First, “06880” wondered what happened to the early 1900s fountain/horse trough located at the intersection of the Post Road and Wilton Road.
Turns out it turned up next to National Hall. Then it was established that it’s no longer there.
Crazily enough, no one knows when it vanished. Or why. Or where it is now. Even though it happened within the last decade.
What’s beyond dispute, though, is that the fountain was there in 1991, when Arthur Tauck gave Westport one of its greatest gifts ever.
National Hall had stood on the west bank of the Saugatuck River since 1873. It was built by Horace Staples — our high school’s namesake — and over the years served many purposes.
It housed Staples’ First National Bank of Westport. It was used as a newspaper office, a coffin-making business, and for many other purposes. Adjacent wharves provided easy shipping to New York, Boston and other ports.
The 3rd floor was used for everything from basketball games to concerts, said noted local historian Eve Potts. In 1884, the very 1st classes of the new Staples High School met there.
According to the New York Times, the bank moved out in 1924. Other tenants followed. By the 1940s — with most commerce being conducted on the other side of the river — the building was sold to Fairfield Furniture.
But that store closed in the 1970s. For 3 decades the building — one of the most prominent in Westport — sat empty.
It deteriorated. Water leaked in. Tons of bird droppings caused the roof to sag.
In 1989, the area was designated a Historic Design District. That enabled Tauck — president of the high-end tour company founded by his father, which at that time was headquartered nearby on Wilton Road — to redevelop the area, in a historically sensitive way.
Over a period of several years, Tauck renovated National Hall. He’d bought it at auction in 1986, for $1.5 million. At a cost of $6 million, he and Ferris Architects restored the building to its original brick and cast-iron facade grandeur.
Tauck created the boutique 15-room Inn at National Hall. Every room was different. Each floor included a living room, library and fireplace. A restaurant occupied the ground floor.
The manager was Nick Carter. From 1979-85, the former British Navy officer was in charge of royal accommodations on the yacht Brittania.
Tauck also donated the gas lamps on the Post Road bridge to the town.
Reporting on the project in 1991, the Times described “a new landscaped plaza with a fountain as its centerpiece.”
For a variety of reasons, the Inn at National Hall did not succeed. Today, though with Vespa on the ground floor — and offices above — the place is bustling. And the building is a handsome sight for anyone entering town.
But back to the fountain. Sometime — during one of the many renovations of the property — it disappeared.
How could a handsome — and very heavy — fountain simply have vanished? And how come no one recalls when it happened, or where it went?
Where is Rod Serling now that we really need him?
(Hat tip: Elaine Marino)