Friday Flashback #343

Last week’s Friday Flashback showed Ken Montgomery’s Old Mill store — one of several predecessors of the current Old Mill Grocery & Deli.

It had been his mother’s market. He joined her, after his original place — on the corner of Bridge Street and Compo Road South — was demolished, to make way for the new Connecticut Turnpike (now called I-95).

I’d never seen a photo of it. Then, just days after that Friday Flashback, Pamela Docters posted an old Westport Town Crier newspaper clipping on Facebook:

As the caption notes, Ken wanted to move the “retail landmark” to property he owned opposite the old Saugatuck Elementary School (now The Saugatuck co-op housing complex). His request was denied.

The caption also says that he hoped to return with a new store once the highway was finished.

That never happened. But the Old Mill store was good to him.

And Ken was good to his town. When he died, he left a $500,000 gift to the Westport YMCA.

Pamela posted a couple of other fascinating doomed-by-the-thruway photos.

This one, from June 7, 1956, shows houses moved to Dr. Gillette Circle.

Dr. Gillette Circle is off Davenport Avenue, which itself is accessed by Ferry Lane West off Saugatuck Avenue — adjacent to I-95 Exit 17.

Indian Hill Road — also part of the neighborhood — is now sliced in two by the highway. It once connected, all the way north to Treadwell Avenue.

Dr. Gillette Circle is once again buffeted by change. The 157-unit Summit Saugatuck development is a few yards away, on Hiawatha Lane Extension.

As for I-95, recent state Department of Transportation work has radically altered the landscape first created when the turnpike was built. It took 70 years for trees and vegetation to grow. Now it’s all gone.

Of course, as thruway construction took place Saugatuck was not the only neighborhood affected. Another photo posted by Pam shows a Greens Farms home — already 125 years old — being moved 700 feet away from the new route’s right-of-way, to Turkey Hill South.

The Connecticut Turnpike cut a wide swath through Westport. It changed Saugatuck forever, and made an enormous impact everywhere else.

Three-quarters of a century later, most of us cannot imagine life here without it.

But there are still Westporters, and former residents, alive who do.

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8 responses to “Friday Flashback #343

  1. Cathy Smith Barnett '66

    My husband and I rented an apartment in the early 70s in Dr Gillettte Circle. As you might have read in the Facebook comments, the house we lived in was owned by the Santella family. It had exquisite woodwork which sadly had been painted over and there was a small stained glass window in the entryway. The best thing about that house was the wraparound porch which we enjoyed a lot the 3 yrs we rented there.. Sadly that beautiful porch is gone Terry Santella said but the house still stands!

  2. Before the I-95, traffic through town on the Post Road was pretty awful, especially the trucks. My dad remembered going through town on Rt 1 on summer trips from New Jersey to New Hampshire before the Merritt Parkway was built.

  3. We drove from Westport to Hollywood , Florida in 1952 all the way on Route 1. (I guess that’s what it was called with no highways.) Also, the house on the corner of South Morningside Drive and Clapboard Hill was transported from the I-95 path! Obviously it’s not the monstrosity that’s there now with the driveway going out to Clapboard Hill.

  4. It’s been reported that Ken Montgomery’s original store was at the corner of Bridge and South Compo. Not quite – it was further along, very close to where I-95 (known as the Turnpike) would be built. Also, Greens Farms Road from South Compo to Hillspoint would be moved and completely rebuilt. You can see that the original Greens Farms Road east of Hillspoint is very different.

  5. Cathy Smith Barnett

    My family moved to Westport in 1956. I remember riding on the school bus to Saugatuck El along GF Road which came out right below the train tracks on South Compo. The road did not go straight down to the intersection as it does now. There is an electrical substation there now and I’m wondering if this could be the original location of Kenny’s store??

  6. Carl Addison Swanson, Wrecker, '66.

    We came here in ’52 and lived “mid-town” off Cross Highway away from issues of I-95. BUT, they started talking about a connector from I-95 to the Merritt which would go right through our back yard. John Lodge eventually killed that idea but many many in Saugatuck were not happy with Ike’s evacuation roads. And Professor, I, for one, could certainly live without any turnpike. Matter of fact, give everybody a bike.

  7. My great grandparent’s and then grandparent’ house on Saugatuck Ave. was just barely “saved” from what we all referred to as the “Thruway” back when we thought 10 cars on that road constituted heavy traffic. They were compensated for some of the the land taken though and were able to build a new home as well at the top of Indian Hill Road- since demolished for the ubiquitous Westport white with black windows house positioned sideways on the lot – for the pool of course.

  8. Just wondering — is the last house pictured (the Alvord House) still standing? The article said it was moved to Turkey Hill South, but with so many teardowns, even of antiques, I wonder If it has survived

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