Question Box #6

Our Question Box is once again full.

Unfortunately, I have almost none of the answers. I thought I knew a lot about Westport. Now I see how clueless I am.

So readers: Please chime in with any additional information. Click “Comments” below.

If you’ve got a question for our box, email 06880blog@gmail.com

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Why are there so many streets without sidewalks? (Monica Buesser)

This is an eternal question — particularly by newcomers from Manhattan and Brooklyn.

There are a few reasons:

  • Money
  • No one asked for them in a particular area
  • A desire to cling to a “rural” feel
  • Postwar Westport grew around cars and bikes — not feet.

So here’s my question: In the areas where we do have sidewalks, why do people walk instead on the road?

The Imperial Avenue sidewalk. Sometimes, people even use it.

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Who was the “Webb” in Webb Road?

I have no idea. All I know is it’s a nice street off Whitney. And I think Michael Douglas lived there — at least for a while — with his mother.

For that matter, who was Whitney? The Abbott of Abbott’s Lane? The The Pamela and Plunkett of their Places?

This should keep the Answer Box of our Question Box filled. If you know the back story of interesting Westport road names (though not, obviously, Main Street, North Avenue or the like), let us know!

I think a young Michael Douglas once lived near Webb Road, on Whitney Street.

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I notice that some newer driveways have a threshold of Belgium blocks or similar. Why?

Belgium blocks

Also, some quite new driveways seem to have a drain as a threshold. Why and where does it drain, if at all? 

Driveway drain.

Finally, most homes simply have a driveway with no threshold blocks or drain. I presume this is before anyone decided to put them in. (Mark Mathias)

No drain (Photos/Mark Mathias)

Here’s the “06880” answer: I have no idea.

If a builder/driveway specialist out there knows the answer — or a homeowner thinks he or she does — please weigh in.

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I think I know the rivers and reservoirs in our area. But I wonder: Does any map show the creeks, streams and brooks? All I found is that you can step over a brook, jump over a creek, wade across a stream and swim across a river. (Jeff Jacobs)

Muddy, Willow and Deadman — those are 3 of our brooks (which I’ve always thought of as “streams” too). I’m not sure if we have a creek.

There’s our old friend Google (as in Google Maps). You’ll need to zoom out or in, depending on your settings.

But maybe there’s a geological survey or topographical-type map that’s better. If you know of one, please share!

Deadman Brook flows into the Saugatuck River by the Levitt Pavilion. I’m not sure if you could actually “step over” this. (Photo/Judy Jahnel)

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There’s a big rock off Saugatuck Shores named Seymour Rock. Any idea who Seymour was? (Jack Harder)

Nope. And to be honest, I’ve never heard of Seymour Rock in my life.

But a quick search confirmed it. Last year, Westport Local Press ran a photo of Longshore Sailing School students exploring it — as a “rite of passage” — off Bluff Point.

So ask John Kantor. Or Jaime Bairaktaris. They’ll rock it.

Seymour Rock (Photo courtesy of Westport Local Press)

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Have a question? Email 06880blog@gmail.com. 

16 responses to “Question Box #6

  1. I don’t know about Michael Douglas having lived on Webb Road. But I am almost certain that a long time ago I came across an old phone book listing (or something of that nature) showing that he lived on Whitney Street with his mom Diana and his stepfather Bill Darrid. A quick google search just showed that a couple of real estate listings state that it’s the house at 59 Whitney Street—and looking at those online photos, that seems accurate to me. It is or was an older white house on the left side of Whitney as you drive towards Roseville. (I can also confirm that Michael Douglas received tutoring by a neighbor on Drumlin Road🤨.)

  2. Richard W. Alley

    Not positive, but Tommy Abbots was a classmate, Staples 53 and I think his father was a builder who built on Abbots Lane. – Dick Alley

  3. Geoff Hodgkinson SHS 64

    Correct, Fred. I lived at 7 Webb Rd. from ’55-’70 and can confirm that Michael Douglas lived on Whitney St. near Ledgemoor Lane.

  4. Richard W. Alley

    “New Creek” Road by the entrance to Burial Hill Beach refers to the “Creek” which runs between it and Greens Farms Academy and joins the Creek running from Sherwood Island Mill Pond into Long Island Sound.

  5. Peter Jennings, director of Bayberry Property Management & Leasing, says:

    Belgium Blocks: Builders at constructions sites use crushed stone to help control carrying debris off the job site into the street and it’s called an “Anti-tracking pad”. This is more aesthetic, but serves the same purpose, but in reverse as its supposed to shake stuff loose before it gets all over your nice clean driveway.

    Driveway Drain: A requirement in Westport to help control run-off from driveways, this is basically a septic system (1,500 gal or so) to capture water. Think twice before repaving because this will cost you dearly!

    • I think the paving companies refer to the Belgium Blocks as a “skirt.” It is more of an aesthetic thing that some homeowners like to include when they repave their driveways.

  6. Sal Gilbertie

    The best map of streams is on tbe DEEP website for fishing enthusiasts. It’s interactive – touch the screen and it will zoom in. Covers only streams capable of supporting trout but is useful. Here is the link: https://ctdeep.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=70d13bc033854b89a87c04b1d11b1a43&fbclid=IwAR2sGnbD1qFWL-R-zraCC2tgV3X21wldPCd-ZwZuB8eykL-R_Wu9Fg55gWE

  7. Tom Duquette, SHS '75

    I remember my father and uncle pointing out Seymour’s Rock when boating as a potential hazard to be avoided especially at low tide.

    Folks who miss their sidewalks in Manhattan & Brooklyn might consider Westport just isn’t their kind of place.

    • I remember a couple of parties we had on Seymour’s Rock. They were only memorable for being on a pile of rocks smaller than most living rooms. Or did I miss something?

  8. Lesley Cullen Anderson

    Michael Douglas lived on Whitney Street not Webb Road. I lived on Webb Road and walked home with him, a group of us. This was his junior high school years, he later attended Choate. He was a very nice guy with no airs, his brother Joel too, he was on my dad’s Little League team.

  9. Well, these are the insights I can offer:
    1. “No Sidewalks” is most likely simply inertia. Most of the roads in town, but especially the major ones, have been there for a very long time. They are built on the paths of the old Colonial period roads, which probably followed ways first blazed by the First Nations people of the area. After all, a good way for a road to go is the same no matter who builds it. For much of that time there would have been very few people and a lot of open farmland. A large reason Staples, Coleytown, and Bedford (i.e. the Nike Site) are where they are is because there was space to build them. So back then there would not have been a lot of traffic, either pedestrian or vehicle, so little need to segregate the traffic with sidewalks. If you go back far enough, the roads don’t even really have names. Often just a description of the destination, for example “Easton Road”. Also, many of the roads had so few people there were no house numbers. It wasn’t until they built the high school that the town numbered the houses on North Avenue. After that, as the town grew and more people started moving in, I suspect it was along the lines of “never got around to it”. As a side note, it used to be that the people living on the road maintained the road and were then compensated by the town. If you look at the town’s annual reports from around 1900 you will see lines like “Some dollars to Charles Mills for repairs to North Avenue”

    2. “Road Names” that include people’s names are most often where those people used to live. There was a Mr Plunkett who lived off North Avenue, just as there was a Mr Reimer. Henry Reimer was a pall bearer for Hen Mills’ funeral in 1944. Some of those people might have been from 300 years ago, like the Sturgis’ (or Sturges – old time spelling is fun!). The Whitney’s were an ancient and honorable clan of Old Fairfield. The Janson of Janson Drive (and Court) was Christian William Janson. He was the son in law of Charles Langenberg who bought the property when Charles died. North Pasture used to be….a pasture. Deletta lane was because the two men who developed it were married to Del and Etta. Winslow Lane, when it had the much better name of “Smicap” was because the two men who developed it were SMIth and CAPicello. Tar Rock comes from the legend that when the British landed at Cedar Point that Benjamin Allen and his servant climbed the little rise there to light the beacon, a boulder covered in pine pitch (i.e. tar). “Compo” is the name of a First Nations group, a subgroup of the Pequot. It has also been spelled “Compaw”

    • Bobbie Herman

      Jacques — you have always amazed me with your fountain of knowledge about Westport. When did your earliest ancestors arrive here? You often submit comments and anecdotes about them

  10. Gloria Gouveia

    Sidewalks: Once upon a time, the Planning & Zoning Commission required sidewalks be installed by developers whose projects abutted an existing public road.

    In recent times, the Commission stopped enforcing the requirement despite pleas from a group of citizens who organized for the sole purpose of promoting more sidewalks in Town.

    In the olden days when children walked to school there was more reason to provide sidewalks for public safety. Apparently no one of high school age walks to school anymore as a student seen walking to Staples just last week prompted two schools to lock down & shelter in place.

    Driveways: The driveways shown in the photographs are a good representation of changes in driveway requirements over time.

    Belgian block curbing and driveway aprons became fashionable for high end homes around the time the teardown epidemic broke out. They are a throwback to colonial times.

    The drive with the drain is one method of retaining storm water runoff on the property — a requirement of this millenium.

    The third photo shows a drive likely installed when the mid-century residence it serves was constructed. The fact that there is no driveway apron indicates that it was constructed prior to the Town’s adoption of a Driveway Ordinance.

    What’s a driveway “apron”? See the asphalt area between the belgian block and the road in the first driveway photo.

    Maps of Watercourse and Waterbodies: The GIS on the Town website is a good place to start. It provides an abundance of information about land use and geography.

    As one know-it-all to another — Maybe “jacquesvoris” and I should get together and write a book.;-)

  11. Lawrence Joel Zlatkin

    As for creeks, Sasco creek is a major one and separates Westport from Fairfield.

  12. Another FREE (yes FREE and no ads!) map resource that shows almost everything is the Town of Westport GIS. I use it all the time. Follow this link.

    https://www.westportct.gov/how-do-i/access-property-information/town-gis-map-system

    Art Schoeller
    President
    Greens Farms Association

  13. Jan Degenshein

    Belgian blocks at the foot of a driveway can serve at least three purposes:
    They break up the visual monotony of bituminous pavement.
    They “announce” the entry to a homesite, an entry threshold, usually at a defined front property line (which is usually set back from the street’s shoulder).
    They remove mud from vehicle tires before entering the property, like a doormat for a car instead of a house.
    A linear drain at the foot of a driveway intercepts stormwater flow before it enters a property (if the front yard is lower than the street) or stops stormwater contribution from a property to a street. Pavement is mostly impervious and the ground wash in a storm can be dangerous. The collected stormwater usually drains into a ditch parallel and set back from the road, which in turn is directed to a stream crossing or culvert down the road. Sometimes it is directed to a detention basin (holding pond or tank) which releases water more slowly into the drainage system (much like a bathtub drain) to prevent overflowing the larger ecosystem.
    You were dead-on correct about sidewalks. Historically, those who moved from urban areas to the “suburbs” (in the 1950’s and 1960’s) were seeking a country-like setting and wished to escape visual reminders, such as sidewalks. Sidewalks were later installed adjacent to streets where warranted by safety concerns: too much traffic or lack of visibility due to curves and rises in roads.

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