The More Things Change…

Many Westporters are lamenting the loss of 3 cherry trees. Cut down last week as part of the new Bedford Square project, they stood outside the downtown Westport Y seemingly forever.

“Seemingly forever” is actually 50 years.

A very alert “06880” reader found a Westport Town Crier clipping from March 15, 1964. The paper reported that despite spraying, pruning and feeding, a “venerable” tree succumbed to Dutch elm disease.

The "venerable elm tree" frames the Y.

The “venerable elm tree” frames the Y.

For 100 years or more, it stood on that exact same spot: in front of the Y.

The elm tree is removed after toppling.

The elm tree is removed. It was taken to the “city dump,” and burned.

In its place, the Town Crier said, 3 flowering Japanese cherry trees were planted. Twelve feet high, they were donated by Westport garden center owner (and very active citizen) Alan U. Parsell.

They flourished there for exactly half a century.

In 2064, I’m sure “06880” — or whatever replaces it — will run a nice looking-back story on the “venerable,” lovely trees that for 50 years framed handsome Bedford Square.

The Westport YMCA, after the Dutch elm was removed. Note the lack of ivy too.

The Westport YMCA, after the Dutch elm was removed. Note the lack of ivy, too.


9 responses to “The More Things Change…

  1. Nancy Powers Conklin

    I just love the old photos of the ‘Y,’ Dan! Thank you for sharing them.

  2. our lifetime realized, no?

  3. Shame these Japanese Cherry trees weren’t saved like the Kemper Guns House. I guess with the house they got free public land for pennies when they rent the building at $100 sq/ft for a profit of two million dollars over the length of the lease. I guess trees don’t bring in that much money. How about giving back some of that money by starting a new Westport tradition of planting Japanese Cherry trees along the riverwalk by the Westport Library.

    The water is our greatest natural assets, Westport is a unique town which has both a large river downtown and Long Island Sound .We should avoid damaging the river by allowing the same developer to build a private bridge that would ruin our town’s natural beauty – the Saugatuck River.

    Can anyone who owns a house on the Saugatuck River build a bridge for their convenience so they don’t have to go out of their way?

  4. As will the new Longshore trees. Nice history story, Dan.

  5. Suzanne Zarrilli


    I am saddened About the gorgeous cherry trees in front of the historic YMCA.

    It goes along with cutting down historic landmark trees in our community. My husband & I attended a meeting on protecting our trees with the RTM, Historical Society, Preservation Committe, Beautifactin Committee among others. Our wonderful tree warden, Bruce Lindsey is doing a great job at trying to preserve our historic trees.

    Our town is unprotected by home builders who are “clear cutting” properties to build new homes. I recently saw a comment from a homeowner on your blog about how a previous neighbor wouldn’t care if a developer removed his colorful tree, which he watched for 50 years. Long Lots Road is about to loose the most unusual tree in our neighborhood

    Developers from outside our community, probably out of state, are plowing the Post Road making way for Lexus dealers, Speed Gas stations, etc. Many trees were replaced and given as a gift to our town from the Beautification Commitee along the Post Road. Many of the trees had previously belonged curbside to the State.

    The RTM advises they have no control.

    Now what?

  6. Great find and post. To come full circle, the truck loading the wood looks to be that of Munroe house movers, the company that moved the church. There’s a Life magazine photo essay with additional church moving photos.

  7. I remember watching them cut down the old elm tree. I was 10, and I remember my mom being upset about the beautiful tree coming down. It was pretty exciting, because it had to come down just right, so as not to break any windows on the Y and not to fall across Main St. and hit the cinema.

  8. Thanks to our Tree Warden, the landscape plan for the future home of the Kemper Gunn house – on Elm Street – will include the planting of disease resistant elms.

  9. Adam Schwartz '75

    Speaking of the “Y” and years past, anyone know what happened to Charlie?