Friday Flashback #167

If you think the back entrances to Main Street stores — the ones on Parker Harding Plaza — look bad today, be glad you were not around in the mid-1950s.

Before the parking lot was built, the Saugatuck River lapped up against those stores.

The landfill changed downtown — and the river. It must have been quite a project. Jim Ezzes shares some photos of the construction.

The Westport Hardware building at the far left is the current site of The Gap.

A bit further south.

Paul and Mary Kowalsky — whose construction company created Parker Harding Plaza — stand next to an earth mover.

16 responses to “Friday Flashback #167

  1. Wow .. What wonderful pics Dan … Thank you for Sharing “”

  2. Agree– Love these pics Dan !!!!!! Thanks to Jim for sharing with you !

  3. Thanks for sharing these amazing images, Jim.
    Is it true this project was done without a state permit?

  4. I thought the backs of stores on Main Street had a French look back in the 40s and I liked it. But I also remember the “downtown aroma.”

  5. I remember when the construction started. My father was a photographer and his studio was at 15 Main Street

  6. In 1952 I was a Junior at Staples. Walter Stevenson, instructor in the Mechanical Drawing class, gave the class the project of building a model of the proposed landfill. As I recall, the original parking area was proposed to be much larger than what was built. Not all shopkeepers were thrilled with the parking area; many fussed that they would have to “pretty up” their rear entrances.

  7. To J. Wandres:
    Was your Walter Stevenson the same fellow (Walter B. Stevenson, B.A., M.A.) who was my math (trig and solid geometry) teacher when I graduated in 1950? I didn’t know he was into Industrial Arts. I had Messrs. Ponte and Friess for that class.

  8. Wow – awesome pictures. Thanks Jim Ezzes, and thanks Dan, for this

  9. Great photos. Stevenson, Ponte and Friess were still there in ’63.Back in the day, way before I-95, many of our goods came to us by ship and anchored behind the buildings on Main St. Return trips to New York and Boston carried local produce – not commuters.

  10. Ha!! Before I even read that it was Kowalsky Bros. I knew that was “Sullivan” operating the Caterpillar. He was a lifer with them and an interesting guy. Another clue was the way over loaded Mack dump truck. lol..Great photos!!

  11. Any environmentalist today would recoil in horror at filling in a river — how about wetlands? — for parking. But they tell me it saved Main Street commercially after every family had one car, as opposed to the three or four they have now. Is it true?

  12. Awesome pics. Any updates on the construction on main street, sea water, oil tanks, etc?

  13. Check out the ladder laying against US RT 1 bridge in the 3rd picture behind Mr and Mrs Kowalsky.
    Also now they would have hard hats and reflective vests on now if that picture was taken today.
    The Saugatuck River was already silted up back then.
    When did boats stop delivery of goods to the back of the buildings if the river was that shallow already?

    • The river was always silting in. In the late 19th century, a group of prominent local business owners argued the matter was one of national security and asked the Secretary of War to come for a site visit. And he actually showed up. Afterwards, he agreed to approach Congress about federal assistance for dredging – if the Westporters would supply him with a list of goods produced and shipped out via the Saugatuck on a yearly basis. That wasn’t a small ask but they did it. And I can recall being shocked when I saw their list; the volume and diversity of stuff then being manufactured here was remarkable.

  14. Where’s the EPA guy to check out all the work?

    • Arline Gertzoff

      I remember all this quite well as an elementary school student The infamous hurricane Carol in 55 put everything under water.When the river over flowed both sides were flooded inc Famous Artist’s and the road My late father had the cleaner across the Wilton Road.My father ,uncle ,grandfather and and two clothes pressers jammed as much as they could into the water tight vault The big worry was the dam in Seymour breaking and adding more water They slept on the countertops and sandbagged .My self, late brother ,mother ,and grandmother were home with a stereo stove a lantern candles and flash lightsWater came up to the basement door and by a miracle the water stopped at the door and at 61 Wilton Road.
      The customers were amazed nearly nothing was ruined and our house was pumped out with minor damage The biggest excitement was a garden snake in the basement and my grandmother chain smoking Lucky Strikes and cursing in Romanian as she tried to cook on the stereo stove Thanks for the memories Jim Ezzes

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