Who Was Schlaet, And What’s His Point?

From time to time — most recently in a story about rock formations on local shorelines — I’ve mentioned “Schlaet’s Point.” That’s the strip of land between the end of Soundview Drive (north end of Compo Beach), and the only house on the water side of Hillspoint between Compo and Old Mill Beach (big stone wall; yardarm with the US, Connecticut and  Texas [!] state flags).

But I’ve never asked myself: Who was Schlaet? And no one ever asked me, either.

Peter Barlow knows.

The 1947 Staples grad — and lifelong Westporter, until decamping to Pawcatuck in 2005 — emailed info about the long-forgotten man.

And his land.

Peter recalls a stone gazebo located at the end of a long concrete pier, extending from a Japanese-style boathouse.

The original Schlaet's Point boathouse.

The original Schlaet’s Point boathouse.

The gazebo was knocked off its base by the hurricane of 1938, and remained tilted for 30 years or more.

One day in his teens, during low tide, Peter waded from Compo Beach. Using a $3 camera, he took what he calls “possibly the only close-up photos of this ‘landmark’ that exists.”

The gazebo off Schlaet's Point, in the 1940s. (Photo copyright/Peter Barlow)

The gazebo off Schlaet’s Point, in the 1940s. (Photo copyright/Peter Barlow)

Peter says the boathouse and pier were part of an estate on the other side of Hillspoint Road. It was enormous, including  most of the land from Compo Hill Road at Elvira’s to Minute Man Hill off South Compo.

A view of Long Island Sound, from the Schlaet estate.

A view of Long Island Sound from the Schlaet estate. (Library of Congress archives)

A mansion — with red-orange tiled roof — and elaborate gardens perched high on the hill. A smaller structure, with a similar roof, is still visible from Hillspoint. It was a guest house, or servants’ quarters.

In 1917, the entire property was assessed at just under $148,000. The owner was Arnold Schlaet (rhymes with “slate”), an investor and co-founder of Texaco in 1902.

...and another.

A view of the estate grounds. (Library of Congress archives)

Woody Klein’s history book about Westport notes that in 1918 Schlaet donated his 65-foot yacht to the US government, for the war effort. But, Peter says, there is no other information about him. Wikipedia — which includes entries on anyone who has ever lived — has just about zilch.

Arnold Schlaet (Courtesy Texaco)

Arnold Schlaet

Perhaps, Peter says, an “06880” reader knows more about Arnold Schlaet. If so, click “Comments” below.

Perhaps, Peter adds, “if he had paid for a school or library, or something, his name would be remembered for more than just a point at the north end of Compo Beach.”

 

28 responses to “Who Was Schlaet, And What’s His Point?

  1. I’ve worked on the estate over 30 years. It was 52 acres originally. It had a 10,000 gallon oil tank that Schlaet would have filled from the Texaco barge on the way up to Stratford. The grounds were designed by Frederick Law Olmstead. That garden fountain was thought to be a Rodin but museum experts couldn’t verify.

  2. In 1906 Arnold Shlaet commissioned Frederick Law Olmstead to design and build the gardens that is between the mansion and the smaller structures which was the greenhouse and the stables. I live in the gardens. He lived in the city. Came up by boat. He was met with horse and Carriage,dropped at the mansion and horses returned to the stables.

  3. Loretta Santella Hallock

    Dan,
    Was that the same house that Nancy Black lived in? “Chock Full of Nuts” coffee fame? I remember Maureen Boylan , Westport Compo Beach native telling me stories of the great parties they had at the beach. For those who don’t know who Maureen was she worked as secretary to many, many First Selectman . To see the First Selectman you had to first get by Maureen and it sure helped if she liked you.She also celebrated St Patrick’s Day in a grand way decorating the halls of Town Hall. We had great parties when she ruled the third floor of Town Hall.Those were the good old days and I have great memories. Whenever I hear the song “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” I think of her!!

  4. Thanks for the fascinating local history. Does anyone know when the estate was subdivided and Blue Water Hill was created?

  5. MY BAD! I’ve mentioned this location in hundreds of fishing articles over nearly half a century and always spelled it as Schlait’s Point. It will be Schlaet’s Point from now on. I stand corrected and apologize for the errors. Dick Alley

  6. It was subdivided in the 60’s with the final 2 lots split off the estate in the early 70’s when Nancy Black died. The original entrance was over by Schlaet’s Point. There is an elevator and bowling alley in the main house.

  7. To answer Loretta Santella Hickok above: Yes. Thanks to Randy Hammond, who scoured the Bridgeport Telegram this morning for stories related to Schlaet, “Hudson Nut Products Inc.” purchased the 40-acre property from the estate of Arnold Schlaet in December, 1947. Purchase price was $142,073. The newspaper said that the “new owners did not reveal what they intended to with the property.” Carl Vall Schlaet — executor of the property — conducted the transaction with “William Black of the nut firm.”

  8. Sally Campbell Palmer

    My mom was a good friend of Nancy Black who was a larger than life character and a half. In the early 60’s when my sister Susie and I were producing Murray the K shows and Nancy was running short of cash, he rented the house from her for several summers. When I was a kid there was a beautiful large gazebo on the water across the street from the house that was the site of many parties. It was destroyed in one of the subsequent hurricanes,

    • Isn’t that the gazebo in the photos in the story above?!

      Also, since you mentioned Murray the K, can you answer definitively the urban legend I’ve heard for years: Did Murray the K host the Beatles at that house?

  9. Wow! I never knew why this corner was named Slates Corner. My dad would always say be careful going “around “Slates”, Schlaet’s corner, because it was a dangerous blind spot. Thanks for the info

  10. Jill Turner Odice

    Is that the huge house that has a bowling alley in it on the top floor on Blue Water Hill? I camped out one time on the point…I only lasted a few hours the mosquitos were so bad !

  11. His daughter, Dolly, went to kindergarten at Saugatuck Elem. School and I went over to her house and played with her.
    Judy Sterling

  12. Sally Kellogg Deegan (not bad for someone who is going to be 90 in May)

    There was a son, Carl Schlaet, and I remember my father Sereno (aka Major) Jacob saying that he and Carl Schlaet were friends as boys and often mistook for each other. I just suddenly remembered reading a book, a number of years ago, “Lucky Star,” written by Beryl Buck Miller that her husband George (Buck) had some good friends whom they visited in 1951. They were formerly from Westport and now lived in a super mansion on Rancho Santaa Fe on the outskirts of San Diego. They were “Sandy and Carl Schlate” and he was called Mr. Shell Oil. They referred to their home in Westport as Bluewater Hill which they had sold.

    • “not bad for someone who is going to be 90 in May” 👍👍👍👍👍

      Things like this are why Dan should have a “like” button.

  13. As Mrs. Black began to sub-divide and sell the property, our family was one of the first to buy a waterfront lot (260 Hillspoint Road) which was right across the street from the Bluewater Hill Association beach and, of course, what you all are calling the “gazebo.” We called it something else but I forget what. Even in the late 50’s and 60’s when we lived there the structure was not in use and was left to gradually crumble.

    Our original house was torn down at least 30 years ago and was replaced with something much (ahem) “bigger.”.

    I have no idea if the whole of Bluewater Hill was part of the original estate but by the time we lived there, it had been completely developed. More on some of the people who lived on “the Hill” during our time there in a moment.

    To answer one question…yes, Mr. Black was the founder of Chock full O’Nuts and Mrs. Black was the vocalist on the company’s famous song which went… “Chock full O’Nuts is the Heavenly Coffee, Heavenly Coffee, Better coffee a millionaires, money can’t buy.”

    I never clapped eyes on Mr. Black but I remember Mrs. Black as an “imposing” woman. She had a couple of nephews (Hutch and ???) who used to visit her from time to time and I would be recruited from the neighborhood “gang” to play with them when they were there. We were allowed to use the bowling alley occasionally but I seem to remember it as being in the basement of the house.

    If Murray the K used to rent the Black’s house in summers, he sure was a quiet neighbor. If the Beatles had stayed there I’m sure we would have noticed all the hub bub.

    Another New York family, the Hoffman’s, “summered” in what was, I think the former stables of the estate. I remember Brock Hoffman and his father used to fence around the family pool (pretty exotic for the time). Others related to Mr. Hoffman were Dale Hemmerdinger and Nancy Wilde.

    Another “summer” resident who lived in a house that must have, at one time, also been part of the original estate was Robert Kintner. Mr. Kintner was the President of NBC in the 60’s and my sisters and I all knew their kids quite well, Susy, Mike and Jeffrey. I sure wonder where they all are these days.

    At the very top of Bluewater Hill lived the Schaffler’s who built the most beautiful house overlooking Old Mill Beach, Sherwood Island, etc. Mr. Schaffler was either the owner, or long time CEO, of what was then known as Consolidated Diesel. They had a bomb shelter which, to us kids, was the coolest!

    Others who lived on “the Hill” at the time included Tina Louise’s (“Gilligan’s Island”) parents and the McGoverns. Mr. McGovern was Jackie Gleason’s manager and his son Scott was a good buddy of mine as was my BEST friend at the time, Huck Scarry. “Earth to Huck,..come in!”

    In short, it was great to grow up on the beach during that era. We kids had the run of the place!

    • Hi Bill

      Nancy never sang that song. Mr Black left her for Paige Morton, a well known cabaret singer, that he later married. The stables were actually a very nice carriage house (now painted pink). One of the largest beech trees in Ct. was next to the pool. It had to be removed a while ago. The caretaker property was torn down when Miles Pennybacker died.

      • Hi Brad,
        I stand corrected on Mrs. Black. That beech tree you referred to was my favorite climbing tree on earth! I was always up in it. Who was Miles Pennybaker? Same era? Earlier? Later? One piece of trivia that I learned from this series of messages is that the formal garden was designed by Frederick Law Ohmstead. The semi-circular pergola it had was rivaled only by the one I saw many years ago at William Randolph Hearst’s “San Simeon” in California.

        • Miles started the Raytheon Co. He and Jean lived in the caretaker cottage (same stucco and tile roof as the rest of the estate) right behind the tennis courts. I have worked on nearly all of lower Bluewater Hill since they waived me in as I was passing by with my plow truck during a blizzard (1982?). Rosenrauch had the carriage house. Walter Levine, the main house. Brody, the house in the formal garden. Ruth Lesser, the house overlooking the cottage and carriage house. Armstrong, Bedusa, Boersma, Appleby, Lee Schrieber, Dr. Shapiro were some others.

    • I’m pretty sure Susy Kintner is still “around”. I haven’t talked to her in a few years but she was living on Saugatuck Shores. We were in a Bridgeport Regional Business Council group together about 5 years ago. She was working for The Workplace in Bridgeport.

  14. Mary Riordan Allen

    I spent my high school years living across the street from Allen’s Clam House on Hillspoint Rd. Schlaet’s Pt. was our playground. I’m not sure at what date, Schlaet’s became the Black’s of Chock Full of Nuts place. No one ever seemed to be at the big house during the summers of the mid 1940’s, we never met any owners. We teenagers sun bathed on their private beach and held evening cookouts and necking parties there in the dark of the night. Sometimes, feeling very adventurous, we crept around the grounds of the big house and looked in windows.

  15. Jill Turner Odice

    I remember the Rosenrauches…One of their daughters (I think her name was Liz…) worked with me at the Selective Eye…Some of my friends rented the top floor in the big house with the bowling alley, it was probably around 1978 or 79…

    • When Nancy died, they couldn’t sell the house. They thought it was a white elephant, too big to heat (days of OPEC and odd/even license plates). The lawyer handling the estate called Gault to top off the oil tank to credit the estate for the oil in the tank. Boy was he shocked to get a bill for 9500 gallons when the price of oil had just skyrocketed.

      The Rosenrauch girls were all very pretty…Liz, Justine and Sam

  16. I did a little digging and found this photo of the Schlaet estate. It’s on page
    119 out of 139.
    http://www.nps.gov/frla/upload/FA-Aiglon-Photograph-collection.pdf

    • Cathy, great find. What’s fascinating is that, unless the angle of the hill and surrounding trees is deceptive, it appears that the main house had virtually no water views in the summer at the time this photo was taken.

      • That’s not true Fred, the water views were impressive, as Dan’s third picture shows the back patio views of the sound. Those white pines have been destroyed by the recent storms. A few of the original estate trees are still around. Anybody driving out of Compo Beach onto Hillspoint Rd. might remember the crazy fruit from the Osage Orange trees getting run over by the cars.

  17. Sally Kellogg Deegan

    Murders in Westport – one at the Schlaet mansion probably in either the late 30’s or early 40’s. I never knew any of the details. Then there was a murder at the Minuteman and that must have been in the early 30’s. I can remember overhearing my grandmother, Harriet Wakeman and my Great Grandmother, Mini Gould Wakeman whispering about it. It seems that the wife of a butcher from Norwalk was “fooling around” with some local lady and they did their “fooling around” at Compo Beach. One night they left the beach and were driving past the Minuteman. The butcher was hiding on one side of the Minuteman and shot both of them. Does anyone have any details on either of these murders?

  18. I live in the gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted commissioned by Mr Schlaet in 1906. My house now sits on what was the mirror image of these gardens.. Mr Black purchased the estate in 1940’s and subdivided it around 1950. The Pergola and pool on this property look pretty much the same as it did in the early 1900s. See my other comments when the article was written earlier this month.