Living In…Saugatuck

The New York Times Sunday real estate section holds a strange fascination for people in the tri-state area.

It doesn’t matter if we’re actively buying or selling, or dying in the same house our great-grandparents were born in. Like realtors drawn to obituaries — that means a potential listing! — we pore over the real estate pages. We can’t help reading about pets in co-ops, which Brooklyn neighborhood is next on the hot list, and of course who paid how much for what.

Every Sunday, the Times singles out a town or neighborhood for its “Living In” feature. This Sunday, it will be Saugatuck.

Bridge Square rocked last September, at the "Slice of Saugatuck" festival. (Photo by Terry Cosgrave)

Bridge Square rocked last September, at the “Slice of Saugatuck” festival. (Photo by Terry Cosgrave)

Titled “What I-95 Hasn’t Put Asunder,” it describes the mid-1950s construction of the Connecticut Turnpike as “a battering ram.”

Houses came down; so did a church. Blacktop replaced Turtle Pond, a favorite place to ice-skate. A rumbling overpass halved Franklin Street, a residential locus for Italian-Americans (who today account for about 20 percent of the population).

“You know that progress has to happen,” said Cathy Romano, whose childhood home, a porch-wrapped wood-frame house on West Ferry Lane, became a dorm for highway builders before being razed for a parking lot. “But it was traumatic.”

Yet Saugatuck — which before the Italians arrived was the commercial center of Westport — has reinvented itself. And the Times takes notice.

Bustling and dense, with a number of restaurants and some shops, Saugatuck can feel almost urban, especially when compared with leafier, sleepier Westport areas like Coleytown, which has two-acre residential zoning. But there are plenty of people who would rather be squeezed in than spread out.

Yards away from the bustle, a serene Saugatuck scene. (Photo by Bobbi Liepolt)

Yards away from the bustle, a serene Saugatuck scene. (Photo by Bobbi Liepolt)

The piece describes the Gault family’s “$18 million attempt to ease the effects of I-95’s divisive presence: Saugatuck Center, a mixed-use four-acre redevelopment project….In a community with hardly any housing beyond single-family homes, 27 new apartments amount to a lot.”

The Times includes Saugatuck Shores in its Saugatuck roundup, which seems a stretch. But here’s the connection:

Recovery of another kind is on the minds of some homeowners in Saugatuck Shores, a low-lying, compressed area. Hurricane Sandy dealt it a punishing blow, as have other big storms.

The houses perched atop carports seem to have come out unscathed. But more modest properties — especially along Harbor Road, which is separated from Long Island Sound by a jumble of boulders — seem hurt. On a recent visit, a few had plywood in their windows, and the storm had strewn oysters across lawns.

Hurricane Sandy devastated Saugatuck Shores.

Hurricane Sandy devastated Saugatuck Shores.

Because this is the Times real estate section, money matters. Readers learn that the most expensive home on the market — a 5-bedroom 2000 colonial on a 2-acre waterfront lot with a tennis court — is listed at $10.99 million.

Last year, the average price for all 29 single-family homes sold in Saugatuck was  $1.22 million. Hopefully, some of those sales were by families who held on — and thrived — in the decades after I-95 sliced through.

Finally — buried at the end of the story — was some intriguing news. There are 1,064 reserved parking lots at the train station, and the waiting list is 4 years. But — who knew? — the town is planning “an online effort to cull outdated names.”

(Click here to read the entire New York Times story on “Living In Saugatuck.”)

For many people, the Black Duck epitomizes Saugatuck. (Photo by John Kantor)

For many people, the Black Duck epitomizes Saugatuck. (Photo by John Kantor)

23 responses to “Living In…Saugatuck

  1. Thanks! Keep up the good work.

  2. U. Zooelly N. Trouble


  3. Matthew Mandell

    Saw the article, I think Dan does a better job writing than the times. And at least he mentioned the Slice of Saugatuck festival, the times missed that…. wink wink.

    FYI – The Slice will be back again this year. This time it will be run by the Chamber of Commerce. Should be good. See you all then.

  4. Fact Checker

    School correction needed on NYT article: Kids from Saugatuck attend Kings Highway El and Coleytown Middle, not Saugatuck El and Bedford Middle.

  5. U. Zooelly N. Trouble

    Nothing for WOOG’S WORLD PARTY TIME???? It was a most excellent joke on the “Sweetheart of Wetspot”. Nothing????

  6. Succotash? lol

  7. Used to be rather boorish and sullen in dear ole Saugatuck. It is like mardi gras down there on weekends now. Good to see. Maybe downtown will wake up to its new competition?

  8. That sailboat in the foreground of the river photo is named the
    “Chipper B”. Is there any background on that craft , it is really a unique
    vessel. I believe the hull is metal and it has a lot of stuff on it. It is always there during the boating season but never moves from its spot.

    • Jim Goodrich

      Chipper B is made of ferro cement. A frame of rebar covered with a skin of smallish chicken wire is pumped full (the wire/rebar combination not the hull) with a special cement. It is helpful to think of the way many high-end swimming pools are built as opposed to sidewalks. This type of boat was developed in the early 60’s and made popular by home builders.

  9. Tom Allen '66

    Dan, I was in elementary school when I95 leveled about half of Saugatuck but I don’t recall a church being demolished. Which one? Saugatuck back then, and for decades afterward until it became a near-ghosttown before its current revival, was overwhelmingly Catholic. Saugatuck residents, including my family, were Assumption parishoners. I’m mystified. The demolition of a church would have been big news back then.

    • I wondered about that too — I’d never heard of a church being demolished. Maybe it was a building owned by Assumption Church?

      • Jack Whittle

        A Church was located on the far corner of Charles St and Saugatuck Ave in the area of where the daily commuter parking lot is now located. (Charles St. used to run across Saugatuck Ave and up to Indian Hill Rd.) My 1893 D.H Hurd map identifies it as a “M.E. Ch.”, although it shows up in postcards (one postmarked 1908) as “Christ Church” or “Christ Episcopal Church” – don’t know what denomination it was when 95 came through.

      • Jack Whittle

        “M.E. Church” being Methodist Episcopalian. Extra credit if you can identify where a Methodist Church once stood in the downtown area of Westport.

        • Jack:
          The Seabury Center at the corner of Church Lane and Elm, now owned by Christ & Holy Trinity, was once a Methodist Church

          • Jack Whittle

            Yes, that was where the Methodist Episcopalian Church congregation moved to, I have a 1920-ish postcard showing this to be that church’s denomination. But I have a church building in mind that is now long gone.

    • TOM & DAN
      I believe there was a Protestant Church on Burr Street that was demolished in the early fifties. It was located between the old Mediplex and the Assumption Church— might even have stood on the site that later became the (now shuttered) Assumption Grammar School. But the demolition of that particular church had nothing to do with the construction of I-95 though they each happened about the same time.
      I think the Church that was razed was Episcopalian and its congregation may have merged with the Episcopal Church on Myrtle to become Christ & Holy Trinity. Maybe someone out there (one of the Gaults?) from that parish can confirm or debunk this recollection.

  10. This raises a question: there is a town in Michigan named Saugatuck. I wonder there’s any connection?

  11. Curious question, Ironic. The word “Saugatuck” means “mouth of the river” from our American Indian heritage. Both Michigan and Connecticut towns have similar histories with settlements off such waterways and both spawning artisan colonies. Saugatuck, MI is a tourist attraction now, Perhaps our future as well?

  12. Tom Allen '66

    Thanks, Bob, et al for checking re the church demolition. Yup, CAS, our Saugatuck looks like it’s going to be a tourist attraction. All the ingredients are there. It’s been a long time since Saugatuck’s most recent major tourist attraction, the Arrow, went down.

    • Got the Blue Parrott now vice The Arrow, TA. A place to dance at least. My hearing hasn’t recovered since the last time there but once it has, I will return.

  13. Wendy Crowther

    I’m not at home to check my notes and files but during my historic research on Allen’s Clamhouse, I recall quotes that claimed Captain Allen used reclaimed timbers from a torn down Methodist Church located near the turnpike to construct portions of his restaurant.

    In answer to Jack Whittle’s question, I believe that a church once stood near today’s Town Hall at the intersection of Myrtle and Main on today’s Veteran’s Green.

    • Jack Whittle

      Winner! It was a Methodist Church, built in a German gothic style – it looks like a Lutheran church in the postcards I have of it.