A decade or so ago, RTM member and pilot Irwin Donenfeld invited me on a flight over Westport in his small plane.
We took off from Sikorsky Airport. Banking over Bridgeport and flying west, a remarkable thing happened: I “saw” the border separating the city from Fairfield. Because of suburban zoning regulations, the demarcation — in foliage, home sizes and density — was as clear from the air as if a line was drawn on a map.
A couple of minutes later, approaching Westport, the same thing happened. This time was even more dramatic. 2,000 feet in the sky, I felt as if I was seeing a map.
Google Maps has brought satellite views to laptops and cellphones. But I’ve never forgotten the images of that flight.
I thought about that experience recently, when I read about the Westport Historical Society’s upcoming exhibits: “Zoom in on Westport” and “Putting Westport on the Map.” Opening this Sunday (Oct. 3, 3-5 p.m.), they combine 2 fascinating elements of Westport life: aerial views, and the changing map of our town.
“Zoom In” features bird’s-eye photos taken by photographer Larry Untermeyer. If they’re anything like what I saw on my flight, they’ll open your eyes to a Westport far different from the one you thought you knew.
Compo Beach, for example, does not lie directly opposite Long Island; it juts out at a sharp angle. And the Post Road, that straight shot through town from Fairfield to Norwalk? It twists and turns every few yards.
The 2nd exhibit includes maps from long before Westport’s official incorporation, and a “humorous” town map from 1921.
The WHS’ iconic 1878 map — listing every downtown harness maker, coal merchant and dry goods purveyor, plus the homes of Westporters with names like Jessup, Gorham and Treadwell — will no doubt be displayed too. It provides a perspective on this place you’ll never get from a book or news clippings.
You may not get to fly over Westport soon. But the Westport Historical Society will provide a grounding in our town’s history you won’t forget.
(The Westport Historical Society’s exhibits run through January 8. For more information click here or email firstname.lastname@example.org.)