For the past few days, “06880” readers have had fun with photos of Main Street taken from the 1930s through ’50s.
Alert reader Fred Cantor sent along this photo he took in 1976. (That spot seems to be a perpetual photographer’s paradise.)
West Lake — at the time one of Westport’s only “foreign” restaurants — had moved in next to the park.
Liverpool — a hippie clothing store — replaced the long-departed Kiddie Lane and House of Morgan.
But Welch’s Hardware was still there.
Welch’s was more than just a long-lived hardware store. At least twice, it popped up in national magazines.
On March 16, 1946 it was on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. Westport illustrator Stevan Dohanos took a few liberties — he added a floor, for instance, and the “US 1” sign points the wrong way — but Welch’s was the model for what the magazine called “Hardware Store at Springtime.”
And in 1968, Supreme Court judge (and part-time Westport resident) Abe Fortas had just been nominated by President Johnson to be Chief Justice. Fortas would later withdraw due to ethics problems, but on July 5 — almost exactly 45 years ago today — Time magazine opened its profile on him this way:
“Will you trust my judgment, Mr. Fortas?”, asked the salesman at Welch’s Hardware Store in Westport, Conn. Dubiously, the Chief Justice-designate of the U.S. fingered the new, chemically treated dustcloth, examining it carefully by sight and feel. Finally, aware perhaps that this was a matter beyond his competence, he concurred with the clerk’s opinion.
Tramping around the narrow streets of Westport, accompanied by TIME Washington Bureau Chief John Steele, Fortas was enjoying the scruffy anonymity of any other summer refugee from the city. In baggy grey pants, a flame-red cardigan sweater, scuffed brown shoes (one with a tongue missing) and…
Can you think of any other Main Street store that received national attention like that? And no, the Gap, Banana Republic and Pottery Barn don’t count.