Dummies Tour Westport

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.

Ron Malone, Peter Jennings and Allen Raymond -- with over 2 centuries worth of Westport life between them -- prepare for their tour. (Photo by Larry Untermeyer)

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.

6 responses to “Dummies Tour Westport

  1. It was FAB. Fun & Informative. Lived here for almost 40 years, but still learned a lot about Westport. The three stooges, er… guides knew their stuff and added much humor. Take it if you get a chance.

  2. that is so interesting: do you know when were the north american indian bodies exhumed or did beach erosion do that, or was it all done before these things were recorded? it’s so intersting to me how little here is overtly designated as historically having north american indian history. or, of course, maybe it is and i am just totally ignorant on it.

  3. Rightous Realtor

    As a realtor in this town for twenty years, I take objection to your classification or inference of us as “dummies.” Compared with other agents in adjoining towns, we are Albert Einstein’s. And I think you would be surprised how much pride we take in this town including its history. Matter of fact, there is colonial home, dating back to the 1700’s on South Compo, that was owned by Tory doctor and rumored that there are the remains of British soldiers in the root cellar. Now if we can escrow the down payment for 90 days and exhume the bodies, would you like to take a look? (:0)

  4. ignorance is bliss because now i am totally wanting to know if burying hill really is north american indian burial ground or if this isn’t just suburban legend; i mean, why wouldn’t the related-ancestral indian tribes have it designated as such and why hasn’t anyone (or have they and, again, my ignorance) dug there instead of picknicked to confirm that they are buried there.

  5. UGH… Ancestors long gone regularly meet at their (this) site and argue in the hours of darkness as to seek a zoning permit for a dig or Federal tribal Designation as a Tribe with aspirations for a casino………..

    recycled ron