Friday Flashback #101

The other day, I mentioned how few photos I’ve seen of Saugatuck before I-95 was built. I’ve always had a tough time visualizing what that neighborhood looked like before bulldozers, concrete and pillars.

Alert — and historic-minded — “06880” reader Neil Brickley rode to the rescue. He’s a Staples High School classmate of mine, with an equal fascination for the Westport a few years before our parents arrived.

The photo Neil sent is fascinating. It’s a stupendous aerial view of Saugatuck from 1951 — about 4 years before construction began.

I noticed a few things.

The Arrow Restaurant (most recently Blu Parrot) was not yet built on Charles Street.

Greens Farms Road met South Compo quite a bit further south than it does today.

Most significantly, the area west of Saugatuck Avenue — where land was taken to build the Exit 17 interchange — was much more wooded than I imagined.

Click on or hover over the image above. Explore. Then click “Comments,” to share what you see.

Neil also sent this bonus aerial view: The same area, taken in 1965.

A lot changed in just 14 years.

Which makes me wonder what the Saugatuck of today will look like in 2032.

22 responses to “Friday Flashback #101

  1. WOW always wondered what things looked like in Saugatuck pre-i95 myself. Awesome post!!!!

  2. Dan Lasley (Laz)

    Can someone combine these into a before/after swipe thingy? That would be really cool.

  3. Peter Barlow

    I think ALL of Greens Farms Road from South Compo to Hillspoint is a new road . It used to be where the Turnpike (I-95) is.

    • Peter, I think you’re right. For one thing, on the stretch GF Rd approaching South Compo, you can see how they had to blast through major rock formations just to create that portion of the current road. And, looking at aerial maps of the road prior to the CT Turnpike, you can see how the original road between S Compo and Hillspoint was closer to the train tracks.

    • Peter Dunham

      Also the only section made of concrete. Could that be from the original reconstruction in the 50’s?

  4. Mary Cookman Schmerker Staples '58

    This is wonderful. If I did not have a self described 6 3/4 year old house guest I could spend all day on the changes. I will eventually comment more on this and become a pest but for now thank you. It brings back so many wonderful memories of pre I95

  5. Hales Court and Vani Court look new.

    • They were!

    • Elizabeth Thibault

      Vani was built as temporary housing for returning WWII vets, but some houses (like mine,) were built after the originals. My house isn’t built in the early photo, but it is in the later one. (One of our neighbors did some FANTASTIC research on the history of the street and the residents for one of his graduate courses, it would make a great “history of Westport” post.) We’ve got just 1 or 2 of those original residents left on the street, we’ve lost several to father time during the 15 years we’ve lived here.

      Thanks for sharing these pics, Dan. They really demonstrate the march of time.

      • As to Vani Court WW2 vets, I had the honor of doing a documentary interview with Clay Chalfant for my Combat Veterans Oral History Project. He recalled having flashbacks when the train rumbled through at spitting distance. As to DW’s perception of the “heavily wooded” appearance pre-I95, bear in mind that the 1951 photo is leaf bearing, and the 1965 photo in winter.

  6. Adrian Little

    The “volume” of traffic on I95 is noticeable!
    There is more traffic now on Dec 25th in a snowstorm than in this photo!

  7. Jack Whittle

    For those interested, collections for the following aerial photographs available at: (if necessary copy and paste that address into your browser)

    •1934 Aerial Photography
    •1951-1952 Aerial Photography
    •1965 Aerial Photography
    •1970 Aerial Photography
    •1985-1986 Aerial Photography
    •1990 Aerial Photography
    •1995 Aerial Photography
    •2004 Aerial Photography
    •2006 Aerial Photography
    •2008 Aerial Photography
    •2010 Aerial Photography

  8. Peter Barlow

    It would be interesting to see some photos of the houses that were along Greens Farms Road between South Compo and Hillspoint. They would have been where the present road is. And the original road was very much like the rest of Greens Farms Road east of Hillspoint is now.

  9. John F. (J-period) Wandres

    A few months after I was discharged from the Navy in January 1959 in San Diego I bought a car and drove back to Westport to settle up some family matters. I got my old after-school job back, and rented a room in a house at (I think) #10 Sunrise Road in Saugatuck. From the cupola atop the house I had a clear view of the turnpike under construction. The bridge across the Saugatuck River was complete, I think, but the turnpike was not open. Often, I would go up onto the construction site late at night and wander among the D-8 bulldozers and graders, and pretend I was John Wayne in “The Fighting Seabees.” A couple other guys would show up, one usually with a six-pack, and we would piss-and-moan about how the turnpike was going to ruin the world, and Westport would never be the same again. But: “Time waits for no man, eh?”

  10. incredible. a different world!

  11. Scott Brodie

    Incredible! I was particularly struck by the loss of tree cover from 1951 to 1965 — and not just in the path of I-95.

    • Scott, I think these aerial photos were taken in different seasons (so that only evergreens can be seen clearly in the older photo).

  12. Ade' Van Duyn

    I have a map of Westport and Saugatuck ,dated 1867. At that time Saugatuck Ave ran into Riverside Ave, which did not exist.Today”s Saugatuck Ave was called “Turnpike Street” (Really?) The next major north-south street to the west was Indian Field Hill Rd, with a school.
    P.S. My map is NOT an Arial Photo!
    P.S.We moved to Hillspoint Rd in ’62 two homes south of the famous Penguin Hotel.
    P.S. I am an artist and painting some of what’s left.

    • Mary Cookman Schmerker SHS '58

      I am so pleased to hear that you are painting “some of what is left.” I is wonderful to preserve the memories.

  13. Jeanne Taylor

    I would walk home from Staples to Burnham Hill, going over the bridge at Saugatuck, walk up Greens Farm Road(?) and turn right onto Compo Road. I’d walk under the bridge being constructed over Compo Road…remember the little store run by a Mrs. Montgomery and her son?? It was located right under the bridge; it was moved to Hillspoint Road when the I-95 construction started…Jeanne Ducharme Taylor, Staples High School ’58