Westporters are proud of our protests.
And we did it long before Westport became a baby boom ‘burb. Alert “06880” reader Mary Palmieri Gai has unearthed 2 fascinating Time magazine stories from 1938. Had a group of protesters not prevailed, Westport might look very different today.
On March 28, 1938 Time reported that Westport was bidding to become the next Salzburg, Austria — a world musical capital.
In this “arty village lying on the sluggish River Saugatuck,” Hendrik van Loon’s Connecticut Society of Friends of Music announced plans for 6 summer concerts.
While this would still leave Westport “trailing in competition with such established U. S. summer festivals as the Berkshire, Hollywood Bowl, St. Louis Municipal Opera, and Manhattan Lewisohn Stadium,” Time said, “such Westporters as van Loon, Grace Moore and Lawrence Tibbett hope for glamorous future expansion, to help keep American music lovers from stumping off to Europe every summer.”
Westporter Patrick A. Powers — “an enterprising Irishman, onetime backer of Walt Disney,” and organizer of a forerunner of RKO, had already purchased a 200-acre estate, where he built the Longshore Country Club. In mid-March he “promised Westporters a great gift: he would build a $100,000 ‘marine stadium’ at Westport” — presumably Longshore — and lease it to Friends of Music for $1 a year.
It did not take long for Westporters to howl. The following week, Time reported:
200 embattled citizens of arty Westport, Conn, nearly shattered the rafters of their Town Hall with furious protests against the plan to make Westport a “Salzburg on the Saugatuck”…. Following the meeting, Westport’s Board of Zoning Appeals refused to grant Millionaire Patrick A. Powers a permit to continue construction on his $100,000 “Dream Stadium.”
Protesting Westporters, preferring rural quiet to culture and glory, feared that their “simple” village would be turned into a Connecticut Coney Island instead of an American Salzburg. “We don’t want to be the Salzburg of America,” declared one anxious Westporter. “We want to die in peace.”
So did those protesters exactly 75 years ago get it right? Or would it be pretty cool if today Westport was known worldwide as “Salzburg on the Saugatuck”?
Raise your voices. Hit “Comments” to join the debate.