Paint It Black

Don’t be surprised if one day soon the old post office turns from white to black.

Or — depending on who’s talking — “brown,” “a dark shade,” or “a bit purply.”

The WPA-era building in the heart of downtown has stood vacant since December 2011. In the 18 months since, work has proceeded slowly — v-e-r-y slowly — on a new restaurant that will occupy both the main floor and lower level (banquet room).

Little seems to have been done, except for the removal of historical windows early in the renovation. (“Oops” was pretty much the non-apology for that move.)

Recently though, when the Atlanta-based owners of the white concrete and red brick building planned to paint it a dark color, they were asked to approach the Architectural Review Board for comment and direction.

Their attorney told them they did not have to do that.

Besides, he said, we’re not painting it — our tenant (the restaurant) is.

Also besides, it might not be painted. Maybe stained.

The lawyer is right.

Legally, that is.

In terms of being good neighbors, though — well, that should be the 1st item on any owner’s menu.

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16 responses to “Paint It Black

  1. John McCarthy

    When you buy an historic property, you have also bought the moral obligation to maintain it in its most authentic form. This is not about needing to update or expand a structure. it is purely an aesthetic change which will be a polarizing move. not sure i would want to introduce my restaurant to the town in this way. lots of other places to eat. The owners/tenants should think twice about this.

  2. Holly Wheeler

    Waking up to the Stones and the sun is my idea of a great beginning. However, this story is not. How can businessmen (from Atlanta, yet) just buy a commercial, historical property right in the center of town and begin to change it as they wish? The P&Z seems to have huge restrictions on what homeowners can do, as I read in the local papers. What is it that allows businesses to get away with it?

  3. Eric William Buchroeder

    Beyond whatever the rules may be (and if there’s no rule against defacing THIS type of building then there SHOULD be) why in the world would anyone want to paint a building like this black?

  4. Bart Shuldman

    This is not a comment about the color but a thank you to our town that is creating a vibrant atmosphere. With the changes by the P&Z we now have many more restaurants opening and it is all getting fun and exciting. While I have had my difficulty with some things at the P&Z, I applaud whoever supported the changes. Our town is fun. We no longer look to go to Fairfield. We have BarTaco on the water, Cru, Spotted Horse and others opening that is making a vibrant down town. Outdoor seating. Fun. I don’t know if others are noticing or experiencing, but you should. Thank you. And keep it going.

    • Richard Lawrence Stein

      Our town like everything else has risen and lowered like the tide…. there have been times of vibrancy and times of less…. And yes the P&Z have helped with certain rule relaxation, but to alter the POST OFFICE could cause harm that we cannot reverse. I am no Picasso or College Pro painter, but the process to apply paint to exposed stone or brick face could do great damage if it were ever to be reverse. “REMARKABLE” can always go back to being pink, wood allows for that, The post office surface not so much. Ask any woman who gets their hair colored, too much coloring causes damage. At least in this case there hair can grow back. Last I knew stone surfaces don’t regrow or renew. Bart sometimes keeping something old is “OK” and even better than trying to make something “NEW”

      • Bart Shuldman

        I never made a comment about the Post Office. Just look at my first sentence.

        Somehow saying thank you seems to bring out other types of ideas and comments that do not reflect the thank you.

  5. Matthew Mandell

    This is very interesting. Because I was at a HDC meeting a year back when the owners of the old post office were crowing how they will preserve it. They even showed how they will recreate the old windows and restore the front door. Take a look at it, very interesting door. Everyone was supportive of their plans.

    So for them to now say they will screw with the aesthetic is disturbing. Very simple – if they mess with it, no one should eat there. Maybe legally they can do what they want, but money talks.

    And as Bart said there are many places to eat now. We have options.

  6. John McCarthy

    Any dissent? Actually quite sad to see such harmony in all the comments…..

  7. Fred Cantor

    I don’t know that is necessarily more disturbing than the failure to maintain the iconic pink color of the building housing The Remarkable Book Shop. And, as it turned out, the color change seemed to have no impact on the success of the business that subsequently occupied that space.

    The irony was that the building was owned at the time by the founder of Save Westport Now, who unquestionably has done considerable good for the town; but, when it came to his family’s commercial property, he allowed a real change to happen to a part of what truly defined downtown Westport.

    By that, I mean, he and his family could, in theory, have insisted that the building remain pink as a term of the lease with Talbot’s. They could have also even put in a covenant in the recent sale of the building which would have required the building to remain pink. Would this have adversely impacted the lease value or sale value? Very possibly.

    And, apparently a decision was made to do something that they thought would maximize the commercial potential of their property while also complying with zoning regulations–which was their prerogative. But, in doing so, a piece of Westport’s character was unquestionably lost and, again, there seemed to be no adverse effects on the subsequent business.

  8. betsy pollak

    That would be so sad. The owner of the building and the restaurant should know they won’t have the business/customers they hope for if they do something that terrible, as they will be instantly disliked!

  9. Jamie Walsh

    This is a noble structure with a Indiana Limestone facade that represents, as Dan noted, a significant period during the WPA-era. The Empire State Building used Indiana Limestone as well as many other significant buildings and monuments across the US. limestone is noted for it’s durability as well as it’s aesthetically pleasing characteristics specifically referred to by the Indiana Limestone Institute as ” warm and inviting”. These developers did come before HDC stating that they intended to restore and return the building to it’s glory… Now they hide behind a lawyer and blame the tenant. They own the building, therefore they absolutley dictate what can and will be done…seriously??? What they are doing is not NOBLE and I can promise you that I will never set foot in that place if they move forward with this ridiculous scheme. Seems like another Terrain senerio where the people need to speak up. If they paint it Black…I hope the restaurant fades to black!!!

  10. Cathy Smith Barnett

    I wonder how long a black concrete restaurant can stay open, at the rate Westport eateries come and go. If this one doesn’t make it, it will be the biggest black elephant in town.

  11. As someone rightfully pointed out to me the buildings facade is not a limestone facade..but concrete and upon close visual inspection I stand corrected…however…painting it black is…well…just wrong and it is a noble structure.