Hailing Hales Progress

Very quietly — metaphorically, anyway — 21st-century housing is rising on the site of a mid-20th-century housing project.

Construction is well underway on 78 housing units on Hales Court.  And hardly anyone in town realizes that the area once derided as “Hell’s Court” by a teenager living there — and sneered at by Westporters who couldn’t believe a “housing project” was part of their town, just a mile or so from the beach — is undergoing a major transformation.

Some of the already occupied homes in Hales Court.

The $24 million project — paid for by federal and state funds — will nearly double the original 40 ranch-style detached homes.  Those were built in 1950, to provide affordable housing for returning veterans.  Over the years, many town employees lived there.

But later, Hales Court became Westport shorthand for “small, substandard housing.”  The hastily built homes had little or no insulation, inefficient window air-conditioning, and lots of (current) code violations.  After half a century, they’d outlived their usefulness.

Rising in their place — just over the new Hales Road bridge — are handsome 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom units.  Designated “moderate housing,” they serve families at or below 60 percent of area median income ($70,680) for a family of 4.

Twenty-five units are reserved for seniors (62 and older), while a 2,000-square foot community center will enhance the neighborhood feel.

Another view of Hales Court.

Some of the houses are already occupied.  Others are still under construction. The banging of nails and clanging of trucks is reminiscent of the postwar building boom, in suburbs across the country.

The new Hales Court homes are closer together than most in Westport.  They lack the stonework, gables, cathedral ceilings and and wraparound porches that are de rigueur these days, even in tough economic times.

But there’s a genuine neighborhood growing again here, right off Hillspoint and Green’s Farms Road.

And, from the looks of things, it’s one that will still be handsome — and home — another 50 years from now.

12 responses to “Hailing Hales Progress

  1. readermaniac

    I remember Hale’s Court well, from my childhood, I didn’t live too far from there. I was always a bit afraid of it, because some tough kids lived there (or I thought they were tough anyway). One weekend I went to someone’s house (a friend from school) there and saw what it was like. Though their house wasn’t as ‘nice’ as ours, it was full of love. I watched Minnesota Fats play pool on TV there. Glad to see that the homes will be new & well-insulated & cheerful for new residents of Hale’s Court. I actually would qualify to live there….

  2. The Dude Abides

    Nice article on a subject that I am unfamiliar with despite being around here for five decades. I like to see construction/remodeling to aid the less fortunate who didn’t get their Wall Street bailout-bonus this year. Another example of the government doing some good in the community to aid “Main Street” folks like most of us here are.

    • Note that Mr. Woog states that the money comes from state and federal sources. People in Cody WY, and Yankton SD are paying for this project. Will there be mortgages? Who will originate them? Who will package them? It’s nice that someone other than Wall Street potentates who financed Obama’s campaign are getting some benefit from the tax dollars provided by those people in Cody and Yankton.

  3. Nancy Powers Conklin

    I remember Hales Court well, as my cousins lived there. My uncle worked for the town highway dept. We had many family and holiday celebrations over there and as a kid, I didn’t know the difference between our house or theirs. I never felt that “tough kids” lived there because I played with many of those kids when we visited our cousins. The homes were small, but they had yards to play in and there was never a lot of traffic that kept kids from playing in the street. I have very fond memories of Hales Court and I am sure that the new construction will be a great ‘updating’ of the neighborhood.

  4. Audrey Wauchope

    Hales Court is one of the many reasons that across the country in Cali I still tell people about Westport. I fell very fortunate to know that my family has a place on Hales Court. The fact that many Westporters don’t know about this housing project is astonishing to me – it’s an amazing part of the town; a part which has allowed for many families a way to stay in Westport through tough times. (near the beach and train … maybe it’s just westport’s best kept secret)

  5. ron malone

    Originally and now Hale’s Court was called home by many Veterans, police and firemen, other municipal employees and volunteers all who contributed to our well being as some continue to do these days.
    The Project has been extremely disruptive to some but does appear to be on target…
    Doing mind my spelling; my dictionary has misplaced itself………

  6. For some reason, I was thinking tonight about an essay written by a classmate in my 9th grade English class at Bedford Jr High. The essay won an award and was published in the Westport News, IIRC.

    My classmate lived on Hale’s Court and was someone I thought of as a tough kid. After he read his essay to our class, I saw him in an entirely different light. That 15-year-old boy was carrying more on his shoulders than any kid should ever be expected to bear.

    The essay writer was the teenager who referred to the street as Hell’s Court. Actually, he explained in his essay that his mother called the neighborhood “Hell’s Court” because of the misfortunes his family had suffered after they moved there.

    I left Westport thirty-six years ago. Forty-one years have passed since that student read his essay to our class. It was so moving, so powerful, that when I remembered it tonight, I Googled “Hale’s Court” “Hell’s Court” hoping that I might find it online. That’s how I found this blog post.

    I won’t mention the writer’s name out of respect for his privacy, but for as long as I live, I will never forget him or that essay.

  7. Joanne Romano

    “Hales” not hell’s Court was home to many..having lived there from the time I was 6months old I can actually say that as a child every one of our neighbors we considered family! We respected each other we respected adults. We played outside with everyone and our parents never had to be afraid of where we were because everyone watchecd out for everyone else’s children. Yes it became run down over the years but it was built to house returning veterans, police and fire officials and town employees and I am very proud to have been one of the policeman’s daughters who grew up there. Its sad that as the years passed it became known as “Hells Court” because as kids, we were no different than the kids that lived in the big houses in different areas of town, the only difference is our parents worked “for” the town, protecting everyone no matter where they came from.

  8. Chou Chou Merrill

    My Mother told me the people who lived in HALE’S Court were American heros…I always tried so hard to look down the street as we came home from the beach. Perhaps as a “new American” my Mother had a bit more reverence for the people she knew, saved her life.

  9. Sharon Cribari-Saccary

    I grew up in hales court, There were 7 of us my parents never had a bedroom of their own, 3 boys 2 girls. There were so many kids in Hales Court we were never lonely for a playmate. All of our parents were friends, we had picnics together, we had good times together and bad but we all stuck rogether and got through it all. I wish some of the children today could experience what we did. My father was a special police officer for the town and my mom worked in the school system until she retired. I wish we could go back and experience some of that again. I am glad to see that they are also putting homes for seniors in Hales Court as well. Alot of memories there.

  10. Joanne Romano

    We also sat in each others living rooms watching the name rolls/numbers of those being drafted and prayed it wouldn’t be one of our guys, unfortunately some were and we all cried and we all felt the pain like a family, When we had a house party it was a neighborhood party, no one was left out and the best thing is we knew each and every person who lived in each house and we never once excluded others in our play time, birthdays etc. It was kind of like Cheers without the bar stools. But times change, people move on and go their separate ways, but I can tell you, most of us have stayed friends over the years whether we see each other or not, its just how it is for those of us who grew up with a really huge family!