Friday Flashback #241

As Main Street enjoys a renaissance — gelato shops! Sundance! something to replace Banana Republic and Bobby Q’s! — it’s worth looking back at what our main downtown drag used to look like.

No, not half a century ago, with stores like Selective Eye, the African Room and Mark’s Place. I’m talking the turn of the century. Last century.

This 1901 Sanborn map was posted to social media by William Weiss. It describes what types of stores were where, as the 20th century began.

On the west side of Main Street — where the Saugatuck River lapped up against the backs of shops — there were a couple of laundries, several “meat” places, a paint shop, drug store, bakery, cobbler, flour and feed story, lumber store, and an enormous coal yard.

The east side of Main Street included a barber, tailor, and more butchers and grocery stores.

And that’s just in the block between the Post Road (State Street) and Elm Street. (Just like today though, a few storefronts sat vacant.)

Click on or hover over to enlarge.

The Riverside Inn was aptly named. It sat right on the river, about where Starbucks is now.

Across Main Street was the Westport Hotel (misspelled on the map). Two decades later that became the YMCA; today it’s Anthropologie.

The primary occupant of Church Lane was a horse shed. That later became a fire station. Now it’s Bedford Square.

Anyone predictions of what a Sanborn map of downtown Westport in, say, 2101 would look like?

4 responses to “Friday Flashback #241

  1. Most of us won’t be here, but sadly I predict this map in 2101 will look like Long Island Sound.

  2. Grea, fun Westport history!

  3. Hello Dan! As a heads up, my company owns the intellectual copyright for the ~1.2mm Sanborn Maps. However, very few cities are being updated currently. I don’t expect Westport to make the cut, so don’t expect any in the future. Sorry.

  4. Wendy Crowther

    Visible in the Sanborn image (to the right and slightly below the numeral 3) is the Kemper Gunn House. Thanks to some Westport preservationists, who worked together with the P&Z and the Bedford Square developer, this historic building was saved from demolition and was sensitively lifted and moved across Elm St. to its current location (now the home of Serena & Lily). Perhaps it will be among the few downtown buildings that will make it to 2101.

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