Thursday’s “06880” story on the installation of a new historical plaque behind Town Hall — one acknowledging that Westport’s founding fathers built a prosperous agriculture community using “forced labor of enslaved Africans and Natives” — drew comments from several readers noting the simultaneous removal of a similar nearby plaque.
That one — dedicated in 1980 — began:
“For nearly 200 years after the first white settlement here in 1648, the area east of the Saugatuck River belonged to the west parish of Fairfield; that west of the river to the Town of Norwalk.”
The text then describes the village of Saugatuck’s growth as a “thriving port for regional produce and goods”; the incorporation of the town of Westport in 1835, and our history as a farming community, artists’ colony and post-war suburb.
Longtime Westporter John Suggs provided “06880” with photos of that now-removed plaque. He says:
I want readers to see what the old plaque actually said. Hopefully many other Westporters are as shocked as I am that this historic plaque was somehow deemed “offensive” and was unilaterally — and without any public discussion — removed from its setting 41 years after the town, the Westport Historical Society and the Connecticut Historic Commission first installed it in a place of honor.
This was not created during the dark days of Jim Crow. This plaque was installed in 1980. Many Westporters who were there when it was installed and were part of that day are still alive, and still live here.
I think it should be returned. And it, along with the newer plaque, can jointly offer a comprehensive and informative commemoration of Westport’s history.
This original plaque represented the best thinking of this community just 41 years ago — including 2 of the same entities who have brought forth this new plaque. It does not deserve to be consigned to the dustbin.
Not to restore it and return it to its proper place at Town Hall is unconscionable. Hopefully, when people read what it actually says, they will understand and agree.
This isn’t a case of “either/or” between the old and new plaque. Rather, it is “both/and.” The way forward is to display both.