Seeing Westport With Fresh Eyes

A former Westporter — who graduated from Staples in the early 1950s — recently returned, for her near-60th reunion.

She lives out of state, and has not been back for many years.  Afterward, she wrote “06880”:

Most of us don’t live there anymore, but after having many discussions with my classmates, what in the world has happened to our beautiful town!

Maybe you don’t realize it because you live there and see it every day, but it has become so seedy looking.  Main Street is a disaster.  It felt dirty and abandoned.  Town property looked neglected.

I feel so sad looking back on what was.  When I moved in the 1990s, I left a beautiful Westport.  Yes, I know it has McMansions and Compo Beach, but where in the world did its heart disappear to?

She also did not care for the Westport Inn.  “A good, moderate-priced inn is badly needed,” she said.

Despite those disappointments, our reunion-goer had a great time.

“The good news is that all the classmates who attended still had the spirit we had back in Staples,” she reported.

Compo is as scenic as ever.

28 responses to “Seeing Westport With Fresh Eyes

  1. That is a very uplifting way of looking at things. I am so sorry she feels that
    way, so sad she has a need to be so negative. I know this town is not perfect but those of us that live here still love it. Negative karma, please stay home and spread yours in your current hometown. I hope you feel better soon.
    There is more good in life than you obviously like to see.
    Cheer Up. We still like OUR TOWN.
    have fun and cheer up. So Sorry you are not feeling good. Please stay home,
    you might spread this negative karma.
    Cheer Up and Get A Life.

  2. Sure, this former Westport resident recalls the Westport of yesterday. Respectfully, I think this is a bunch of bunk.

    I grew up in Westport during the 70s and 80’s (yeah Stein!). Sure, things have changed, but at the same time, things remain the same.

    What I recall most about Westport was spending time with family and friends on the soccer pitches, baseball fields, at the beach, walking around Main Street, and riding my bike all across the town. Those were the days!

    Anyhow, I live in Fairfield now, but I am in Westport all the time. What do I see?? Even though the houses have gotten bigger and everyone has a Nanny, I see that Westport is as vibrant and wonderful of a town as ever!

    Everywhere I go, I see families and kids laughing, smiling and enjoying life as they ride their bikes, playing ball on the town fields, walking through Main Street and hanging around at Compo—a most spectacular beach.

    Same old (wonderful) town.

  3. I am sad to read that comment but intrigued to see our town through the eyes of an outsider. Rather than knock her, let’s consider her views of Westport. She has no agenda.
    I wonder, however, whether the town has always been that way and we can’t see it for what it is when we live here. We love the people, which are the heart of any town. When we have scant connection with the heart, the rest just becomes any old town.

  4. The Dude Abides

    “Seedy”???? Where did she move?? I grew up here in the 1950’s and Westport is far more beautiful now than then. Certainly the current Staples is a vast improvement of Saugatuck Elementary of old and downtown is definitely Corporate America but far better than a gas station and some unique but slovenly-looking stores. And Compo Beach was a rock farm. You needed hiking boots to make it to the water. Longshore was a private club back then as well. Yet, Westport is far more than meets the casual eye. It is the compassion and uniqueness of the people that make this town standout among its neighbors. Perhaps if our 78 year old commentator had stayed around a little longer, she could have stopped by the Senior Center, homeless shelter or affordable housing where she once, perhaps, went to elementary school. That is the essence of the town plus much much more and I am sorry a fellow alumni missed out on the beauty of such changes and instead focused on the superficial highlights of her hometown.

  5. I fail to comprehend her comment about neglected town property. Did she take a ride through Longshore or visit the library or a stroll around Wakeman Field. At 78, I think she may need new glasses.

  6. I find the word “seedy” used by the Staples alum, an interesting choice of words. When I think of ” seedy,” I think of sordid, disreputable, shabby, run-down – slum-like. I’d like to know where the seedy parts of Westport are! I guess one property that is hardly stellar is Roger’s Septic tanks property on Post Road – but it’s beside a gas station. I know we lament about all the large chain stores that inhabit Main Street, but it’s hardly run down. Perhaps if our visitor had spent any time at Longshore – always beautifully manicured when I’ve been there – the beach, the playhouse, senior center, restaurants!! – Splash, Acqua – with river views – Tavern on Main – lovely and quaint! What I find even more interesting is that she singled out the Westport Inn. I don’t care for it myself – it lacks character, but she mentioned that we need a “good, moderate-priced inn”. I’m trying to figure out what she thinks moderate priced is. I looked on the Westport Inn website and picked a random choice. You can get a room for $139.00 per night. I guess she means lower? I think that anyone coming to visit Westport (who has done any research at all) usually chooses the Inn at Longshore. Classic, lovely and right near the water. She also mentioned that town property looked neglected. Was she aware that we have not had any rain what so ever in the last three months? Lush grass requires water – lots of it. She made it sound like we haven’t mowed the grass around here in eons. Perhaps her memory isn’t as good as it used to be.

  7. Arthur Champlin

    She felt dirty and abandoned. My Gosh, she was in the wrong town. That’s Darien.

  8. The lack of a bookstore in downtown Westport is pretty much all one needs to know about how things have changed in town.

  9. What a Fool Believes . . .

    Mr. McCathy: So if we open a Borders downtown, all will be well? Corporate America has taken over downtowns as they have small towns all over America. WalMart has put more businesses out than not. But if you think keeping The Remarkable Book Store instead of Talbot’s would have kept Westport unique and cerebral, I think you are sadly mistaken. It is all about money. Good or bad, that is the way of the world and Westport.

  10. So much hand wringing. She is entitled to her opinion, wrong though it may be. It might be instructive to explore further why this person feels as she does. Maybe she has valid reasons. I disagree with her views, the significant problems with Westport is not how it looks, or what stores are downtown, but how it functions. The ambiance of Main Street is a direct reflection of how Westport functions. I find it amusing that those who champion the policies that produce that ambiance fail to understand the consequences of those policies. There are large houses and nationwide chains because the economic policies favored by those who govern and those who support them create incentives to produce those outcomes. The local stores and the cottages are gone. They aren’t coming back, we crossed that bridge decades ago.

  11. It’s a simple equation really

    Westport’s amenities attract the affluent. 50 years ago they were the stars of stage and screen, it evolved into midtown ad men (the downtown commute is really too far from Westport), and with the rise of banking in midtown and Fairfield County has evolved to the money men.

    The affluent thru their over the top properties (those 1920’s castles on Beachside were the McMansions of their generation) and lavish lifestyles (thus the commecialization of main street and the post road) pay for the rest of us.

    If we Plan and Zone correctly, we can manage this evolution so we all benefit and maintain some semblance of character in this place. I’m sad every time a mom/pop store closes and every time a truly “old” house is torn down – but as a long timer – I don’t think the ugly SIR McMansions of today are any worse than the generic split level colonials of my youth – and I find having a GAP on Main Street is far more useful (although perhaps not as quaint) as a dress shop.

  12. The Dude Abides

    I think the affluence of this town has been overestimated. I think most of us are middle class as it was 60 years ago (perhaps to a lesser degree then). I do agree with David that P&Z could do more. Check out Darien’s downtown. Nothing and that is the how they like it despite the economics of change. Westport has always wanted to “show off” and to many, it has come back to bite us. I think Jeffxs is right on with the powers of economics of change and a point of not looking back. I did find it sad, as mentioned above, that an alumni could not sense the heart and soul of Westport instead of the size and shape of it landscape.

  13. I see Westport as an upper class suburb. I think the image of all the celebrities of the past and billionaires of the present is not close to reality.

  14. Karen Abramson

    As I just tried to take a left turn into Stop and Shop and saw two cars coming the other way speed up to void my turn, I thought of the alumnus of the class of 1950. Maybe she is right. Heartless bitches.

  15. Land use restrictions are a form of taking. Why should one vision of Westport be favored over another? Land use restiction created the current mix of real estate. The old mix of real estate is gone, why pine for it?

  16. The Dude Abides

    Then why have zoning at all? Or a P&Z authority at all?
    I lived in Houston where there was/is no zoning but subdivisions
    created their own deed restrictions and were/are more restrictive
    than the zoning here. Under your contention, the beachfront property could be taken over by an array of MacDonald’s, Holiday Inn Express or whatever.
    I do agree with your earlier suppostion that the economy will dictate the size of the houses here but your blanket theory of free land use leaves me dumbfounded.

    • Changing zoning laws is a forceful redistribution of wealth. You don’t want the government telling you that you can’t smoke maryjane, but you don’t mind having that same government telling you where to live, or what type of house you must live in, or where to establlish your business, or whether you can use plastic bages or not. Everyone of these restrictions on activities has unintended consequences, and represents a reduction on an individuals ability to choose. Your affection for the nanny state is puzzling, but common, especially in Westport.

      • The Dude Abides

        You read me wrong. I am not avocating anything in regard to what, where or how people reside and certainly not governmental intervention in that respect. To me, people are merely puppets for the manipulating few that follow like cloned cattle to their eventual demise. They don’t think. They don’t ask “Why”? Thus, their right to choose is clouded. They buy a big house because they “can” without reason but to boost their ego or be like others. “Wanna take a tour?” is often the first thing you hear on a new visit. But, to reiterate, I do agree with your original premise that the economy and the reactionary puppeteers will dictate the smaller house when profit margins decrease because of scared bankers (People’s is offering .004 on a jumbo CD??) and continued job insecurity.

        • If you favor zoning laws, then you are advocating tellng people where they and can live, and what sort of house they can have well as telling people where the can locate their businesses. People make their own choices given the opportunity set presented. Often times they make the wrong choices, and that is their right.

  17. The Dude Abides

    But you miss my point. In my example of Houston, where there are no zoning ordinances, the residents of various neighborhoods have chosen stricker guidelines than those usually set by zoning boards. They may be overturned but only by a near impossible 75% of residents’ votes. Thus, while I hardly favor governmental supervision, I think you overevaluate the issue of “freedom of choice” in the equation. We are cattle without individuality, regardless of whether the government is overlooking or dictating our lifestyles. Thus, we live in domiciles that are more a result of culturiological determination than what P&Z dictates.

    • P&Z is a culturally determined institution. If were all cattle, the P&Z would not need to go to such great lengths to diminish individuality.

  18. The Dude Abides

    Oh, I know a guy on P&Z who says all they do is stupid variances to stupid contractors. I think their power is limited or maybe, all the damage has been done. I don’t think the creators envisoned such a committee as being culturologically determined but I think you may be right on that score. For awhile they were pawns of the developers of which one is their leader still today. The economy has tempted their soul (or lack thereof).

    • You are underestimating the threat the P&Z reprsents, but you seem to recognize it to be the captive of special interests that it is. The interests do change slowly over time. If the P&Z seeks to restrict the number of banks I would ask, Who benefits? Their hands are not clean.

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