Roundup: Teardowns, Trees, Tony La Russa, More

Yesterday’s Roundup noted the upcoming demolition of 14 Hillandale Road — writer A.E. Hotchner’s longtime home — as part of the construction of Authors Way, a new 4-house subdivision.

Developer Rick Benson says that while the Historic District Commission permit allows teardown any time after Monday (January 11), the final Planning & Zoning Commission hearing is next Thursday (January 14). It’s unlikely, he says, that demolition work will start for a few weeks.

He notes that the house lacks a satisfactory foundation; has no full cellar, first floor bathroom, insulation or central HV/AC system, and has rusted 1920 iron windows.

In addition, Benson says, it lands in the setbacks of the new lot layouts.

14 Hillandale Road

Also slated to be torn down: 27 Gorham Avenue. The home was built in 1933.

27 Gorham Avenue (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

David Meth writes:

“On Wednesday night, to take a break from the dull routine of daily life and obscene anxiety of politics and pandemic, and actually run away from the assault of the news, a friend and I decided to go out for a delicious pizza at Ignazio’s next to the Sherwood Diner.

“It made the day, because it reminded us of the importance of a pizza and conversation, a glass of beer or wine, a burger at the diner, cup of coffee at the local café … just getting together and talking to one another without devices and electronic interruptions is so wonderfully refreshing and important—and how much we miss the tradition and sense of community of just being with friends, even strangers, to remember who we are as people.”

Remember normal life?

Residents of the Punch Bowl/Gault Park area have noticed a number of trees cut down recently — and others marked with the tape that means their end is near too.

Town tree warden Bruce Lindsay says it’s part of Eversource’s effort to target high-risk trees that could topple in a storm. Many are slender white pines.

The neighborhood bordered by Cross Highway and Weston Road suffered severe damage — including extended power outages — during August’s Tropical Storm Isaias.

Eversource analyzes circuit by circuit performance, then targets the circuits or portions with the most tree-related outages. They then identify trees needing trimming or removal.

Trees account for up to 90% of all outages in Eversource’s system.

(Photo/Joyce Backman)

Tony La Russa is coming to the Westport Library

Well, not really. It’s a livestream, and it’s not likely the Major League Baseball Hall of Famer will be talking from the Westport Library studio.

But he’ll be joined by a good friend — longtime Westporter Steve Parrish — and the Library is sponsoring the event. So — even thought fans can join from anywhere in the world — it does count as “ours.”

The event is set for Tuesday, January 26 (7 p.m.). La Russa will chat about his World Series victories, tell classic baseball stories, and describe his role as new manager of the Chicago White Sox.

Click here to register for the free program.

Tony La Russa

And finally … the War of 1812 roared back in the news this week. That’s the last time — until Wednesday — that the US Capitol suffered a significant breach from opponents of democracy.

On this day in 1815, the last major engagement of that war ended. American forces defeated the British in the bloody Battle of New Orleans.

Andrew Jackson and a ragtag group of frontiersmen, slaves, Indians and pirates held off, then inflicted tremendous damage on a much larger and better trained British force intent on capturing the important port.

In just over 30 minutes, the Americans suffered 60 casualties — and killed 2,000 British.

Jackson became a national hero, and set out on a path to the presidency. However, the battle was for naught. The Treaty of Ghent, ending the war, had been signed 18 days earlier. Word had not yet reached the US from Europe.

11 responses to “Roundup: Teardowns, Trees, Tony La Russa, More

  1. I date myself but remember the version of The Battle of New Orleans by Johnny Horton in the early sixties. I think I still have the 45!! Anyone know what one of those were?? This Nitty Gritty Version is much more sophisticated.

    • Yep. I used Johnny Horton’s “North to Alaska” a few days ago, so I thought I’d go with Nitty Gritty’s uptempo version today. Stay tuned for Horton’s other history-themed song — “Sink the Bismarck” — on that anniversary, in May!

  2. I have mixed feelings about whether or not to legally restrict the lollapalooza of tear-downs that’s ruining the character of our towns, but I do know developer bullshit when I read it:

    “The house lacks a satisfactory foundation; has no full cellar, first floor bathroom, insulation or central HV/AC system, and has rusted 1920 iron windows.”

    Every single one of these things is easily remedied for far less than the cost of building a new house. In fact, practically every updated old house around here has had all those things done.

    The real reason for the tear-downs is that today’s luxury buyer wants 1) high ceilings, 2) enormous rooms and open-flow layouts; and, finally, 3) [at least in the blinkered minds of the developers] a cookie cutter “Modern Farmhouse” design.

    • Michael Calise

      My family owned the property directly across the street from the Hotchner property. It was the original homestead of my Grandfather and Grandmother having been purchased in the early 1920’s. A local builder (A. E. Ialeggio)
      along with the cooperation of my family devised a way to create lot lines to preserve the original structure and enlarge it into a historic renovation which still stands today as a credit to it’s historic past. The Hotchner residence is a fine and beautiful example of mid twentieth century design. Its renovation and possible addition would be a much finer legacy to the author A.E. Hotchner than a meaningless and somewhat bland street name

  3. James Waldron

    At least when it’s a livestream platform Tony doesn’t have to drive anywhere. Does this event count towards his court mandated community service hours?

  4. Donald Bergmann

    While my words will not be as aggressive as those of Peter Blau, I do hope that Town bodies and the public engage on the desirability of the demolition of A.E. Hotchner’s former home at 14 Hillendale Rd. and the construction on the site of four new homes. My sense is that this will be one more unfortunate development within Westport driven primarily by high land prices and the ability to make considerable sums by building more and bigger. If the P&Z Commission or another body has power to affect what is proposed in a positive manner, e.g. to insist that the Hoetcher home remain, I tend to think that is the way to go. As Peter Blau points out, and as one who preserved a fair amount of the older house in which we live near Old Mill Beach, the defects listed by Mr. Benson for the Hoetchner house appear rather meaningless, at least as to the issue of why it should be demolished.

    Don Bergmann

  5. Nicholas Clarke


  6. Hey James Waldron, if you are going to make an attempt at humor by being a snarky d-bag, you really shouldn’t assume that people are going to understand what you are talking about. Yes, Tony apparently made a mistake …… must be assume to be you though, James.

    • James Waldron

      David, I’m having a bit of trouble deciphering your last sentence? Read up on Tony, ‘apparently’ he has two mistakes of the same ‘discretion’ shall we say?

      Enjoy your weekend.

  7. Sal Gilbertie

    Thank you Dan for the “Battle of New Orleans” Remake! I too, like Tom Kretsch, remember the Johnny Horton version. Many a student had their interest in studying history piqued by that song!