Friday Flashback #132

Last week, I posted a story about the day Marian Anderson visited Bedford Elementary School. Buried in the piece was a quick line noting that the building now serves as Town Hall.

Sure, our Myrtle Avenue seat of government looks like a school. But although generations of graduates think about their alma mater every time they drive by or see a reference to it on “06880,” I wonder how many Westporters who moved here since the 1979 conversion realize its history.

Bedfprd Elementary School (Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

In 1917, the town voted to build a new school to serve children from “East and West Saugatuck, Cross Highway, Poplar Plains and Coleytown.” Major funding came from noted philanthropist (and Beachside Avenue resident) Edward T. Bedford.

Eight years later he helped fund Greens Farms Elementary School, much closer to his estate.

So if Town Hall is now at the old Bedford El, where was it originally?

The Post Road. For decades, our town operated out of the handsome stone building next to what is today Restoration Hardware.

The old Town Hall has been repurposed. Westporters know it now for 2 great restaurants: Jesup Hall, and Rothbard Ale + Larder.

There’s not much to remind you that it was once the center of government. Although the next time you’re in Rothbard, take a close look around.

The basement once served as the police lockup.

20 responses to “Friday Flashback #132

  1. Ellen Wentworth

    Let’s hear it for drinking ale in jail!🍺

  2. Arline Gertzoff

    Bedford Elementary was a wonderful place to go to school Crazy gym uniforms ,lunch tickets sex Ed classes ,great teachers and a welcome place The best is I see many from those days often

  3. Reading this made me think about how Westport has been so fortunate over the years to have had wealthy benefactors such as the Bedford family, Horace Staples, and the Levitts.

    Am I right, however, in assuming that current naming policies would bar a school from being named after a major donor?

  4. Some of the letters spelling out TOWN HALL are still visible over the front door of Jesup Hall (restaurant).

  5. What I always noticed about the Town Hall, starting in my childhood, was that the surface of the building with all those stones imbedded in some material reminded me of the large peanut cookies that Mr. Logan sold in his grocery store on Main Street.

  6. I always thought Bedford Elementary was built a lot later than it was, perhaps in the early fifties. A clock tower on top would make it look more like a city hall.

  7. I was with the DPW in the 60s-till 86 the publics work dept was right behind the old town hall

  8. David J Loffredo

    I still have my Bedford El Forever t-shirt somewhere. Only got to go to first grade there – I think that was 1974 when it must have closed then? I know I went to 2nd grade at KHS so if it didn’t close then, perhaps we (on Fillow Street) were just redistricted.

  9. Mary Cookman Schmerker

    I have two pictures of classes from Bedford Elementary on the front steps, one is my kindergarten class probably 1945 and the other is the sixth grade graduating class 1952 (?). I should scan and send them……..

  10. John B. Gould

    Wasn’t the old Town Hall once the Post Office? The magnificent Holly bush caught my eye on visits there and each Christmas a few bountiful sprigs graced my mantlepiece.

    • Post office was a few blocks east on the Post Road, on the corner of Bay Street. It’s now Design Within Reach. It’s a Depression-era building — built in the early 1930s, I believe.

      • Before that one there was a post office across the street in or near the Dixon Building. In the 1930s.

      • I do know that, before the Post Office building was built just up the road from old Town Hall, the Post office was located in “Hurlbutt’s Block” which was located across State St. from the original library – perhaps we are referring to the same place. (Extra credit for using “State St” 😉 )

  11. My first remembrance of the (new) Town Hall was just after I moved to Westport in 1983. Arnie Kaye was feuding with Bill Seiden, the First Selectman and threatened to chain himself to the building. When that didn’t work, he threatened to have the Hell’s Angels ride through the town, until the Hell’s Angels objected to being used in that manner.

  12. My lasting memory of Bedford Elementary, aside from going there for 6 years, was in the 1st grade when we were all led out on the lawn to see the Hindenburg fly over.

  13. Luisa Francoeur

    I attended the old Bedford El from Kindergarten through 2nd grade when the redistricting occurred and I was moved to Kings Highway El. The redistricting was due to the opening of the new Staples HS which moved from the location on Riverside to North Ave. The Riverside Ave school became Bedford Middle and is now Saugatuck Elementary. A flow chart to mark the successive locations of our schools would be helpful !

  14. My vivid memory of the old Bedford El is from November, 1963, as a first grader in Miss Huck’s class– an announcement came over the PA — President Kennedy had been shot and we were to be released early from school. I remember seeing teachers crying. My bus never showed up, so as a little 6 yr old, I walked home down Main Street — some neighborhood kids were walking home as well. I came home to find my parents home and teary eyed in our kitchen. I loved Bedford El. I loved the auditorium. I switched to Saugatuck El for the remainder of my elementary years in Westport — another wonderful school. Historic days. I wish there were more interior photos of Bedford El from those days.

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