Friday Flashback #11

The Compo Inn was before my time.

But many Westporters remember it.

(Courtesy of Seth Schachter/via Bill Scheffler)

(Courtesy of Seth Schachter/via Bill Scheffler)

Standing grandly on the northeast corner of Ludlow Road and Post Road West — the site today of an office building — it was a popular gathering spot for teachers, Famous Artists Schools employees, and others who worked nearby.

It featured “dancing, music, cafe and grill room.” An early telephone number — according to one advertisement — was simply “98.”

At one point —  perhaps through World War II — it was called Tony’s of 52nd Street. Back then it was host to famous musicians, and “stars of stage, screen and radio.”

It may have met its end in a fire.

Obviously, there’s a rich history to the Compo Inn. If you’ve got memories — or facts — click “Comments” below.

37 responses to “Friday Flashback #11

  1. I’d always heard rumors that, among other things, it was a “house of ill repute.”

  2. I’d been waiting all morning for this post Dan! (Whilst doing other things of course… none more fun than this). These are so great!

    Does anyone know when it met it’s demise? The two digit phone number would be a clue.

    The glassed in porch surround would have been lovely to sit within in winter — if it was open then. (Is that what it is — an enclosed porch?). It’s interesting that it was called ‘Tony’s of 52nd Street’. I wonder if there was a corresponding restaurant / bar (grill) in NYC. (Which is like what happens now: Shake Shack for example).

    Between the place at the beach… at Compo where people danced (which Ms.Calise wrote in weeks ago & said her family had owned) & this place — people in the 40s seem to have gone out dancing a lot! Also we discovered several months ago that Miss Kemper (of the Pine Knoll Inn) was a dancer. It’s a Westport theme. Perhaps our ‘artists colony’ was more of a ‘dancers colony’.

    • * I wrote ’40s’ but I suppose that was only when you surmised it had the ‘Tony’s…’ name. I would love to know how long it was in operation. (Before & after WWII).

    • *Perhaps it’s not a closed in porch — but rather allowed diners to have a view when it became a restaurant. (Re. comment about the night it burned down — below).

  3. Jeff Giannone

    It was featured in an article about the Fitzgerald’s and how they would go with friends and drink to the point that Zelda would have everyone sitting on top of the seat backs of their convertable and free-wheel down the driveway, across the Post Road all the way down to the river while steering with her feet. When I was growing up in the 60’s it had been converted into a kind of boarding house.

    • This is so interesting about the Fitzgerald’s (& dangerous!). That would have been in the thirties then? I vaguely remember reading this also. (I think it may have been in an article about their former house on South Compo about ten years ago).

      I only remember the elderly home at the top of the hill on that side (w/ the Catholic school below that) in the late 60s/early 70s. Was it directly on that corner? Or because it had a lawn — was it farther back from the road? I thought someone said a church was on that corner (in a recent 06880 article & thread).

  4. Jeff Giannone

    “…Though Scott would find this to be an asset (“the duller West Port [sic] becomes, the more work I do,” he wrote Max Perkins, his editor at Scribner’s, in late June), he, too, would find Westport to be deficient in personality. In “The Lees of Happiness,” written that June, he describes the citizens of Marlowe (Westport) as being of “a particularly uninteresting type — unmarried females were predominant for the most part — with school-festival horizons and souls bleak as the forbidding white architecture of the three churches.” But the town of some 5,500 souls that had voted 355–256 against Prohibition wasn’t that dull, and despite their frequent claims to be “rusticating in the country,” the fun-loving Fitzgeralds would find a handful of like-minded individuals, including their neighbor, theatrical producer John D. Williams.

    Among their local hangouts were Tony’s Restaurant, located in the Compo Inn at the corner of Sylvan and the Boston Post Road and popular with the theatrical crowd, and the Miramar Club, overlooking Compo Cove on Hillspoint Road, which had added The Penquin, a black-tie nightclub the year before.

    There, gin and orange juice ruled the days and nights. Talk was an extravaganza. Work was an effort made between parties.” And gin was one of the Fitzgeralds’ favorite. In Invented Lives: F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, biographer James Mellow describes their “mad rides along Post Road with abrupt stops at roadhouses to replenish the supply of gin.” -Westport Mag

    • So the Penguin was a club WITHIN a club called the Miramar! Why have we never heard this before?! (Most of us locals). Thank you for that!

      Would it be too much trouble for you to post the title of the article & year/month & issue/volume of the Westport Magazine article you are quoting? Then I could probably read it via the library (or online).

    • So the wrap around solarium type porch (& front entrance/foyer) was added later. I thought it looked unusual. The earlier building simply looks like somebody’s grand house.

      This fits in w/ what somebody wrote in the earlier 06880 thread: that that stretch of road was lined w/ grand homes. There is still for example the one that houses Schulhoff Animal Hospital & an even larger house w/ a large expanse of lawn next to that just down the road… and of course those beautiful stone stables across the road (which in the 60s housed a motorcycle shop).

  5. Adam Schwartz

    http://www.thehour.com/norwalk/article/The-Way-We-Were-Francis-X-Fay-8107499.php

    Go down to “50 Years Ago”, towards the end of the second paragraph “Dec. 11, 1965.

  6. Lesley Anderson

    I was there the night it burned down! It was mid 70’s and still called The Inn of Westport or maybe Compo Inn, not sure. The menu was pricey but the big attraction was they had a terrific bad and singer with a very current rock and roll sound. They could play all the good music of the day. It was very crowded and terrible fun. My husband and I treated a good friend to dinner, we stayed for the music/show and paid by credit card. It burned to the ground that night so needless to say we got a free dinner! It was a fun place!

    • I’m glad you are all right! Sadly fires at music clubs do not always end so well 😦

      I’m mystified as to why I don’t remember this place. I was 16 in 1976/77.

  7. Adam Schwartz

    http://www.westportmag.com/w/August-2006/The-Beautiful-and-Damned/

    Go down to the last part of the 11th paragraph.

    • Thank you so much for this article. I was right I had read this before & exactly ten years ago.

      This is such synchronistic timing as in the previous 06880 post on the Saugatuck Railroad Bridge opening — Mr.Boyd commented on the walkway that allows people to cross the bridge (shockingly close to the speeding thundering train). Now you’ve posted this article describing how Zelda Fitzgerald barely escaped being hit by a train crossing the very same bridge! I forgot that I’d read that part of the article when I posted comments about the train bridge.

  8. Sylvia Robinson Corrigan

    To Lesley Anderson’s query about the name: it was called “Tony’s of 52nd Street” I believe, at that point. I remember noting the sign many times in the years I was growing up! (the 60s).

    • Lesley Anderson

      Could be, my memory could be totally off! Because of the fire I think we were there a total of three times.

  9. I think the Compo Inn was originally a church and I can still see Mr. and Mrs. Whiteside on a Sunday sitting at one of the windows on the enclosed porch having lunch.. Oh my, does this ever take me back – I had my first date with my fist husband, Donald Kellogg, in December of 1945. The next morning my mother asked me where he had taken me. I told her the Compo Inn. She replied, “I never dared tell my mother when I went there! It was a house of ill repute and a “speakeascy.” Don and I went there because Marian Levy was running it and it was about the only place you could get steak and good scotch. Marian still had many bootlegger friends. She was running it with Jake Levy and their great black headwaiter, Bruce. Marian had a big, big heart and she would help out the “bums” who were walking the Post Road. She fed them and in some cases, give them jobs. She had a weahered eye and she wouldn’t let anyone drive if they had too much to drink. EXCEPT Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald and the story about the rides down that driveway are true – and usually in their “birthdaysuits.”Zelda and Scott rented my Grandmother’s (Wakeman) house known as “The House by the Switch” on the way to Compo Beach. I think there is a historical sign in front of it. The switch was used to turn the tracks so the Trolley would either go to the beach or just go straight on So. Compo Road. There was an article in the New Yorker Magazine dated September 9, 1996 by Barbara Probst Solomon who thinks the Great Gatsby was writtn about Westport, in Westport, not on Long Island. I’ll end on that note.

  10. Lesley Anderson

    It was very adult. Like a night club in some ways. Definitely not for young kids. Too expensive and probably a fair amount of alcohol. Also kind of tucked away on that hill.

  11. Arline Gertzoff

    It had a neon sign as the Compo Inn.It was later Tony’s of 52 nd Street Saw the burned out remains .Bawdy history as a gin mill ,dance joint house of ill repute According to lore I inherited from my late father the Penguin was where people went for asignations as it was tucked away .It ‘s hey day was before 95.How about the Red Galleon or Purcells? Those were the days.

  12. Laddie Lawrence and I would go to the bar at Compo Inn on Halloween to trick or treat because all they had to give you was money.
    Paul McNulty

    • VERY funny! It’s a little amazing they didn’t tell you to ‘Scram kids!’ in a James Cagney voice after they took the cigar out of their mouth. (Unless it was in the mid 70s — before it burned down — in which case replace the cigar in my illustration w/ another botanical rolled in paper). Are you going to leave everyone hanging: What denominations pray tell? (1s? 20s? 100s?)

  13. Fire Department or Police would probably have the date on record that it burned. I remember being on desk duty the next night when it reignited. I also remember the bartender there, a big friendly guy named Bruce who was a great conversationalist. Seems to me it was really popular early on as the Compo Inn, business faded and then returned to popularity when it became Tony’s.

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  15. Elaine Marino

    I found a Bridgeport Post article from October 1970 that describes a fire that gutted the “Westport Inn” on “West State Street.” The article mentions that the Westport Inn was more than 100 years old, had originally been Christ Church and later became Compo Inn.

    I have seen comments citing that Compo Inn/Westport Inn was at the corner of Post Road and Ludlowe Road, while other comments mention that it was at the corner of Post Road West and Sylvan Road. Very confusing! Could someone please explain the brief history of the Compo Inn and where it was located?

    • I’ve been confused also (as evident by my earliest comments here!). Somebody here wrote that they recall seeing it (Compo Inn) when it was a church. So it is apparently the same building. Now I am wondering if this church is one of the churches mentioned in Dan’s post a few weeks ago (if it has been that long). There were a lot of knowledgable people (on the churches) posting illuminating comments then — so I hope they read this post also. I’m going to read that post of Dan’s again. One of the churches was Christ Church – no?

      • The 23 September 06880 “Christ Church” post has a comment describing it as being in this very place. (Ludlow & Post Rd.). There has to be more information on this. A church that people here are saying became a house of “ill repute” (etc.)… That is strange… It’s like Limelight in NYC! (The club). All these local boarding houses had such strange and/or colourful backstories: The Pine Knoll Inn… The Gorham Island House…

        • The original Compo Inn in the postcard linked here does not look like a church. Perhaps they already made extensive renovations? No spire… as shown in the panoramic photo posted in September on 06880

  16. Dave Feliciano

    Dinner and dancing, I used to do that all the time, a long long time ago. If only we could today, we might be a more civil and thinner society. One that could converse about history and silliness of politics.

  17. In the early to mid 60’s it was called Tonys of 52nd street and was on its last legs, I remember trying to find the ladies room upstairs which was dark and spooky. But what I remember most was the black cocker spaniel that sat at the bar on a chair that had his name on it!

    • Great imagery! How funny & sweet about the dog & *his* chair! All of these are so vivid.

      I’m still really curious about it having actually been Christ Church (commented on above by someone in this thread & in 23 September 2016 06880 ‘Christ Church’ post only weeks ago). I wish a historian or someone else knowledgable about that would explain that. (Was it really the same building but renovated w/ steeple removed?).