A Postcard From The Ages

The other day, alert “06880” reader Sheila Flinn was reading a book she’d checked out from the Westport Library.

It had nothing to do with history. But suddenly, out slipped a postcard.

A very old postcard.

Staples postcard - front

That’s the original Staples High School, on Riverside Avenue. Built in 1884 — and demolished in 1967 — it was located approximately where the Saugatuck Elementary School auditorium is today.

(The “new” Staples — today it’s the central section of Saugatuck El — was built in 1936. An addition, including the cafeteria and gym, was completed in 1948. In 1959 Staples’ North Avenue campus opened, and the 2 buildings on Riverside — the one shown above, and the newer one — became Bedford Junior High. The building that was previously Bedford Junior was remade into Kings Highway Elementary School. Got all that?)

This is the clearest photo I’ve encountered of the original building. But it may not be entirely accurate. I never saw an image of the school that included a bell tower.

The photo was taken no later than 1913. We know, because the message side of the postcard shows this:

Staples postcard - reverse

“I hope to see you this summer,” wrote Grace Marvin. She sent the card — postmarked 6 p.m., June 2, 1913 — to George Miller, Box 3, “Huntington Sta., Long Island.”

Our original high school is long gone. But — for reasons we’ll never know — this 102-year-old postcard survived.

29 responses to “A Postcard From The Ages

  1. J.W. Kaempfer

    Dear Dan,

    Sadly, it appears the postcard was never mailed. Perhaps that may mean they never got together after all and and great love affair never bloomed in Westport?

    Kindest regards,

    Joey

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Jay Dirnberger

    I believe the card was sent. I see from the picture that the ring on the postal clerk’s stamp is incomplete at the point where a stamp was affixed. It appears to me that there is a trace of discolored material that could have been the glue from the stamp that was removed.

  3. Bobbie Herman

    What I find interesting is that it says “Saugatuck, Conn.” Wasn’t the name of the town changed to Westport long before 1913?

    • I thought of that too. I once referred to Assumption Church as being in the Saugatuck section of town, and was chastised by someone who said that Riverside Avenue is NOT part of Saugatuck.

  4. All the Weston and Wilton kids went to Staples until 1969!

  5. I remember this building. I had music classes in it while it was still a part of Bedford junior high. We ended up going to school at Coleytown from noon til 6 sharing their school while the old staples building was torn down and the new Bedford junior high school was being built. Supposedly someone’s dad put his foot through the floor in the old building and it was decided the building just had to go.

  6. Audrey Doniger

    So..what was the name of the book it was found in???

  7. Dan, it looks as if the tower is a different location. Perhaps behind the school building. If you look carefully you see it is a different color brick. It doesn’t appear to be on the school itself;)

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  8. Mary (Cookman) Schmerker Staples 1958

    With the exception of the “Bell Tower” it looks like the
    Old Old Staples I went to and my parents before me. I took algebra in a room on the upper right and Glee Club in the room on the upper left. Shop Classes were held on the first floor or perhaps in the basement if there was a basement. A church spire is faintly seen to the right, perhaps Assumption Church? Could some one have decided to add Assumption’s Bell Tower to the picture? In any case the post card is a rare find.

  9. Michael Calise

    Wood Shop was first floor left, Typing first floor right, Metal Shop was in the basement. Door to the Woodshop was directly across from the door to Typing it was a busy hallway! .

  10. What an incredible find. Thanks for sharing.

    Here’s some info on the postcard publisher from metro postcard.com:
    “Danziger & Berman (1909-1920)
    New Haven, CT

    Published view-cards of southern New England and New York State. Some high quality tinted collotypes were printed in Germany, but most of their tinted halftone cards that were printed in United States were crudely colored.”

  11. Jean Whitehead

    Looks like a woman with a nice dog standing there too.
    Thanks for this!

  12. A. David Wunsch

    I’ve never forgiven the town for tearing down this building. Where were the historic preservationists on that one?
    A. David Wunsch, Staples 1956

    • Apparently, by 1967 it was rat-infested and deteriorating. At least, that’s what I’ve heard. (Of course, so was National Hall/Fairfield Furniture in the 1990s — and the roof was in danger of caving in from decades of pigeon droppings. But Arthur Tauck and his family saved that one, to our ever-lasting joy.)

      • A. David Wunsch

        Rats or not I’m sure it could have been saved. It was a good solid building. I’ve seen much worse rescued from the wrecking ball. It’s Westport’s version of the destruction of Penn Station.
        ADW Staples 1956

  13. The “old building” as we once knew the original Staples did in fact have a cupola. But none of us who went to that school knew it at the time. I have seen better pictures of the building with the cupola. It looks peculiar and off-center in this tinted postcard.

  14. Anne Pfeiffer

    My home room was in this building. In the typing room. Also upstairs John Ohanian taught choral music, orchestra and band. I had industrial drawing on the first floor. Part of the building was condemned. 1953 I think.

  15. Anne Pfeiffer

    We used to walk from that “old building” into the newer part. we always carried our coats with us. I think Dick Leonard was a new teacher while that building was still standing. Great Englis teacher

  16. Anne Pfeiffer

    I guess I should have said :Anne Bernard Pfeiffer
    I still live in Westport

    • A. David Wunsch

      Anne, I remember you well and fondly. We were in the same year.
      ADW Staples 1956

  17. Know anything about this Marvin family?

  18. John F. (J-period) Wandres

    My guess is that the bell tower was added by the post card company. I’ve seen such embellishments on old postcards which show an aerlal night time view of a New York City hotel, and you can see traffic on the streets and a full yellow moon in the sky. In the SHS image the bell tower appears off center, to the right of the front dormer. In 1952 I took a course in Mechanical Drawing in that building. By then, the second floor was no longer in use and the attic level was kept locked up.

    • I had mechanical drawing in the same room the following year. The teacher was Werner Friess– a tough cookie. If anyone dropped a draftsman’s triangle on the floor Friess would fine him– a dime or a quarter. If a student
      silently farted, Friess would proclaim that someone in the class had been “eating eggs for breakfast.”

      I dropped his course at midyear; he was displeased. His final words to me: ,”you’ll never become an engineer.”
      ADW Staples 1956

  19. Wendy Crowther

    I did a quick genealogical search on Grace Marvin. The 1900 Federal Census reveals that she was born in August 1899 and was living in Westport with her grandparents, Frederick and Caroline Marvin. Also with the family are other children and grandchildren. Frederick was a farmer. The 1910 further reveals that they were living on “Upper Sylvan Avenue.” By 1910, Grace’s grandfather, Frederick, has died and her grandmother is now head of the family. Grace is age 10. The farm is an onion farm. Other Marvin family members live with them, including several other grandchildren and Grace’s uncles and aunts. Other Marvin family members live nearby on the same street.

    Therefore, when Grace wrote this post card, she was age 13, nearly 14. There are several George Millers living in Huntington, L.I. around this time. Most are adults. However, my guess is that Grace is writing to a George H. Miller who in the 1910 census for Huntington was age 15. Therefore, by 1913, Grace may have had a little crush on a handsome 17/18 year old.

  20. If Grace is one of the oldest living human beings ever, she may still be alive. And if THAT is true, she could answer the cupola question once and for all.

    • Or perhaps Westport’s very own Dr. Emmett Brown would have the answer.

    • Bobbie Herman

      I’m afraid I don’t know Dr. Emmett Brown, but are there any very senior Westport natives who might be able to help solve the mystery?