementary School. We all made drawings that were buried in a ceremony on the front lawn. Might have been 1976. It seems that the whole grounds in the front of the school have changed.

Yes and yes. It was 1976, and the front of the school has indeed changed. State laws now mandate separate different loops for buses and cars. And you thought government just didn’t care!

The bicentennial time capsule seems to have gone the way of most others: buried with great fanfare, then forgotten half an hour later.

The Green’s Farms Elementary School time capsule could be buried anywhere.

Artifacts buried in cornerstones fare a bit better.

One of the most famous cornerstones in Westport was laid on April 22, 1884. It was the dedication of “Horace Staples’ High School” on Riverside Avenue. A crowd of 2,500 showed up; even Connecticut Governor Thomas Waller was there.

Among the contents deposited in a copper box: the names of all Westport public and private school teachers; a Bible; an 1884 silver dollar; newspapers and almanacs; a list of Westport fire companies; information from the 17th Regiment, which had gathered in Fairfield the year before to recollect their Civil War engagements; the names of the architects and workmen involved in the construction of the high school; an 1860 dollar bill from Horace Staples’ bank, and a biographical sketch of the school’s founding.

The box was lowered. A “colored workman” from Easton spread cement. A minister proclaimed: “I lay the cornerstone of an edifice to be erected by the name of ‘Staples High School,’ to be devoted to the promotion of sound learning and Christian education.”

And there the stone lay, for 83 years.

The original Staples High School. The cornerstone was in there somewhere.

In the fall of 1967, Staples Hall – the original brick building, by then decrepit, rat-infested and overshadowed by the “modern” Bedford Junior High School (now Saugatuck Elementary) — was slated for demolition.

The occasion drew a small crowd — including Frank Osborne, a graduate of Staples’ Class of 1894 (and still a Westport resident).

During the wrecking operation, the cornerstone was recovered. The old copper box and its contents of 30 items were given to First Selectman Herbert E. Baldwin.

The lintel from the original Staples High School building — and the cornerstone — were among the few items salvaged during the 1967 demolition on Riverside Avenue.

Plans were to eventually hand the box to trustees of the Horace Staples estate. “There is hope that it can be opened publicly with some trace of the ceremony with which it was laid in the corner almost 100 years ago,” the Town Crier reported.

That did not happen. Instead, the cornerstone was stuffed into the back of Staples’ main office safe on North Avenue. In 1976, a Staples class used it during their study of the American bicentennial.

Yes, the same bicentennial celebration during which a group of Green’s Farms Elementary School students buried a time capsule. Unlike Staples, it is now lost to history.

Postscript: The Westport Historical Society gained possession of the Staples box (minus a few items) in the late 1970s. That cornerstone – along with the lintel now on display at the North Avenue entrance, some souvenir bricks, a clock in Sherman Betts’ home, and fading memories of longtime Westporters – are all that remain of the building that, for over eight decades, was Staples High School.

(Not So) Sweet Celebrations

An “06880” reader attended yesterday’s 5th grade graduation at Green’s Farms Elementary. When he was not riveted by the proceedings, he chatted with parents and teachers. One of the topics was a recent note sent from school district administrators, noting that cupcakes and sweets will no longer be allowed at birthday celebrations.

The alert reader writes:

While I am absolutely in favor of the move — for many reasons — it was pointed out that our friends at Great Cakes would now lose a big chunk of their business.

As a huge proponent of local merchants, this concerns me. I hope our friends at Great Cakes can figure out how to make up for the lost revenue. Maybe through creative marketing (“Birthdays just wouldn’t be the same without Great Healthy Cupcakes!”).

He also wonders if “06880” readers have any ideas for Great Cakes (or its sweet competitors). Click “Comments” (and send samples to me).

Is this the future for Bonnie and Rick at Great Cakes?

More Signs Of The Times

Sunday’s “06880” story about unenforceable, hypocritical or just plain odd street signs struck a chord with John Suggs.

He responded, noting a sign on the Sherwood Island Connector his 7-year-old son Joshua spotted on the last day of school:

“Considering the thousands of times I’ve driven past that sign without noticing the misspelling,” John said, “I want to acknowledge not only my eagle-eye son Josh, but all the wonderful teachers at Greens Farms Elementary School, especially Mrs. Mary Ellen Barry, who have seen to it that our 1st graders know the correct spelling of their school, their neighborhood and the street sign.   Maybe we should send the sign makers back to Mrs. Barry for a makeup lesson?”

Well done, Joshua. And you were probably just being polite not to mention the lack of a space between “Green” and “Farms.”

But wait — there’s more!

Shouldn’t it be “Green’s Farms”? — with an apostrophe — I asked John.

Quickly, he replied:

I just did some quick fact checking on the history of the correct spelling, and discovered a few things.

The elementary school website spells it both ways on different pages of their official web site (click here, then click on “Directions to GFS”).

Wikipedia states:  “Green’s Farms Metro-North Railroad station is one of two New Haven Line stations serving the residents of Westport, Connecticut. The station is located in the Greens Farms area of Westport in the southeastern part of town, and the technically-incorrect apstrophe in the station name dates to New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad ownership of the line. No other entity spells “Greens Farms” with an apostrophe.”

(“06880” notes that Wikipedia itself spells “apostrophe” incorrectly, and hyphenates “technically-incorrect” even though we have always learned that words ending in “ly” should not be hyphenated.)

The neighborhood association, John says, uses the apostrophe — contrary to Wikipedia’s assertion that “no other entity” does.

So does Green’s Farms Congregational Church.

Greens Farms Academy — which, as an expensive private school, should probably know such things — ignores the apostrophe.

John concludes:

Basically it is anyone’s guess as to which version is the “correct” usage now, as opposed to the original usage which appears to have been with the apostrophe.   I, personally, have always spelled it Greens Farms myself — and I am one of the representatives of the GF area on the RTM (District 5)!

So most likely there is a whole other blog surrounding the  “apostrophe versus no apostrophe” debate!

Consider it done.