Friday Flashback #24

“06880” readers like our Friday Flashbacks. This one they’ll love.

Actually, it’s a two-fer. Back in the day, Westport was home to not 1, but 2, sanitariums. (Sanitaria? Whatever. If you’ve forgotten your medical history, a sanitarium was a hospital for the treatment of chronic diseases, often tuberculosis or mental disorders.)

The best known and most visible was originally the former mansion of Henry Richard and Mary Fitch Winslow. Built in 1853 and named Compo House, the palatial home was surrounded by guest houses, servants’ and gardeners’ quarters, and gorgeous gardens. Former president Millard Fillmore was a visitor, and extravagant fireworks were shot off there every July 4th.

By 1907, it had become the Westport Sanitarium. Here’s how it looked then:


The building was torn down in the 1970s. It had long earlier fallen into disuse, becoming an attractive nuisance to teenagers, drug users and other random folks.

No wonder. It was just a few steps away from downtown, on land bordered by the Post Road and North Compo.

Today, it’s the site of a dog park. Its name is Winslow, in honor of the original owners. The sanitarium is the reason for all those asphalt paths, in places you’d never expect them.

Our 2nd sanitarium — named for its owner, Dr. McFarland — was on Long Lots Road. In later years it became a full-fledged psychiatric hospital, called Hall-Brooke. A building visible from Long Lots was renamed McFarland Hall.

This is what Dr. McFarland’s Sanitarium looked like in the early 1900s:


The photo above is of the main building. The other building was visible for many years from Long Lots.

If you’ve got memories of either sanitarium, click “Comments” below.

(Photos courtesy of Seth Schachter)

18 responses to “Friday Flashback #24

  1. Dan, you are always a wealth of information! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Dorrie Barlow Thomas

    Wasn’t there another facility–some sort of sanitarium type thing–on Greens Farms Road right where the road bends sharply as Beachside Avenue intersects it…? The house is high up on a hill…used to be hardly visible from the road below (don’t know how it is now)…a rather magnificent house with what looks like a turret or something and a rounded porch…does anyone know the history of that place? Is it still standing?

  3. Bruce J. Kent

    To this day I remember my mother in tears when I arrived home from school (Staples on Riverside) and learned that she had committed her mother to the facility down the street on Long Lots. We lived at #75

  4. I remember shedding tears when both buildings were torn down–first, the old Compo House (now Winslow park). That building had incredibly beautiful architectural features. I own a lovely desk, which I treasure, that came from that building. Later, the elegant Hall-Brooke house with its sprawling lawn on Long Lots road bit the dust (without even a whimper from the town). We need to do everything we can to safeguard our heritage buildings. They give character to the town and when they are removed, to those who remember, it is like pulling a front tooth. The smile is never the same!

  5. Mary (Cookman) Schmerker Staples 1958

    I remember the Westport Sanitarium and miss it’s presence on the Post Road. Eve Potts has stated the need to save our old structures beautifully. We were always curious about exactly who was in the “Sanitarium” and why. For kids it was a huge mystery that adults talked about in hushed, respectful terms. Until I began following 06880 I did not know about the existence of the “other sanitarium” In my day in Westport, the grounds of what is now Winslow Park were always beautifully maintained As I recall, the grounds were extensive and extended most of the way back to Evergreen Avenue.

  6. Sandra G. Jones Staples'64

    When I was a young child growing up in Westport my mother was hospitalized several times in what was then called Hall-Brooke but I believe it was the structure that you refer to as “the old CompoHouse” I know that that is the location we went to visit her…She suffered from chronic depression brought on by years of being bi-polar and going undiagnosed properly…I graduated from Staples with the class of 1964 so you can see what years I am talking about…

    Thank you Dan for all the wonderful communication you provide to all current and former residents of Westport…

    • Sandra…You were in the class with Matt Macvane. Did you know him? I knew someone who worked at Hall Brooke- Joy Dunlop. I think her grandfather was a judge. Anyway, I do remember both of these places, but never went on the properties.

  7. Werner Liepolt

    F Scott Fitzgerald consigns a set designer to the Westport Sanitarium in his short story, “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz.”

  8. Michael Calise

    The late 1800’s and early 1900’s was a time of truly beautiful and functional buildings built by talented vocational craftsmen. Built entirely by hand with extensive use of on site materials as well as components from mills and area carpentry shops all also built with talented eyes and hands. A two to three year time frame was not unusual. I have 100+ year old windows built like fine furniture that are as viable as they were the year they were built. sadly most of these buildings have been destroyed over the years, some as early as twenty or thirty years after they were built such as the many mansions of New York City which were destroyed in the name of progress.
    It’s the American Way. European buildings of beauty large and small last for centuries never losing their inherent value or function. Somebody has to be laughing at us as we build, remodel and replace our schools, library’s and municipal buildings. It’s all very senseless and a little bit over the top as far as I am concerned.

  9. I worked at Hall-Brooke for four years during the late 70’s and the photograph that you are showing looks like the Main Building and not McFarland to me.

    • Seth Schachter

      I’m traveling right now so I don’t have the image that I shared with Dan in front of me but
      I believe you are right. This image is part of the overall complex. If you closely at the left side of this image in believe you can just make out a part of the main building. As always- love to read all of the extra background info and history of these places. Thanks for posting Dan!!!!

      • Seth Schachter

        I mean’t to say that the far left of the photo depicts the ‘McFarland building’. The image that I passed along to Dan is definitely referred to as the ‘Main Building’.

      • If memory services me, I don’t think the building on the left border of the photo was McFarland either. The porch of Main faced due west and from the point that the photo was taken, McFarland and Long Lots would have been behind the photographer.

        And I also knew Joy Dunlop. Her office was on the third floor of the north wing of Main, just down the hallway from Medical Records.

  10. Chris Carusone

    I seem to remember ( I think ) another large building directly across from that sanitarium on North Compo where people’s bank is now. Does anybody remember that building ? I always thought that was a sanitarium also.

    • That was once a heating and plumbing building. Then it became the first site of Ed Mitchell’s store. My, how they’ve grown.

  11. Kendall Gardiner

    S L Soltes is right. That photograph is of the main building at Hall Brooke Hospital. I worked there in the 80’s and 90’s, usually in the main building, but sometimes in the McFarland building which was indeed beautiful and located much closer to Long Lots Road.
    Jack Backiel, I’m pretty sure I worked with Joy Dunlap in the 80’s.
    A lovely, graceful and very kind woman.