Last month the Westport Post Office moved to newer, smaller quarters. The old Post Road building seems like the perfect PO — and it seems to have been around forever.
Really, though, it was built “only” in 1935 (as a WPA project, for all you anti-socialists.)
Before that, mail delivery in Westport was a different affair. 86-year-old Elwood Betts, an amateur historian, recalls the life and times of rural mail carrier Harry Brown Fairchild — Elwood’s “Uncle Harry.”
Harry graduated from Staples High School in 1897. There were only 4 others in his senior class.
He inherited a large farm from his father, but he had neither the interest nor training to continue.
In 1901, 21-year-old Harry began his career as a rural mail carrier. For the first 3 years he traveled his 26-mile route in different ways: horse and buggy, bicycle, even walking (in winter).
In 1904 he acquired a car. He was paid a mileage allowance to use it.
His first route had 90 families. Later, it grew to 1,300 customers.
Harry was more than a mail deliverer, Elwood says. He was also a “town crier,” bringing news of the day. And he took grocery orders, delivering food to shut-ins.
He had one of the first telephones in town, and was called upon to summon doctors or call in other emergencies for people with no other means to communicate.
Harry used his own car to deliver mail through 1942, when he retired. He estimated he covered 318,000 miles, and delivered 5 million letters and packages during his 41-year career.
One of his customers was William S. Hart. The Broadway and silent movie star lived here with his mother and sister.
Harry said that another customer — E.M. Asche — was the 1st artist to make his home here. Others followed, and that (according to Harry) was the start of Westport’s fame as an artists’ colony.
Harry’s hobbies were traveling to New York on Sundays, horse racing, flower shoes and county fairs.
He died on April 17, 1954.
By then, the US Postal Service was using mail trucks. Plenty of Westporters had their own phones. Mailmen did not deliver groceries.
And the downtown post office was already nearly 2 decades old.