Westport realtors are no dummies.
But when it comes to describing this town to potential buyers, many of them are like Sam Cooke. You know — “don’t know much about history.”
The Westport Historical Society has ridden to the rescue.
Last week, they sponsored 2 “Westport for Dummies” tours. Like other WHS tours of the past 3 years — on foot and by kayak, as well as aboard bus — the idea was to introduce Westporters to areas of town they see every day, but don’t really know.
Last week’s tours drew nearly 50 dummies people each. Realtors were the main target — history, after all, can be as much a selling point as schools, the beach, and his-and-her closets the size of Latin American countries — but anyone was welcome.
The guides were Westport’s best: town historian Allen Raymond; former police chief and RTM member Ron Malone, and 11th-generation Westporter Peter Jennings.
The route closely followed one designed in the 1960s by Bessie Jennings — the woman who taught generations of 3rd graders the same history the realtors are learning now.
Highlights ranged from the cannons at Compo — which were not there in 1777; if they had been, maybe our ancestors would not have waved like matadors as the British landed and marched through before pillaging Danbury — to Parker Harding Plaza.
Why a municipal parking lot?
As the dummies people on tour found out, it’s historically significant. Until 1955, the Saugatuck River lapped against the backs of Main Street stores. The lot — sometimes snidely called “Harder Parking” — is all landfill.
The newest old stop on the tour was the Inn at National Hall. Built by Horace Staples in the mid-1800s, site of graduations, dances, plays, concerts, basketball games, a bank and a furniture store, it faded into history earlier this month when the award-winning hotel was peremptorily shut by its owner.
The tour also included Beachside Avenue — not because it is lined with bajillion-dollar homes every realtor would kill to sell, but because it’s where the Bankside Farmers (some of our earliest forebears) settled in 1648.
Like any good tour, this one ended with giveaways. Attendees received maps and highlight sheets.
So the next time dummies realtors show Westport off to newcomers, they’ll swing by Burying Hill Beach and say authoritatively, “The name is quite meaningful. At one time, this was actually an Indian burial mound.”
Then again — mindful of beachgoers barbecuing blissfully atop the hill — maybe not.
Ignorance is bliss.