Life On The Roseville Road Curve

The Roseville Road home is just about perfect. Built in 1923 on 2 acres of grass and woods, it’s handsome, welcoming and filled with love.

It’s where Linda Gramatky Smith grew up, and her father, Hardie Gramatky — painter/author/illustrator of “Little Toot” fame — worked. It’s where she and her husband Ken still live today.

Linda and Ken Smith's lovely Roseville Road home.

Linda and Ken Smith’s lovely Roseville Road home.

But no place is perfect.

Linda and Ken’s house sits on the dangerous curve, not far from the McDonald’s intersection at the Post Road. Time after time — often in snow, or at night — drivers end up on the front lawn. In the woods. Or through their stone wall.

Hardie Gramatky moved his family there in 1947. From then through his death in 1979, with unfortunate regularity, they heard the loud bang of a crash.

Homer Mills Sr. — a local mason — told Hardie that the stone wall was “my annuity.” Twice a year, he rebuilt it.

The stone wall after a recent accident. Drivers hit it when they fail to negotiate the southbound (toward McDonald's) curve.

The stone wall after a recent accident. Drivers hit it when they fail to negotiate the southbound (toward McDonald’s) curve.

The night Hardie collapsed — he’d just been honored by the American Watercolor Society — the wall was hit again. “This has not bee an good day,” the artist said. He died 2 days later.

In 1982, Linda moved with her mother to New Jersey. She and Ken bought the house, and for the next 11 years they rented it out. They were gone, but the accidents continued.

In 1994 — a year after the couple moved back here, and into their home — a 17-year-old speeder from Weston slammed into the post. His air bag saved his life. Linda and Ken got one for their own car.

A humorous plaque on the side of Linda and Ken Smith's house.

A humorous plaque on the side of Linda and Ken Smith’s house.

When Joe Arcudi — Linda’s 1960 Staples High School classmate — ran for 1st selectman, he promised to do something about the dangerous curve. (He recalled driving fast on the same “Rollercoaster Road” as a rite of passage in his own youth.)

After Arcudi was elected, he and Police Chief William Chiarenzelli met with Linda and Ken. They discussed a stop sign on nearby Colony Road, and a speed bump (there had been one a while earlier on Roseville near Whitney Street, but it was removed after a driver took it too fast and hit his head on his roof).

Ultimately, they settled on a couple of very large yellow signs with big arrows. Those have been a “significant help” in decreasing the number of accidents, Linda says.

But they have not stopped entirely. On Memorial Day morning in 2013, Linda drove out of her garage and felt a bump. It was a large rock.

Looking around, she spotted a car upside down near the woods. Fortunately, no one was still inside.

A Memorial Day accident 3 years ago put this car into the Smiths' woods.

A Memorial Day accident 3 years ago put this car into the Smiths’ woods.

A 23-year-old from Fairfield had flipped his car the night before, taking out a tree and pushing a rock toward the garage. He’d walked to McDonald’s, where a friend picked him up.

“His insurance company was great,” Linda says.

A couple of Sundays ago, at 12:15 a.m., Linda, Ken and their 9-year-old grandson heard a screech, then a crash.

This time, it was a 20-year-old Westporter. He was charged with traveling too fast, failure to stay in the proper lane, and operating a motor vehicle under suspension and without insurance.

The aftermath of the most recent crash.

The aftermath of the most recent crash.

“It’s no longer every 6 months. But it’s still very scary,” Linda says. “People travel too fast. We constantly worry that someone may die.”

“This house has been part of Linda’s family for almost 70 years,” Ken says. “This comes with the territory.”

He has a ritual. When a guest leaves, he walks onto Roseville Road. When the coast is clear, he gives the driver a wave.

That’s not Ken’s idea. For decades, Hardie Gramatky did the same thing.

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8 responses to “Life On The Roseville Road Curve

  1. Jack Backiel

    I remember back in the 1950s there was the “60 Mile an Hour Club” with teens. You had to drive continuously doing 60 mph on Roseville Road to earn the bragging rights. Around 1956 my cousin, Stan Backiel, rolled his car over trying to achieve “fame,” Luckily he wasn’t hurt.

  2. jacquesvoris

    Oh, Homer and Hardie were more than just mason and customer, they were friends. We still have the hand made “Little Toot” birthday card he made for my grandfather’s 80th birthday.
    I should also point out he wasn’t a “senior”, his son Homer has a different middle name.

  3. don l bergmann

    I have often suggested that possibly angled “hash” marks painted on dangerous curves might prove beneficial. The three way intersection of Hillspoint Rd., Compo South and Soundview was another location that I thought such lines might prove helpful.
    Don Bergmann

  4. Megan Acquino Slingo

    When I saw the photo’s in Westportnow, I didn’t need to read the caption or the address..I knew exactly where was…When I lived at #19 (most of my life) there were countless accidents in font of my house….it wouldn’t seem like there would be, but there is a little dip in the road near a storm drain that would always catch the novice driver. In the few years before I moved, i had my mailbox take out twice…and one kid hit my stone wall and spun around. The sound is awful!! I hope they are able to get their wall fixed soon!

  5. That curve is lethal but what I remember about that spot is the colorful flower garden that Doppie, Linda’s mom, cultivated in front of the stone wall. I would see her out there almost daily, tending the plot that she provided strictly for the enjoyment of those of us who drove up and down Roseville Rd. It’s a much happier memory than the careless stone wall accidents that Linda and Ken have had to endure.

  6. Arthur Lohman

    I have many memories of Roseville Road. In 1944 I attended Miss Orr’s
    Day School on Roseville Road, also my Grandparents lived on Roseville.
    Later, it was The Road, coming from Cross Hwy. to use one particular hill to
    jump my motorcycle to see how far I could fly. Roseville was also the place to test a new car – if it made it at speed without mishap it was OK.

  7. Linda Grabill Parker

    MY goodness , Linda and Ken – I had no knowledge of this unnerving and dangerous situation ! I’m sure there’s a workable solution here !

  8. Thanks for your usual delightful stories about Westport, Dan. We were on vacation when it came out, but our son and daughter and grandkids loved it. On Saturday I got a text from our cat sitter who wondered what she could do to help: she thought the accident had occurred since we left for Old Lyme!! And we came home to a check from the insurance company, so work can begin on replacing the stone post and the wall. Loved all the comments: (1) I knew Stan Backiel; (2) Jacques, definitely the first Homer Mills and Dad were friends; (3) Don, when we talk to the town about a possible solution, we’ll mention hash marks; (4) Megan, you’re related to Eva Acquino, my friend who lived at #19? (5) Eve Potts, I’m hoping that Mom’s Shasta daisies on the inside of the driveway can be restored, but it would be taking your life in your hands to work as she did in the garden bed by the street with cars racing by; (5) Arthur, I too went to Miss Orr’s nursery school, just about 4 years after you; and (6) good to hear from you, Linda Grabill, one of four Linda Gs in our class in Westport (along with Linda Greenberg and Linda Greenwood and me). Thanks, Dan!