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.
And for decades, a statue of St. Anthony watched over Saugatuck, from an honored alcove above the front door.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
I can’t speak for Chris. But it can’t hurt to send anything from the entire area, right?
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.