Friday Flashback #15

A post earlier this week with a dramatic aerial view of the Saugatuck River sparked an only-on-“06880” debate.

Readers battled over whether the current site of the Gault Park development off Imperial Avenue near Baker Avenue — and before that the Gault gravel pit — was originally called “Ball Mountain” or “Bald Mountain.”

Alert, ever-vigilant and history-minded Jack Whittle promptly sent 2 postcards:

ball-mountain-2

ball-mountain-1

Both photos are labeled “Ball Mountain.”

Then there’s the 1857 New England Gazetteer (also courtesy of Jack). It calls the “conical eminence … situated to the S. of the village” by the name Ball Mountain.

Unfortunately, the Gazetteer also calls our “smooth and beautiful seashore” Campo. Go figure.

Jack sent along one more item:

ball-mountain-gault-timeline

This is from the Gault website. In 1994, they note (above), they stopped their gravel operation on “Bald Mountain.” But the hand-written info on the photo used — from the early 1900s — clearly calls it “Ball” Mountain.

(Note too that the company called their development “Compo Commons.” That’s a name that no one has used, ever.

Hunting through the “06880” archives, I found this:

Bald Mountain.

It was sent to me in 2011 by reader Judy Sterling. The sketch was drawn by Bruno Dolge in the early 1900s.  The view looks east; he stood across the Saugatuck River, probably where Saugatuck Elementary School is now.

Dolge included Brad Baker’s house and workshop (boathouse), on Imperial Avenue. And he (or Judy) called it “Bald Mountain.”

So did Google Maps, long after the topographical feature disappeared from Westport:

blog - Bald Mountain

Call it what you will. Just don’t forget it.

Which, after all, is the whole point of our “Friday Flashback.”

12 responses to “Friday Flashback #15

  1. Either way, calling it a “mountain” is either a bald faced lie or takes a lot of balls.

  2. Seriously, it shows how far we’ve gone in environmentalism to consider that, in the 20th century, is was ok to completely level a scenic coastal hill to extract a commodity as plentiful as gravel. Bet you won’t read about this in the Gault corporate history!

  3. I tend to suspect that the confusion arises from a difference in dialect and accent. To wit, how not that long ago we called one beach “Berring Hill”, when it should have been Burying Hill. As new people moved into the area, not being familiar with local speech patterns just went with what they thought they heard.

  4. Elizabeth Thibault

    I love seeing these pictures, regardless of what they called it! As we saw with the leveling of the Trader Joe’s mall back parking lot, a huge and dramatic change in the topography can now happen so quickly. (And with the rate of new families moving in, the memory of what it was fades more quickly now that it has ever before!)

  5. I have to assume, whomever named it a “mountain” had never traveled west of the Mississippi…

  6. Love the detailed post Dan, and as I surmised, perhaps it was originally known as Ball Mountain, and then migrated in local speak to Bald Mountain during the last 100 years.

    I also note that you opened up the “Campo” vs “Compo” debate – no shortage of material there (yes, I know, supposedly derived from Compaug, the Paugussett word for “bear’s fishing ground” – then why isn’t it known as Compa beach?)

  7. I don’t now about a smooth beach. My long gone grandmother complained that Compo was rocky 100 years ago.

    • Think of “smooth” as a relative term – and generously allow for small rocks up to the size of your fist.

  8. In the 1950’s we referred to what was left of Ball Mountain as “Gault’s Pit”. During the winter months we would go ice skating on the shallow pond that was fed by a local stream.While it wasn’t very large, our parents preferred it to Nash’s pond as it wasn’t too deep and closer to home. I remember there was a house on the north east corner of Imperial Ave. and Gault Rd. where the Presley family lived. When housing development started in the 1980’s it was moved a few hundred feet over on to Imperial Ave. where it stands today.