This Old House #8

Once again, last week’s “This Old House” — the photo of a local home, taken in the 1930s for a WPA project, and soon to be shown at a Westport Historical Society exhibit on old houses — remains unidentified. At least, not positively.

Educated guesses ranged from Greens Farms/Wake Robin Road and Prospect Road, to Compo Beach, to Burritt’s Landing and Duck Pond Road. In other words, all over town. Click here to see the photo and comments.

This week’s house looks a bit different from the others in this series — and we see a bit more of the surroundings too.

This Old House #8

Plus, there’s solid information on the state website, where all these WPA photos are archived:

“Circa 1835, Ryan Estate. Location: Faces east on Canal Street; north end of the street and northwest of brook near Main Street.”

Still, WHS house historian Bob Weingarten is unsure exactly where on Canal Street this house is — or if it still stands. If you know, click “Comments.”

And if you’ve got any good stories about the history of Canal Street, add those too!

49 responses to “This Old House #8

  1. Isn’t it just 8 Canal St? I sent the pictures from Google Maps to your facebook account.

  2. Deirdre Abbotts

    I sure looks like the same house on Canal and Guilder, the front porch has been removed

  3. Peter Barlow

    I think this house was once the Westport School of Music. The location is exactly where the description says. And there was a large gravel bank just beyond.

  4. It does closely resemble 8 Canal except there is a problem: the later addition bay on the historic image appears to be larger and faceted whereas the one presently on the 8 Canal is simpler. Perhaps it was the twin to 8 Canal and once stood by its side? For what it’s worth, and by way of possible explanation, I think I was told that some of the structures along Canal were originally for factory housing for the big mill upstream and that they had, like the ones at the entrance to the Playhouse (nee Kemper Tannery) been floated over by barge from Long Island. It’s just one of those oral tradition things and I may have it wrong.

  5. Peter Barlow

    A story about the canal that gives Canal Street its name : the canal used to flow in different colors on certain days – sometimes yellow, sometimes red, or green and blue. The paper mill further up on Richmondville Ave. regularly dumped their chemicals in the canal. Most people were just amused. Imagine that today!

    • Peter, wasn’t that a ribbon mill or am I thinking of another mill? Also, maybe you’re onto to something – there is that house that’s I think the first on the right on Woods Grove – you can hardly see it but I recall it’s pretty old – maybe that’s our house?

    • Peter, not sure about this but it was the Richmondville Ave legend that the factory up the street, with that sickening sweet smell that I can bring up today if I choose, was an embalming fluid factory. The chemicals were from that supposedly. Now we’re talking early and mid 1960’s. And the brook that ran behind it all into the canal did turn colors. Correct me if the leged is wrong. We were all spooked by it, believe me.

  6. Bob Weingarten

    I’m a bit confused since there is no 8 Canal Street in Westport. I checked the assessor database and there is none. Canal Street has odd number houses only. There is an 8 Canal Road but this doesn’t look at all like the photo. Can anyone correct me?

  7. Sorry Bob, just shaking a brief bout of Ebola – I think the house that some are thinking could be your house is 15 Canal (corner of Guilder and Canal). I’m kinda thinking #15 isn’t the one but it’s definitely close.

  8. Could that house be buried under multipal renovations of what was Bogys Restaurant?

  9. Bob Weingarten

    Morley, cannot be 15 Canal Street. 15 Canal Street was another WPA 1935 photo and looking at it, there is a two story addition to the side and back of the house.

    • I agree, I don’t really think it is – but I think it’s twin is or was lurking nearby. Hence my reference to factory housing. Let’s look at that house buried in the trees that is, I think, first on the right when you turn onto Woods Grove – just a thought as that location would seem to fit the description…

    • Wendy Cusick

      I just got your email for a past This Old House post. Give me a minute I have to check something.
      Now for this post This is just a Thought-does anyone know when the buildings at the traffic light were built—The Water Department (Aquarion) and the what I call the Senior Housing Complex (forgive me it’s called something else we had two senior citizens friends living there when I was a child). It could be the former location of this house and was moved down the street and possibly the stone front was removed. (Mr. Cantor calls the moving of houses “the cottage industry of Westport”.) It also can’t be the small park along the canal because it needs to be facing east. Those are my thoughts. Now back to last weeks post.
      Wendy Cusick

  10. The Westport School of Music, founded in 1938 by musician Marguerite Maxwell, is housed in the attractive building that was once Mrs. Maxwell’s home, at 18 Woods Grove Rd. this is from yelp. i had piano lessons from
    Mrs. Maxwell, and she arranged for me to have my first cello lessons with
    Helen Page-Tatnall Bachman, who taught through the WSM at her home in Southport; Mrs. Bachman, whose husband, Bill, was the inventor of the LP record, sent me the next year (1945) to her teacher, Felix Salmond, at Juilliard, and i’ve not thought of the WSM again until today.

  11. Peter Barlow

    Morley, maybe the paper mill made ribbon too, but I’ve never heard of a ribbon mill. But you mentioned Woods Grove – that’s the name I was missing. If you turn onto Canal from Main St., next to the hardware store and coffee shop (hope they’re still there), and then cross a small bridge over the canal, the next right is Woods Grove.It was one large field when I was a kid, with just this one house, if it’s the same one. The driveway to the left in the photo goes on to the gravel bank where my friend and I used to play. I vaguely remember the name Ryan for the house and even as a kid I thought the stone porch was an odd match. Much later it was the Westport School of Music run by Marguerite Maxwell. One of her piano students was the harpsichordist Igor Kipnis.

    • Yes, I remember Westport School of Music or some sort of music school back there. I was very little on Richmondville Ave and my mother was a violinist and we used to go there from time to time. It was a windy, woody road is all I can remember at age 3, 4, 5 and 6, then we moved to Bridge Street.

      • was your mother Frances Magnes, the great violinist who recorded
        Bach so beautifully with Adolf Busch and Uncle Rudy Serkin ?

        • Buell – so amazing you would ask this today as it is coming up on Frances’ birthday in a few days and she was my mother-in-law who passed in 2010. My husband and I were just reading all of the clippings yesterday in her honor. My mother, strange as it seems, was also a concert violinist but quit, as sadly, many women in those days did when they married and had children. Thank you for remembering Frances – she was so lovely and gifted. She also loved her family so much.

          • who was your mom ? maybe i knew her back when !
            did Frances get her Amati back before she left us ? http://www.bekkerviolins.com/node/348
            i miss hearing the violin played like Frances did; she never pressed and
            scratched like the new whizkids of the violin business do now. your hus-
            band was fortunate to have that gorgeous sound in his ears growing up.
            Happy Birthday, Frances !

            • Hi Buell — My wife showed me this blog and it is amazing that just yesterday we were looking up stuff online about my mom. Yes she did get the Amati back and it’s kind of a wild story — which you have the link to in your entry. It got stolen in 1963, the same week that JFK was shot — my mom called it the worst week of her life. She used the insurance ($15000 then!) to buy another Amati which was not a “grand pattern” and played that for decades but always missed the former one. So, to get it back about 35 years later and be able to play it again was incredible. She was still teaching and giving a yearly faculty recital at the Hoff-Barthelson Music School in Scarsdale, NY and I was there to here her play again on the 1641 Amati.

              I did grow up in a house with lots of music. My dad, Ben Magnes, was a violist and sometimes there were trio, quartet and piano/violin rehearsals going on. You would have enjoyed hearing my mom practice — she felt very strongly that job 1 for string players is intonation and that without perfect intonation, the true tone with all the overtones is missing. And as you’ve alluded to, her passion was about true musicianship. She taught all her students not just impeccable technique, but what that technique was the tool for: making music. She too decried the lack of real musicianship among the young players who were wiz kids spewing out perfect but meaningless notes and notes — she said her claim to fame was the she DIDN’T go to Julliard. 🙂 She would even coach others — pianists, string players, guitarists, horn players — on musical phrasing.

              One question: you call Rudolph Serkin “Uncle Rudy” — are you related? or is that just a nick name? Her birthday is Monday, 4/27 — thanks for the good wishes!

              • no, i’m not related to Mr. Serkin; all of us who trekked up to Marlboro in the
                early 50s to play with and be coached and nurtured by Rudolf Serkin think of him still as Uncle Rudy. his son Peter and i still communicate regularly.
                Monday morn the 27th i will take my 1705 cello and play the Sarabande of
                the 5th Bach Suite in memory of your mom.

                • Buell, that’s so??? Very moving and we thank you.. I think my husband misses his mom more each passing year vs. less. I miss her too. Thank you. Not that this has any relation to the “which house is this” but it is a story surrounding Westport connections and the WSM. My mom was Helen Minor Shaffer – she would have been a 20 something mom with very young daughters, and former promising concert violinist at the time in the early and mid 1960’s. She gave up a lot and she totally gave up the violin and never took it up seriously again — too sad.

                • Buell – this is beautiful by Frances for her birthday on Monday – very famous as I’m sure you listened to, and our daughter, a professional contemporary ballet professional dancer danced to this – I know a bit off topic here , Dan but … you’ll forgive us – it’s still Westport connected https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhCB_c9DzUs

    • Wendy Cusick

      Mr. Barlow just to let you know. The hardware store (The Izzo’s own it) and the Coffee N’ Donut Shoppe are still there.
      Now I have to get back to Mr. Weingarten about this post and a past post.
      Wendy Cusick

  12. Bob Weingarten

    I’m really excited about the recent posts especially about the music school and all the people in Westport associated with it. I am going to Canal Street and Woods Grove tomorrow to look for the house. More tomorrow on this.

    • Wendy Cusick

      Mr Weingarten check your email before you go driving. I have some ideas that you might want to add to your field trip around Westport.

  13. Elaine Marino

    The Google Maps street view photo from June 2012 shows the house – front porch removed – at 6 Guilder Lane:

    https://www.google.com/maps/@41.149559,-73.363285,3a,75y,357.41h,86.81t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1s43dk4iOjP1G_GWFllBjfIQ!2e0

    • I agree that this looks even more like the house pictured than my original suggestion.

  14. Aracelli Cetina

    This home is on Bridge ST. just before making a right onto to Imperial ST.Aracelli

    • You could be right but my recollection which I’ll admit has the fuzziness of childhood, that corner where that house sits in Imperial Ave now used to be a hill with a red rancher type of house sitting atop the hill. It was leveled when they tore the red house down and put in the newer homes tucked back in there. But, that’s a remembrance from riding my bike up and down bridge street in the 60’s and early 70’s. The little yellow house across the street used to be red and we used to dare each other to go there on Halloween as it was a bit scary. Nice lady though who always gave apples — no candy. Now that would not be allowed.

  15. Michele Lamothe

    I agree with Morley. I think it is the house that is listed as 8 Canal Street on Google maps (not sure what the actual house number is). Notice that the telephone wires run by the north side of the house in the photo and the Google maps 8 Canal street photo in the same place.

  16. Bob Weingarten

    I drove to Canal Street and looked at the house at 15 Canal Street. I also drove down Guilder and Woods Grove. In my opinion the house in the photo is 15 Canal Street. The house was built in c. 1836 by William and John Wood. John Wood actually ran a satchel factory in the house.

    The current house and WPA 1935 image have the same window configuration on the second floor and door position, although the porch has been eliminated, on the first floor. Removal of porches from WPA 1935 houses seems to be common. There is a roof vent on the lower part of the front roof which is consistent. The windows are slightly different being 6-over-6 rather than 12-over-12 in the 1935 photo, but this is reasonable. The bay window on the left side of the house are consistent in 1935 and 2015. The extension to the rear was discussed in the historic information of a 1988 report. Given the WPA 1935 and 2015 architectural detail images I believe that this 1935 images is of 15 Canal Street.

    I would not have found this house without the help of all that have commented on the house. Keep the comments coming on this and other houses that have been displayed. We really need to find these houses and without your help – I would not have found this one – at least I believe this is the house.

    • Nice work, Bob. That whole neighborhood is quite interesting visually – and filled with history. It really deserves to be added to the Gorham Ave. Historic District which encompasses the canal and ALT land right across the street.

  17. Peter Barlow

    Well, I’m now confused about where 15 Canal is. When I was a kid there were four houses along Canal St. and the Bridgeport Hydraulic Company had a large brick building near the river. Starting from there, the four houses were owned by people named Booth, Ramsey, Hubbell, and Deutsch. Then there was the Ryan house at the far end, out in a field that later became known as Woods Grove. Are we still talking about that house?

  18. Bob Weingarten

    Peter, according to the history, the Westport Water Company purchased this property in 1908 and was purchased later by the Bridgeport Hydrulic Company. But Frederick B. Hubbell, superintendent of the Westport Water Company, which held title to the house until 1950, occupied the house. So we are talking about the same house that Hubbell occupied. Hope this helps.

  19. Peter Barlow

    Bob, it’s not helping. The Hubbell house was next door to the Ramsey’s, who were about midway on the street. It didn’t look like the picture Dan showed. That house is obviously not ALONG Canal street – it’s out in a larger open area. Street numbers on Canal St. were changed at some point.

  20. Isn’t the canal across the street from this house? So you can’t really see the canal from Dan’s posted photo?

  21. Bob Weingarten

    Peter, I just checked the directory for 1935 and 1961. In 1935 the owners were: Booth, Ramsey, Hubbell, Deutsch with house numbers 48, 58, 72 and 82. In 1961 the line-up was Barrett, Ramsey, Hubbell, Snyder with house numbers 7, 9, 15, 17. Hubbell didn’t own his house but it was owned by the Westport Water Company.

    There maybe another house with the same appearance near by but I haven’t found one. Please take the WPA 1935 image and look at house again. I will do the same.

  22. Bob Weingarten

    PERSISTENCE PAYS OFF. Thanks to Peters’ questions and comments from others I decided to restart looking at this property. Looked again at State WPA photos and found that there were actually two images which looked almost the same. Same window configuration, etc. but one had a porch and the other didn’t. One was identified as the Wood house while the other as the Ryan Estate house – the one of interest here.

    Looked at town records. The Wood house was the historic name of 15 Canal Street while Ryan was also associated with Canal Street but there was a notation of “off-Canal” in deeds. Found a 1942 survey map of next owners which showed a house at the entry to a “private road” which is now Woods Grove Road. The house image was on the right side of the road near Canal Street.

    Drove to Woods Grove Road today and surveyed the location of the house image on the map. There it was, the house in question, with the front door part not very visible from Woods Grove. When driving by a few days ago I didn’t see it because of vegatation and angle of the front of the house, but this is the house. It has the address of 4 Woods Grove for those that would like to look. I WAS WRONG in my initial assessment. Morley was correct when he questioned whether the house was 15 Canal Street because of the architectural features.

    Once again thanks to Peter for continuing to question what I said since I am more interested in getting this correct than just making people think I am right.

    Also I found a news article on the Westport School of Music from 2005. If anyone wants a copy please send a note to Dan who will forward to me.

  23. Peter Barlow

    Hey Bob, we have to stop meeting like this! The Google pictures identified as 8 Canal St., with a young willow tree in front and no stone porch, are similar to Dan’s picture but it’s not the same house from my childhood memory of 1940. The Google pictures were taken with a very wide angle lens giving the appearance of a lot of space between the houses and in front. And Canal St. looks like an esplanade, which it definitely isn’t, even if
    traffic thinks so. In reality the houses are fairly close and close to the road.
    It is obvious in Dan’s photo that the house is standing alone with space all around – there’s no next-door there. The driveway seen in the photo leads back to Canal St. So now we have established that there were four houses facing Canal St., owned by Booth, Ramsey, Hubbell, and Deutsch, whatever the numbers. (The Ramseys were my family’s best friends and we also knew the Hubbells next door.) And at the same time there was one more house, which is the one in Dan’s photo. There’s no doubt to me that there were five houses – I could see them all in a couple of minutes on my bike.
    Now, is it somewhat remarkable that two houses in the same area had very similar features? Of course not! Builders did this all the time. I live in a fairly large 1890 house with some seemingly unique features but down the road there is an almost identical house. Dan’s picture also included a reference to “Ryan estate.” I believe a woman named Ryan lived there long before the house became the Westport School of Music. If this house is no longer to be seen or found in Woods Grove, then it’s gone. Like so much of Westport.

  24. This house is #4 Woods Grove Road (without the front porch).

  25. Bob Weingarten

    Thank you Dan. Peter please take the image of this house and go to 4 Woods Grove to compare. Look from the driveway of 2 Woods Grove. You will see the 3 upstairs window in same configuration as the image, no porch but the same location of the front door, the bay windows on the side and then a single story wing with a single window. A two car garage was added sometime after 1935 but the driveway and path to the front door can still be seen in both the 1935 image and current location.

    After going to this location let me know what you think. Also the land with the house was sold to a developer in 1941/42 with 12 acres of open space.

  26. Peter Barlow

    As often happens on 06880, I was pushing the case after it was already decided. When this series ends I might send Dan some of my own Lost
    Westport photographs. WHS has some of them but there are more.

  27. OK, Bob, where do I pick up my prize? Just kidding, this whole concept of yours is terrific. I love all the oral history and personal stories that surface and I’m going to really miss “This Old House” when it ends. I’m still thinking that these similar houses were originally factory housing – that alone is a good theme for a historic district. Interested?

  28. What fascinated me the most about this post was that it was the first time I have ever seen the words “Ryan” and “Estate” in the same sentence.