Are you weirded out by the term “the baron’s property”?
Newcomers to Westport probably think it’s a nickname for the land between South Compo and Imperial Avenue — some strange guy once owned it, he called himself “the baron,” and the title stuck.
There really was a baron: Walter Langer, aka Baron von Langendorff. A chemist who founded Evyan Perfumes, he bought the estate in 1967. He called it “Golden Shadows” (whatever that means), and lived there until he died in 1983. It was not his only residence — I’m thinking Park Avenue and the Alps — but he was there often enough to create perfumes from the exotic flowers in his gardens and greenhouse.
The place was off-limits when we were kids. The dude was a baron; we figured he had moats and drawbridges, plus Maschinengewehr-wielding soldiers ready to blast intruders back to Prussia.
One day after the town bought the land, I walked the property. There no castle; in fact, the baron’s house looked quite ordinary. Had it sat on a Westport road, not in a hilly forest, it would have fallen in the first teardown wave.
Ah, but inside — it was worse. Bad carpeting, fake wood panels, window air-conditioners — “Extreme Makeover” would throw up its hands in disgust. Sure, it was big enough for the octuplet family, but their current house is probably nicer.
I digress. I meant to talk about the name: “baron’s property.” Though better than “von Langendorff estate” or “Das Perfumenhausen,” it’s still a bit Teutonic for me.
Fortunately, a move is afoot to rename the land. I can’t give away secrets — the winner will be announced soon — but the leading contender sounds both historic and New Englandy.
It’s not baronial at all. That’s fine. We’re a Fairfield County town, not a Deutschland duchy.