Friday Flashback #230

I’ve always been fascinated by what Westport looked like before I-95 (known then as the Connecticut Turnpike or “the thruway”) came through in the mid-1950s.

Now I’ve seen some tantalizing glimpses.

Cliff Cuseo posted a 7 1/2-minute video on Facebook. It’s a digitized (in color!) version of home movies, taken at various points during construction.

The opening shots look vaguely familiar, but I can’t place them. Perhaps they’re part of Saugatuck — near Exit 17? — that has since been demolished, to make way for the road.

Where was this taken?

But — in addition to showing work on the Saugatuck River bridge and the road itself — there are glimpses of Riverside Avenue (including the long-gone Gault oil tanks), and the Hales Road/Greens Farms area.

Riverside Avenue, and the Gault tanks. The Bridge Street (now Cribari) Bridge is at top left.

Construction near Greens Farms Road, and the new Hales Road bridge.

There’s also the aftermath of a scary truck accident, on what seems like a lunar landscape.

Truck accident.

The movie captures scenes we take for granted today, in a unique way. But I’d still love to see film of Saugatuck — that thriving, compact and close-knit village — before the earth-movers arrived.

Click here for the full video.

The Saugatuck River bridge, before completion.

(Hat tip: Don Willmott)



24 responses to “Friday Flashback #230

  1. I believe the truck accident took place on the hill that is behind the old Arrow building.

  2. Robert M Gerrity

    Query: Is Dan Willmott any relation to an elementary teacher at Bedford from the 1950s?

    • That’s my mom!

      • Robert M Gerrity

        Thanks for confirming. My one “story” from that year: I pestered her about when we were going to the bathroom. (The class went all together; no individual hall passes.) Soon so sit down and go back to work she said. So I did, concentrating on the work. Finishing the last page, I raised my hand, got up and went to her desk. Are we going to the bathroom soon? I asked. Room silent then bursts of laughter, and from your Mom, too. They’d all gotten up in line and she’d called my name several times but I had zoned out on the work and heard nothing. So they went and had come back and had settled down. She let me go by myself.

  3. Celeste Champagne

    Fascinating photos and information. Thanks again, Dan Woog, for supplying us with history and information.

  4. As a young railroad fan, I remember how Greens Farms Road used to come right up to the railroad tracks. There also was an old house on Greens Farms Rd. that got moved to Hills Poiint Rd.

  5. I love it that it was called the Bridge Street Bridge! Named by the Department of Redundancy Department?

  6. Bonnie Scott Connolly

    All I remember is Kenny’s store on South Compo having to move so that when we walked to (or from) Saugatuck Elementary School from the back end of Narrow Rocks Rd, we didn’t have a general store to stop at and get a snack,

    • I went to Saugatuck Elementary and, now that you mention it, I remember that Kenny’s was originally right across the street I think Kenny’s partner was “Harry” back then. The move to Old Mill was probably a good thing for Kenny…more traffic.

  7. Ellen Dale Naftalin

    I think the red house on the hill in the background of the first photo you show is my grandparent’s (Samuel DeMeo and Carrie Chappa DeMeo) house at 58 Saugatuck Ave. It still stands albeit blighted at the head of Franklin Ave.

  8. I’ve been reviewing the beginning of the video and comparing it to the first screenshot and studying Google Maps to match up.
    The key is the railroad hasn’t moved.
    I do believe you’re correct it’s the exit 17 area. Imagine it with the trees shorter or not there at all.
    The person holding the film camera is filming south toward Ferry Ln West, Indian Hill Rd, Davenport Rd and Hiawatha Ln Ext .
    One angle looks to be behind the old Arrow restaurant and gas station (now Tarry Lodge) area and the other angle at Indian Hill Rd which used to go across. It was cut in half when i-95 was built. Indian Hill Rd is at a higher elevation so the person filming can get a good panoramic view.
    I see cars going under the railroad underpass which is at the intersection of Ferry Lane West and Saugatuck Ave.

    Now, I’m trying to figure out the next section of film with the white house and white picket fence with the car taking a (dusty) left turn. Another section of film shows them digging with a road running along side with a fir tree standing. I bet the fir tree is still standing just a couple feet taller.
    I noticed another angle which I believe is the curve from Beachside Ave and Green Farms Rd heading toward exit 18.
    By the way, Beachside Ave overpass has just been removed to be replaced with a new deck. I would head over there If you want to see what the view looked like before the bridge was put up.
    The (new) Westport Local Press, which is run by Jaime Bairaktaris, was able to get a great shot of the missing Beachside Ave bridge.
    Go over and support The Westport Local Press on the website, Facebook and Instagram @westportlocalpress, Jaime is doing a fantastic job running that new site.

  9. Barbara Wanamaker

    Harry Platt was the man who worked with Kenny.

  10. I wonder exactly how many houses got razed to make way for the Turnpike?

    • Farms, businesses and neighborhoods
      Some where razed, others moved, farms and open property was divided up between highway and new housing.
      John Devine’s Dairy Farm (1893 to 1930 100 acres 1930 to 1957 225 acres) was cut in half when the state purchased part of the 225 acres. The property went from Strawberry Hill Ave to the Westport border.
      The original farm house (1903) still stands on William St facing south. The rest of the property that didn’t become highway became new streets and housing division. Dairy Farm Rd is named for the former farm.
      John Devine’s family runs Devine Brothers concrete, building supplies and home heating oil business on Commerce St in Norwalk since the 1930s

  11. Maybe the Merritt Parkway was built so far north of everything was because it would cause so little displacement. I now live in California near a 10-lane highway with “meeting lights” by the entrances to keep too many cars from entering.

    • A significant portion of the Merritt in Greenwich curves a few miles north between exits 28 and 31 in order to spare several estates and country clubs.

  12. Dave Donnelly

    So cool to see what that area was like before it was 1-95 🙂

  13. Michael Brennecke

    There’s only one place I know of where the road dips down under the RR tracks with houses on a hill in the background. South Compo heading toward the beach from the Greens Farms road intersection. They hadn’t built the overpass yet.

  14. Mr Brennecke makes a good point.
    I forgot about the the dip on South Compo. You can see the yellow height sign.
    Then those houses in the upper left frame of the video are quite possibly Narrow Rocks Rd. The large house on
    raised hill on the middle right of the frame on the corner was probably moved.

    • Mary Schmerker

      The Large white house on the middle right was moved as I recall. I wish I could remember the name of the owners. I believe it was one of Westport’s historic homes. I think I remember that it was moved to North Compo but that was along time ago and I could be wrong. I do know that many tears were shed and the look of the area totally changed. Stopping at Kenny’s store for a soda or a devil dog was a treat we always looked forward to.

  15. The “dip” under the bridges on South Compo was much shorter and deeper when there was only the railroad. I remember it often filled with water after a heavy rain.
    I see some possibilities for the first picture but I can’t identify anything positively.
    Kenneth Montgomery’s store was on the right side of Compo Road as you headed to the beach. I-95 goes right over where it was.

  16. Wendy Crowther

    I watched this over and over. Loved it. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  17. My mom used to take me on a little road off Greens farms road, that made a loop back to greens farm road. It was right near highpoint road. I also remember clearly the first time we drove over the Yankee doodle bridge in Norwalk! I lay on the floor of the car, I was so scared of the height! There was an incinerator next to the thruway in Norwalk, that looked like a huge pepper shaker!