Friday Flashback #330

Before there were drones, there were helicopters.

One autumn day in the 1980s, Staples High School graduate Steve Turner took a flight over Westport.

The photographer snapped this dramatic shot:

(Photo/Steve Turner)

The foreground shows Winslow Park. Turner took his photo within a year or two of the July 1987 Representative Town Meeting resolution to condemn the 32-acre property owned by Baron Walter Langer von Langendorff, and a townwide referendum 5 months later affirming that decision.

The town ultimately acquired the land — under eminent domain — for $9.42 million.

Six years later, the Westport News ran a contest to name the property. The overwhelming choice: Winslow Park, in honor of the family that owned it in the mid-1800s. (The Winslows built a large estate there, which later became a sanitarium.)

Take a close look at Turner’s shot. Has Westport changed much in the nearly 40 years since it was taken? (The Playhouse Square condominiums — just to the north of the shopping center and Westport Country Playhouse — were built in 1983; they’re shown here.)

What do you see that’s the same, or different? Click “Comments” below.

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14 responses to “Friday Flashback #330

  1. First of all, it’s a wonderful photograph that captures some spectacular foliage that I have never taken for granted.

    The interesting thing to me is that, whatever height this was taken at, it has the effect of almost making Westport seem as flat as a Chicago suburb. A viewer really has no sense, for example, of how the landscape rises so quickly on the western side of the river across from the bridge and Parker Harding Plaza.

  2. The facade of the former Fairfield Furniture building has since been restored.

  3. That’s a great photograph. First thing I noticed was the very large boat in the river half way up to Kingshighway. I would not have thought the opening in the Post Road bridge was wide enough for a boat that size.

    • Peter that is the office building (with the gold windows) on Gorham Island. That is a whole other story..

    • As Dave Eason mentioned, the “boat” you described is actually the office building on Gorham Island. Nonetheless, I have to admit, in my picture, it actually does look like a boat LOL.

      I know a lot of people were not thrilled when the old McLaughlin Victorian mansion was torn down and the modern office building was erected in its’ place.

      The McLaughlin house was a beautiful example of Victorian architecture even in its’ dilapidated state, and of course it had its’ unique if somewhat disturbing history (which you can read about elsewhere in Dan’s blog if you don’t already know).

      As a kid growing up in Westport I used to explore those surrounding marshlands in my kayak. That victorian mansion, that little red house near the Kingshighway Bridge, and the yellow house next to it where the owner sold eggs, and that always had all those little chicks in the yard, the stark white Furniture building next to the State Street bridge that always seemed kind of reminiscent of an Andrew Wyeth painting, and the way the Famous Artists School (i.e. Save The Children building ) and on Parking Harding Plaza would all be lit up with Christmas tree lights reflecting on the water as I paddled by it on freezing cold nights before the river turned to ice…all of those things are all part of my childhood memories.

      That part of the Saugatuck River was like my personal playground growing up and I miss it all so much. It’s a shame that it’s all changed so much now, but isn’t that the way thing always are?

      Like most, I would prefer that it all stayed the same, but at the very least, that office building that now defines Gorham Island today was well designed to complement those beautiful marshlands with its’ earthen and gold tones, and whenever I pass by it in the helicopter, it just seems to fit the surrounding landscape in a beautiful and harmonious way.

  4. Didn’t Betty Davis once live on Gorham Island? We certainly had more trees back then, plus four movie theaters, miniature golf, two public golf driving ranges, Arnie’s Arcade. I could keep going.
    A beautiful town for sure.

  5. Robert Mitchell

    Spectacular photo!
    Obvious changes: Save the Children, Bedford Square, Levitt Pavilion.

  6. Two good reasons why the referendum to take the Baron’s property by eminent domain succeeded are shown in that photo. The Wright Street Office Building and the Gorham Island Office Building. 2 biter pills. Can’t remember the name of the NY Department Store that was angling to locate at this site

  7. Thanks to all of you for all the kind comments about my picture, and thanks to Dan for providing such a great blog for all of us old-time Westporters!

  8. What an amazing view! This would make a great puzzle. Steve, did you mean Wild Duck Haven? The yard full of geese, ducks and swans? We used to get bread from the day old store at Pepperidge Farms to feed them and the ones over on Riverside Ave. I think this i.age should be hanging in Town Hall!

  9. JIll, That’s right! They were geese, ducks and swans, not chicks LOL! I realized that right after I posted my message but there was no way to edit it.

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