Searching For St. Anthony

It’s one thing to lose a fountain.

It’s another thing entirely to lose a saint.

St. Anthony — the symbol of Saugatuck and, ironically, the patron saint of finding things or lost people — is gone.

For decades St. Anthony’s Hall was the social heart of that strong Italian neighborhood. Located at 37 Franklin Street — the once-vibrant one-way road connecting Charles Street with Saugatuck Avenue, now overshadowed by I-95 high above — the meeting place of the St. Anthony’s Society was the go-to place for weddings, anniversaries, and all kinds of other gatherings.

The former St. Anthony Hall on Franklin Street. (Photos/Google Maps)

The former St. Anthony Hall on Franklin Street. (Photos/Google Maps)

And for decades, a statue of St. Anthony watched over Saugatuck, from an honored alcove above the front door.

St. Anthony, in the alcove.

St. Anthony, in the alcove.

The photos above are from last August.

But now, St. Anthony is gone.

Robert Mitchell noticed the missing saint the other day. He leads walking tours of Saugatuck for the Westport Historical Society (the next one is Saturday, April 18).

He was surprised to see it gone. So were many other Westporters.

Thanks to Cathy Romano, who works at Assumption Church — more on that later — I learned that Chris Anderson bought the former St. Anthony’s Hall building last July, for $1.2 million.

Chris has lived in Westport for 14 years. His wife is Italian. As he began renovating 37 Franklin Street for his business — In-Store Experience, a design and advertising firm — he planned to save the statue.

37 Franklin Street, after renovations.

37 Franklin Street, after renovations.

But when the contractor went to remove it, Chris said, “it disintegrated.” It was too old, and had just sat there — in the alcove — since God knows when.

The contractor knew what the statue meant to Chris. He gave him a replica of it.

And Chris knows what the statue — and all of St. Anthony’s Hall — meant to Saugatuck.

He plans to display a plaque honoring the site in his lobby. He’d like photos too. But he doesn’t know how to get them.

That’s where “06880” comes in. If you’ve got pictures — or any other memorabilia — from St. Anthony’s Hall, or the annual Feast, email canderson@instoreexperience.com.

I can’t speak for Chris. But it can’t hurt to send anything from the entire area, right?

This photo of Franklin Street might be good for the new lobby. It shows the original Arrow restaurant. The restaurant got its name from the "arrow" shape of the Saugatuck Avenue/Franklin Street intersection.

This photo of the original Arrow Restaurant might work in the new lobby. The name came from the “arrow” shape of the Franklin Street/Saugatuck Avenue intersection.

PS: About Assumption.

One of the great traditions of St. Anthony’s Hall was an annual feast. Before it died out in the 1950s — around the time the highway came through — there were games, food, and a parade during which a statue of St. Anthony was carried down the street.*

You can still see that statue. It was donated to Assumption Church. Today it sits proudly inside the church.

(Hat tip: Loretta Hallock)

*In 1984, the Feast of St. Anthony was resurrected as Festival Italiano. It thrived for 27 years, until 2011.

St. Anthony's statue, just inside the back entrance of Assumption Church.

St. Anthony’s statue, just inside the back entrance of Assumption Church.

9 responses to “Searching For St. Anthony

  1. Michael Calise

    Thanks for the update Dan, It was sad to see the statue go. Change is a certainty but this time around the new owners have re-created the building with a fresh new appearance. A job well done for a building with a historic past’

  2. Sven Davidson

    The traditional (at least in my Italian-American neighborhood) prayer to Saint Anthony: “Something’s lost and must be found. Please Saint Anthony, look around.”

  3. How would someone named Avi know about St. Anthony? Well – shortly after we got married we visited friends on Cape Cod. We were sitting on the beach and I of course was fidgeting with the new wedding band. Suddenly it dropped into the deep sandy beach. We looked and looked and couldn’t find it. I was sure it was gone. A bit later, two women passed by strolling on the beach and stopped to say hello. It turns out they were religious women. They told us about St. Anthony and they started sifting through the sand. Moments later, they found the ring! 🙂

  4. Cathy Romano

    Hi Dan,
    Glad to hear you found St. Anthony. Sorry to hear that the statue had disintegrated.
    The Westport Historical Society has photos of Saugautck prehaps they might be of interest to Chris.
    Thanks Chris the building looks great!

  5. Never knew or thought about why it was called the Arrow Restaurant. Just knew they hired a lot of the high school kids to bus tables and wash dishes. A little history adds interesting perspective!!

  6. Sharon Paulsen

    Ah, the roots of marketing/promotion in Westport still pervades, now reviving itself in the Saugatuck area! (Think, Dave Ryan/Ryan Partnership beginnings, MCA on the river, and such).

    Cool story about the statue and the longstanding Italian culture of this part of our town, but I’m also thoroughly interested in the goings-on of revival biz in Saugatuck. History repeats, and recycles (new statue, new marketing company)… when possible, of course!

    A jewel of a story Dan!

  7. Dick Stein (Staples '61)

    During the early 50’s, I remember going to a summer performance of Bo Diddley at St. Anthony’s Hall. The street was full of young kids and it was a crazy, wild, noisy night. As it got later and later, my father came down to Saugatuck looking for me. I had told him I was going to see Bo Diddley and he assumed I was headed to a new friend’s house. Wandering around Saugatuck, he kept asking strangers if they knew where Bo Diddley lived so he could pick up his son! Old memories getting vague but still hanging on…