Friday Flashback #203

The Westport Library is slowly reopening. The newly transformed building includes a spectacular children’s section, filled with books, games, and a killer view of the Saugatuck River.

Generations of Westporters still remember the original library, across the Post Road where the PopT’Art gallery, Freshii and Starbucks are now.

(Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

The children’s library was on the second floor. It was probably large and well-stocked for its time. It had a very particular smell and sound.

Generations of boys and girls raced up the loudly clanging stairs for reading times, other programs, and to check out the latest kids’ books.

Not many photos were taken of those days, but Jean Whitehead posted this one on social media:

Do you have a favorite Westport Library memory, from the old building? Click “Comments” below.

30 responses to “Friday Flashback #203

  1. Mary Schmerker

    That picture is so familiar. I can almost see my Library card. I remember being allowed to carefully look at Historical papers when writing something for History class. I went to Russell Sage College and, believe it or not, we actually wrote a thesis for our major during our senior year. Lots of research at the Library during Christmas and Spring Break. I loved the Library…and Mrs. Street. I don’t think that is Mrs. Street in the picture though.

  2. John L. Krause

    Had a particular small?
    Yes, the new library is spectacular, but the Westport Library will forever be the one on the corner, for me.

  3. Jack Backiel

    Did you recognize the CR&L bus?

  4. Deanna Barton

    1970s & 1980s:
    My 3 toddler sons and I spent hours reading books in the children’s section, while their illustrator dad was researching and gathering reference photos from the “picture files” that he’d use for his illustrations.

    From “History of Westport Library”:
    In July, the library expands into a new wing facing the Saugatuck River. In December, the Library accepts the pictorial research file of Albert Dorne, President of the Famous Artists School. The file consists of 500,000 clippings.

  5. Dick Lowenstein

    The old library also wrapped around on Parker Harding, where the audio-visual department was located on the second floor above a restaurant (name I’ve forgotten). My older son worked there under Thelma Gordon’s tutelage.

  6. Nina Streitfeld

    Erika Jong was bravely reading her wonderful poetry to a packed SRO audience in an un-air–conditioned hot upper floor meeting room. Afterward I staggered to the street and spotted Geraldine Fitzgerald, who appeared to have also been there.

    • Mary Cookman Schmerker

      Seeing your name made me immediately think of: Noel Streatfield and all of her wonderful “Shoe” books. Skating Shoes was my favorite. Oh the wonderful Library Memories.

  7. Scott Kuhner

    I remember when the Library was built. Across the Post Road was a diner on the corner .

    • Peter Barlow

      The Club Grille. Also a newsstand, shoemaker, barbershop and Achorn’s Drugstore. And next to the new library being built, the Old library which is still there.

  8. Nancy Bloom

    That small reference room was a gem. I was able to do most of my off-campus work for my library science master’s degree there. The library had an excellent collection of books in my field of study,

  9. Joyce Barnhart

    In the early ‘70’s, as we climbed the stairs to the Children’s Department, my 5 year old son and I talked about the card catalog and how to find dinosaur books. When we got to the top the librarian told us the Dewey Decimal numbers. That’s when I learned how popular dinosaurs were with 5 year old boys – and how smart our Westport librarians have always been.

  10. Had the best view of Westport towards the river. A magical place full of imagination…

  11. Oh, all the books! & the smell: bookish mixed w/that plastic covering on the hard covers! Who am I kidding- I think they were ALL hardcovers in the 60s-early 70s! The little girls could be my younger sister & I except I think I was older when my hair was cut short..Loved that library & the very kind, shushing librarians!

  12. Hope Napelbaum Clark

    I remember when we moved to Westport in 1970, I was 9 yrs old and my mom would take us to the library where I was allowed to browse as long as I wanted and find books to read. I remember going upstairs and wandering around looking for that special book. I come from a family of avid readers and I loved going to the library and still do. The card catalog was a real mystery to me. As a kid it was so complicated how the librarians understood where all the material was in the library when you asked for it. I moved away from Westport in 1986 but I have great memories from that place and the Westport of my youth.

  13. June C. Maier

    Maybe it was in 1956 or earlier that the library was closed for construction and children were allowed to borrow 20 or more books for a longer time. I must have put them on my bike some how because it was all uphill to 90 Kings Highway were I lived with my grandparents. Does anyone else recall that?

  14. I’m a relative newcomer, having moved to Westport in 1983. But I remember the wonderful film programs run by Thelma Gordon. One film in particular — “The Blue Angel” with Marlene Dietrich. Where else would I have been able to see it?

  15. So many of the posts brought
    back memories of my living in
    Westport in the past before the old
    library was expanded. My mother
    Staples’26’, was an avid reader
    consuming stacks of books which
    I assume were from this library.

  16. J. Wandres (Staples, 1953)

    Second floor children’s “nook?” Yeah; right !! And in far corner, “medical” tomes on sex techniques. Great place for proto highschool-age “hunks.”

  17. Linda Grabill Parker

    Yes ,indeed – Dan . A faithful memory !

  18. Thanks for this memory Dan! My first job ever was at the library in the ‘70s; as a 14-yr old it was one of the only places that would hire kids that age (I’m thinking it was like $1.50/hr?) Rode my bike there after school to reshelve books, return catalog cards into the card catalog drawers (I learned Dewey well) and if I was done early I got to go behind the counter with the adult staff to help check out books for patrons and even had the big honor of dial-changing the date on the rubber stamper for the next day at closing time. I loved how the note card inserts showed the more popular books by the number of stamps on the card. I say we ditch the barcodes and go back to those cards…!

  19. Suzanne Wilson

    The Art Reference pictorial section was phenomenal. No internet yet so it was one of the few places to borrow “scrap files” for art projects. And if you were lucky you might run into one of Westport’s Famous Artists there!

  20. Elisabeth Keane

    I wonder if anyone misses the card catalogs as much as I do. Going through the cards was a wonderful adventure that often introduced me to very interesting titles or subjects, sometimes far afield of my planned destination, that I never would have known about otherwise.

    • The card catalogs are presently residing in the cafe, where they are holding packets of sugar, sweetener, ketchup. etc. You’re welcome to visit them, if you’d like.

      • Except the cafe is not open yet.

        Also, Elisabeth, you can get the same “wandering” experience by clicking random hyperlinks. You never know where those will take you!

  21. The library on the corner is a memory Westport almost equal to Compo beach for me. I remember so many things about the library. I loved the librarians’ special date pens that had the ink date stamp on the end. The librarians stamped each book with the special pens. I also remember going to story hour in one of the small back rooms and sitting on the floor. The front stairs with the balcony over looking the downstairs. The card catalog, the favorite books I took out over and over again…The Pink Maple House for one. And the smell of West Lake wafting over on front stairs to the adult library. Love the old photo. Remember it well.