Thomas Wolfe famously said, “You can’t go home again.”
What a crock!
Eve Potts is back. And it’s a tossup who’s happier: she, or the entire town.
The Hamden native first arrived in 1956. She was working as an ad director in New Haven; her new husband, Bob, was an ad salesman for a New York publisher. Westport was a perfect, in-between choice.
The couple rented the top floor of a plumbing shop on Riverside Avenue. For $76 a month they got a great view of the river (and a nearby ping pong ball factory).
That building is long gone. Today’s it’s the Westport Arts Center. That’s fitting, because so much of Eve’s life has been centered on the arts.
Bob was promoted, and the Pottses moved to Chicago for 4 years. But they wanted their kids — they soon had 4 — to go to Westport schools.
They bought a house on Acorn Lane. Several years later, they moved to the corner of Compo and Bradley.
Eve was one of Westport’s most dedicated volunteers. She served the Westport Historical Society, the Westport Schools Permanent Art Committee, and PTA Council. She chaired the Historic District Commission, and helped convert Bedford Elementary School into the current Town Hall.
But in 1991, Eve and Bob moved to Essex. Their kids were grown; he’s a big boater, and the Connecticut River community promised a wonderful, slower-paced lifestyle.
Eve’s sister — the late Mollie Donovan, who moved here a few years after Eve — kept her up to date on all things Westport. Eve remained on the WHS board, and often visited relatives in the area.
In addition to many nieces and nephews, her son Matt is in Norwalk; Amy and her 2 children are in Milford, and Abby and her 5 kids are in Greenwich. (Mark is the outlier: He lives in Lawrence, Kansas.)
The pull of Westport remained strong. For several years, she and Bob talked about coming back. It did not happen. He died several years ago.
A few days ago, Eve moved into a sunny, spacious Regents Park condo.
“I can’t believe we didn’t do this 10 years ago!” Eve says.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am to be here. The energy in Westport is so invigorating!”
She’s jumped right back into the arts scene. Although many older artists moved away or died, Eve has found new friends in families like the Bentleys.
Nina is a noted artist. From Essex, Eve had collaborated with Nina’s son Andrew on the Historical Society’s book depicting 50 New Yorker covers. (He moved to Westport in 1991 — the same year she left.)
“Andy’s been so welcoming,” Eve says. “He introduced me to all his friends. It’s nice to know a whole new group of people.”
The other day, Eve went to the Westport Country Playhouse. After the performance of “Art,” Andy’s wife — art historian Fiona Garland — spoke.
“It was fantastic!” Eve says. “She’s so bright, and everyone was so engaged.”
After nearly 4 decades here — and then 25 years away — Eve Potts sees Westport through both old and new eyes.
She is excited at the changes Bedford Square will bring downtown. She looks at Serena & Lily and sees both a beautiful new store, and the old Victorian house before it was moved across Elm Street. It was called the Kemper-Gunn house — because, Eve says, “my lawyer, Ben Gunn, was there!”
Certain things never change, of course. There’s the natural beauty of the beach, and the ineffable charm of the people and our heritage.
It’s easy to knock the 2016 version of Westport. The behavior of some folks, and the destruction of old homes and trees, is a frequent theme on “06880.”
But, Eve Potts reminds us, “Westport has so much going for it. So much of our history still remains.”
Thanks, Eve, for helping us see our hometown from a wonderful, old/new perspective.
And thanks too for coming home.