Friday Flashback #64

Last weekend, when I reported that Calypso St. Barth was closing, current Westporters thought of the “luxury lifestyle brand” store’s massive concrete steps, on the very visible Post Road East/Main Street corner.

When I referred to it as “the original library building,” that helped “06880” readers who once lived here, yet no longer do, visualize the location.

But it was the photo caption that really brought back memories, for anyone of a certain age. Referring to Calypso’s entrance kitty-corner from Tiffany (the old Ships restaurant, and before that Colgan’s and Thompson’s drug store), I wrote:

“Years ago, the plaza was a public park, outside the original Westport Library.”

“Needle Park,” circa 1970.

Ah, yes: Needle Park.

That was the nickname given to what was — in the 1960s and ’70s — a very funky place.

Teenagers hung out there. They strummed guitars, held anti-Vietnam War protests, and made out.

They smoked cigarettes. They smoked weed. They bought and sold drugs too — though there was not much heroin around then. “Needle Park” was a name meant to scare people away.

But — like most attempts to tell teenagers what to do — calling it “Needle Park” just made it more attractive.

The park is gone now — victim of the corporatization of downtown (and, perhaps, no one paying attention to the fact that there was supposed to be a park “in perpetuity”).

Teenagers don’t spend time downtown anymore. Even if they did, they’d never think of hanging out on the cold concrete steps. Too intimidating.

Not welcoming at all. Nothing like the joyful image that “calypso” conveys.

Needle Park today.

14 responses to “Friday Flashback #64

  1. Elisabeth Keane

    True, but during the time Christina’s was there that space was an attractively landscaped welcoming pocket park intended for everyone, with benches to encourage shoppers and pedestrians in general to pause for awhile. During the same time frame, there was a small informal coffee shop diagonally across on Main Street, generally between the Y and Onion Alley, I think. Coffee Tree? I don’t remember the name but I think the exterior trim was dark green. Silver Ribbon was in the yellow building in the photo. There were two small jewelry stores nearby. Aspasia ( I think I’ve got that right) was a few doors up from Silver Ribbon, the first Main Street door after passing the alley. A tiny jewelry store was across the street at the very front right side of the entrance to Onion Alley. Of course, there were still bookstores and Sally on Main Street then. Sally and The Remarkable at one end of Main Street and Klein’s at the other end and for awhile, wasn’t there a Borders near where Achorn was and next to where Simon Pearce is now? It made for fine days of Main Street meandering.

  2. Does anyone remember Herbie orMike Foley, both gone now, the town drunks and permanent residents of the Park?

  3. i loved that park in the 50s, especially the bench and the then young tree.
    i also loved the Old Library…learned a lot in there !

    • Mary Cookman Schmerker Staples '58

      My memories are like Buell’s. It was a wonderful place to stop and open the pages of the books you just checked out.

  4. So who owns the land where the former park is? Was it sold along with the old Library? Ah, the corporatization of Main St. were few locals tread. Has anyone considered closing traffic to Main street to traffic and making it purely pedestrian (no double entendre intended)?

  5. Wasn’t that around the time the “night club”, Mark’s Place was right next store or not very far up the street?

    • Jill Turner-Odice

      Mark’s Place was upstairs where Pancho Villas was later on.Mark had all the ypung kids help psint etc. We thought it was going to be a place for us to hang out. Once he opened, he made it for older folks and we were not allowed in being underage.

      • That’s exactly what happened with the Nines Club, Lester Lanin’s disco where the old skating rink used to be, on the Post Road near Southport. He used us Long Lots Junior High kids as free labor. Then we couldn’t go on (legally). So we snuck in. I think I saw the Youngbloods, ? and the Mysterians and Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, among others.

  6. Jill Turner-Odice

    My Dad forbid me to hang out there…of course that made it all the more attractive to me and my friends…
    Concerts on Jesup Green, driving around in old mail trucks painted with psychedelic colors, going to Hells hole…Devil’s Den and Vectors…Open Line. All part of growing up downtown in the 70s.
    We sure had fun 😁

  7. Needle Park…The home of Dana Dorta and Jack Rea!

  8. Mike Foley – had not thought of him in years, he was in my 6th grade class at Coleytown and then I remember him at Staples for – I think – one year and then he wasn’t there. but his family had a sad story, his mother was in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in 1942 and Mike was born in that camp. At one point the family lived on Roseville Rd. I had heard from someone that he had a daughter who died and that later he moved to Florida where he died.

  9. Susan Farley Does anyone know what’s the status of Solera Capital that owns Calpypso? I was surprised such a women’s rights based investment firm would close stores the way employees in Westport explained them to be. – Susan Farley

  10. Dick Lowenstein

    We were in Westport about a year. One Saturday morning about 30 years ago , I walked past Needle Park and saw a man sleeping on one of the concrete benches. Nothing remarkable about the scene except that on the ground was an empty bottle of Chivas Regal, which gave it a distinctive Westport touch.