Friday Flashback #56

Some Friday Flashback photos are unrecognizable today. Others are long gone.

More than 100 years after this image was taken, it’s still around.

And it looks almost unchanged.

The photo — provided by Seth Schachter — shows what is now Toquet Hall, on the Post Road across from Bedford Square.

Around 1900 — when this photo was taken — it housed the offices of the Westporter-Herald newspaper, and the Westport Drug Company. You could buy newspapers, postcards, magazines and cigars there. The store next door on the left sold cigars too.

There’s the still-familiar alley leading to Toquet Hall — today, a teen center — on the right.

So who was Toquet?

Benjamin H. Toquet was born in Paris in 1834, and came to America in 1845. He served in the Civil War, then returned to Westport.

His son Benjamin Louis was born in 1864.

Toward the end of the century the younger Toquet — now a respected businessman — built an opera house on Post Road property inherited by his wife, Nellie Bradley. The first town meeting was held there on April 2, 1892.

For the next 17 years, all town meetings and assemblies were held there.

The older Toquet died in 1913, a successful entrepreneur. He headed up the Toquet Motor Company, which developed carburetors for Fords.

B. Louis Toquet had a daughter, Vivienne. His family — and his father — lived at 10 Avery Place. As of 1946, he still lived there.

More than 70 years later, their name — and building — live on.

The Toquet building last year.

7 responses to “Friday Flashback #56

  1. Such an interesting building with a great history. Makes me want to grab a crowbar and peel off all that nasty aluminum siding that obscures the structures’s original fabric and cool period detail. Or at least vandalize the regrettable fake shutters. Yeesh.

  2. I have always loved the look of Toquet Hall. It always struck me as distinctive. Is there a name for its architectural style?

    Morley, I have two photos I took just a year apart in the 1970s and the first one, from 1976, shows that a bit more of its original design was still intact at that point. When they repainted it–from green to red in ’77–they covered up more of the original building.

    PS–wasn’t the upstairs area used as storage space for Schaefer’s Sporting Goods store in the 1960s and 1970s?

  3. From the cut shingles and poly chrome, etc, I’d say Queen Anne(ish). And I bet you lunch at the Clam Box that almost 100% of this building’s original detailing visible in the wonderful archival image of Seth’s is still there – smothered under the tin man’s handiwork.

  4. Bill Scheffler

    The Toquet Motor Car (and Construction) Company assembled complete cars in Saugatuck, as well as making the carburetors you mention, Dan.

    • Torquet Motor Co. is listed in my copy of American Antique Engines. Ben Torquet got a patent on a 2 cylinder marine motor in 1907. It could be operated, at will, as either 2 cycle or 4 cycle. No evidence that it was ever produced – no known examples exist. Also, according to American Gasoline Engines, in 1905, Ben, who had been producing a T head 4 cylinder with a displacement of 455 cubic inches and a fly ball governor for stationary use, put the engine into a car called the Torquet. I suppose this was possibly the vehicle that Bill noted was assembled in Saugatuck. Apparently production was low and the car was discontinued in 1906. How cool would it be to find one of those in a barn?

      • Mary Cookman Schmerker '58

        Has anyone checked any of the garages or buildings on Briggs Cunningham’s old properties.?