One Last Look Back

The Kemper-Gunn House has moved. The old YMCA Bedford building begins renovations soon, becoming an anchor of the new Bedford Square.

But Westporters can’t stop looking back.

Alert “06880” reader Jonathan Rohner sent this fascinating postcard showing the Y and the Westport Bank and Trust building (today it’s Patagonia):

YMCA and bank in 1920s or so

I love the cars — all looking the same — parked or driving haphazardly on the trolley-tracked Post Road.

I love the elm trees framing the Bedford building, and how peaceful downtown looked.

Equally alert “06880” reader Scott Smith contributed this photo, from a decade or so later:

YMCA witih old cars

I love the hand-colored blue sky. The bike leaning casually against the tree on the left.

And check out the front-in parking job of those cars in front of the Y. That would never fly today.

I was especially intrigued by another image Scott sent. This one shows the Westport Hotel. The area was called Hotel Square. Westport Bank and Trust had not yet been built:

Westport Hotel - site of old Y

The hotel had a pool room. Youngsters were not permitted inside. Edward T. Bedford vowed to give them a place. In 1923, he built the YMCA.

The rest is history.

And now, a new chapter has begun.


20 responses to “One Last Look Back

  1. Thanks, Dan! There they are in the first photo—the two towering elms that graced the Y’s front entrance back in the day.
    It is likely they succumbed to the blight that took the majority of the Town’s elm trees and after a period of community mourning were replaced by flowering cherry trees.
    Soon a new variety of tree will supplant the cherry trees…and the beat goes on….

  2. Arline Gertzoff

    What else was in the building with Westport Bank and Trust which opened in 1923? What was there before the bank?No looking it up. I know the answers.

  3. David A. Waldman

    The spotted horse building used to sit there (until it was moved to its current location). You can see it in the last picture across from the Westport Hotel. The Westport Bank and Trust Building was built for the bank in 1924 for $124,000, which is what it cost to build the Bedford mansion the same year.

  4. From what building (roof top?) was the postcard art drawn/painted?

  5. Wendy Crowther

    I’m wondering why Mr. Waldman calls the YMCA building the Bedford Mansion (not just in his post above, but often). No member of the Bedford family ever lived in the building. Mr. Bedford built it to be a YMCA, not a residence. Use of the word mansion implies otherwise.

  6. David A. Waldman

    Sorry. You are correct, it was built for the Y. That said, to me it is mansion like and that is why I phrased it that way. Either way, it is a magnificent structure which with an exciting new future ahead of it.

  7. Useless but sort of interesting info:18th century wills around the state occasionally make reference to “mansion houses” as in “to my beloved wife Phoebe, the use and enjoyment of my mansion house for the length of her widowhood..”. Today we think about the term “mansion” differently, but back then it was meant to describe a dwelling that had two full stories.

  8. Sorry to say but the elms complimented the building better than the Kwanzon cherry trees. I’m reading a great book on elms called Republic of Shade. They deserve to be remembered and the fight to save them was incredible.

  9. I agree Brad, the elms were an elegant and complimentary choice. Right tree, right place. The Kwanzons simply overwhelmed the very shallow front setback and obscured the building. While Kwanzons start life with a upright habit, after about twenty years or so they start to flop out. Pruning just makes them look worse. I have personally found that it really requires a lot of negative space around them to make it work.

    Thanks, too, for the tip on Republic of Shade. As a side note, for those who wish to see what is probably the largest surviving elm in Wesport, take a look at the one we all own that is growing right by the edge of the road at 73 Long Lots. It’s my understanding that the town will soon begin a special health regimen for this absolutely stunning tree.

  10. I think the largest elm in Westport is on the old Charles Lindbergh property down the road on Long Lots.

  11. The tree board is currently updating Westport’s inventory of notable trees. I wonder if they are aware of the Lindbergh elm you mentioned. Which house is that?

  12. Just past Bulkley on the right. Large brick mansion on the hill. I was told it’s one of the largest in the state.

  13. Thanks, I know the place. I’ll pass the info along.

  14. Fascinating. I had no idea that any of the Lindberghs lived in Westport.

  15. Did the Lindberghs live in Westport or Darien, or both, before Hawaii?
    Or, did the Westport Lindbergh property belong to a family member, or a different “Lindbergh”?

  16. Thanks so much, Dan. I’ve read a few of Anne Morrow’s books, but it isn’t clear from them where the family lived.
    This is truly fascinating. Thanks again. Guess I should have paid more attention to Westport History when I had the chance.

  17. Funny Lindbergh story Dave Kingsley told me. While building a house in Georgetown next to a milk farm, a neighbor told him how Lindbergh had landed in the pasture and asked for directions. He said please don’t tell anyone.

  18. Regarding Trees. I suggest everyone look at the 1934 Aerial photo of Westport. The number of trees we had back then was Vastly, vastly less. We probably had 10 percent of the trees in 1934 that we have now. It’s truly astounding. Back in the day. also.. there were views of the sound from so many high spots in town and now they’re all gone. Being brought up in the nursery business, I have always had a healthy respect for the danger of trees and the need to take them down once they have lived past their prime. Those trees were very old and it was a good thing they were taken down. Now, new trees will be planted.