The Westport Historical Society has plenty of cool stuff tucked away in the attic and basement.
But its most amazing artifact may be hidden in plain sight: the 7-sided cobblestone barn.
Located right behind the Wheeler House headquarters, opposite Town Hall, it’s the only barn of its kind in the state. And its doors are always open.
When you wander in, the first thing you see is a 5-foot square historical diorama of downtown. Created for the Society by Tom Clough in 1999, it represents Westport in the mid- and late-19th centuries.
Clough calculated the size of buildings and other features from photos. When he actually measured Toquet Hall, he found his estimate was just one inch off.
The tallest object — the spire of Christ & Holy Trinity Church — is 4 inches high, on a 270:1 scale. The smallest are the minuscule spokes on a bicycle, leaning against the old library. (Where was that? Push a button on the display, and you’ll see it was on the corner of Post Road and Main Street, in the building that now houses Starbucks.)
The diorama also includes 50 and 60-foot sloops, which docked where Parker Harding Plaza now stands. (You didn’t know that parking lot was landfill? Ah, the things you’ll learn!)
A 20-minute narration describes Westport’s maritime commerce, including our staple crop (onions) and manufactured goods (tinsel ribbon cord, fringes, candlewicks, shoes, valises and buttons).
In true Westport fashion, the narrator is Joanne Woodward.
Upstairs, there’s an even larger display: the miniature train holiday scene that — every Christmas for decades — entertained Main Street shoppers from Swezey Jewelers’ front window.
Model railroad specialist Hank Teller fine-tuned the 4-track display. It includes small replicas of the Saugatuck Congregational Church, Saugatuck firehouse — and of course Swezey’s itself.
The barn has its own history. Built by blacksmith Farmin Patchin during the late 1840s or ’50s, it was in disrepair when the WHS bought the property in 1980.
It took 10 years to restore the structure, under the supervision of Leo Cirino. Stones were painstakingly removed and catalogued, then returned to their original positions as the walls were rebuilt.
There’s plenty to see at the Historical Society. Including an odd but intriguing 7-sided barn that most of us pass by often, without really seeing.
(For more information on the Westport Historical Society, click here or call 203-222-1424.)