Mark Potts’ Westport: Then And Now

Staples Class of 1974 graduate Mark Potts has spent 20 years at the intersection of traditional and digital journalism. He co-founded WashingtonPost.com, Backfence.com and GrowthSpur; served as editor of Philly.com; taught media entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland, and is a consultant with clients like the Los Angeles TimesVariety and Silicon Valley startups.

He’s lived far from Westport for many years — right now he’s in Lawrence, Kansas — but his heart remains here. Whenever he’s “home” he checks out Main Street, Compo, the neighborhoods (and Westport Pizzeria, “the best in the world”).

Recently, he inserted old photos of Westport into current scenes from Google Street View (or in one case, a New Yorker cover).

The result is a striking look at how Westport has — and has not — changed over the decades. For example, in 1970 a massive crowd — many of the them Staples students — gathered on the Post Road outside the steps of the Y as part of a nationwide “Moratorium” protest against the Vietnam War:

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Long before those anti-war days, the building at the corner of the Post Road and Taylor Place was a drugstore  –first Colgan’s, then Thompson’s — with a real soda fountain. Today it’s Tiffany:

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The view below is from the opposite direction, in the early 20th century. The Westport Hotel occupied the corner of the Post Road (State Street) and Main Street. Disturbed at the drinking and pool-playing going on there, Edward T. Bedford built a YMCA on the site to give teenage boys a proper place to play:

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Before Main Street morphed into a chain mall, it was filled with mom-and-pop shops like Country Gal, and the locally owned Klein’s department store:

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Before Parker Harding Plaza was built in the mid-1950s, the back sides of Main Street stores backed right up to the Saugatuck River. Some discharged their waste right into the water:

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Much earlier than that, tall ships sailed up the Saugatuck to trade at Riverside Avenue wharves:

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The 3-story National Hall building (also seen above) has stood since the mid-1800s. It’s been a bank, meeting place, site of the 1st Staples High School, a furniture store, a boutique hotel and a restaurant, among other uses:

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For decades, the Clam Box served as the place to meet for good food (and, for local politicians, to make deals). Before becoming Bertucci’s, it was Tanglewoods:

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In 1973, the New Yorker featured the Compo Beach pavilion on its cover. It hasn’t changed much, other than the addition of a nearby playground in the mid-1980s:

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So, has Westport changed a lot over the years? You bet.

And has it remained the same: Of course.

7 responses to “Mark Potts’ Westport: Then And Now

  1. William Adler

    Abso-effing brilliant@ Thanks for posting! I love the way he matched old with new. I sometimes look at those iconic views and in my mind’s eye harken back to earlier views. I can remember 1950s cars parked in Harder Parking or in front of (now) Town Hall – because it was the 1950s! The town is timeless and these memories live on… in part thanks to this wonderful photo essay… thank you Mark and Dan!

  2. Yes, brilliant! Thanks, Mark & Dan!

  3. Sharon Paulsen

    Wow, interesting!

  4. Since I’ll never find a before and after street map, this amazing juxtaposition of old and new is the next best thing. Is there a book in the works?

  5. Margaret Hart Rynshall

    Incredibly cool and so visually interesting! Thanks for the time it took to do this.

  6. Thanks for everybody’s kind words. It was fun to do, and yes, it would make a great book–or an exhibit at the Historical Society or Town Hall. I’m all ears if anyone is interested!

  7. Great job Mark!