Friday Flashback #370

Sitting presidents seldom come to Westport.

George Washington did. He stayed at Marvin Tavern, near the present-day Post Road West and Kings Highway South. The owner went all out to prepare a feast, but the Father of Our Country ate and drank sparingly. Though he appreciated the effort, he was not pleased with his accommodations.

For unrelated reasons, there was then a century and a half gap until the next presidential visit.

The honor went to Franklin Roosevelt. On October 22, 1936 — 87 years ago this Sunday — he made a brief stop here, after a re-election campaign tour of upstate Connecticut.

A large crowd gathered on the steps of what was then the YMCA (today, it’s Anthropologie). Students had been dismissed early to see the president.

FDR waved his hat at the crowd and said, “I am honored by the wonderful reception the people of Connecticut have given me. But even more than that, I think that this year, men and women ar taking more interest in the future of their nation than ever before, and reading and thinking for themselves above all.”

The crowd waits for President Roosevelt — whose name was misspelled by the local newspaper.

He won that second term — and then an unprecedented 2 more elections.

When President Roosevelt died just 3 months after his 4th inauguration, stores closed here.

On April 18, 1945, residents gathered on Jesup Green for a memorial service. They sang “America,” “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Abide with Me.”

 It took  another half century before the next sitting president arrived. He was Bill Clinton — and he returned twice more, in the next 15 months. All were fundraising events.

The next — and only other sitting president — to come to Westport was Barack Obama. He too was here to raise money.

President Obama’s motorcade at Harvey Weinstein’s Beachsdie Avenue home, in 2012. The home of the disgraced former movie producer has since been demolished.  

FUN FACT: President Roosevelt’s grandson David lived in Westport during the 1980s and ’90s. He was active in local Democratic politics.


50 years ago this week: 

Rippe Farms promoted its large selection of pumpkins.

The farms — on North Avenue near Long Lots Road, and off Turkey Hill Road South — supplied Rippe’s farm stand on the Post Road.

It’s located on the current site of Harvest Commons.

And you wondered where that name of those condos came from …


10 responses to “Friday Flashback #370

  1. My mother saw Roosevelt, but I think it was in Bridgeport. I believe it was the same year.

  2. I loved this Flashback. Great picture. Bill probably kept returning for the CoffeeAn donuts

  3. Ripple’s Farm, what a Westport classic! I stopped there a few times a week along with Borchetta’s Deli. This was maybe 60 years ago! Boiled ham and cheese on a hard roll, 75 cents!

  4. Rippe’s Farm

  5. When President Roosevelt came to Westport I was 6 years old. School was let out and my mother and I walked down to Main St. to see him. We were about 5 rows back and I got a fleeting glimpse of him passing by. “He’s not going to stop?” I said. I learned much later that he stopped briefly in front of the bank. A telegram was delivered to him there by Carl Wagner, a somewhat retarded man who was well known around town. The Secret Service thought he was an assassin and beat him to the ground. And the Motorcade speeded on. I didn’t know any of that until years later. But I did know Carl.

    Decades later I saw Bill Clinton from about 3 feet away. I was driving on Grumman Road in Norwalk when a cop stopped me and said, “You can’t go any further. You have to go back – the president is coming .” “On this road?” I asked. Can I just park and wait till he goes by? The policeman said I could park on the side street there. So I got out of the car and stood at the edge of this narrow road and waited just a few minutes, then Clinton went by. I saw him closer than most people see a president but his window was closed so it was not momentous, just unexpected. (Clinton was visiting Martha Stewart’s studio on Grumman Road.)

    About Rippes’ Farm Stand: I bet all the people who live in that housing development that replaced Rippes’ wish it were back .

  6. Peter, You have a heck of a historical prospective being in Westport since the early 1930s! Were you familiar with our farm? You’re a world of knowledge!

  7. If in fact Marvin Tavern existed on the corner of the Boston Post Road and Kings Highway South it was in Norwalk at that time.

  8. Ditto Michael Calise…. You’ve been around for a few decades in Westport.

  9. My sister worked at Rippe’s farm stand in the 1970s. Among its famous patrons was Paul Newman who was a regular customer and a big fan of its corn on the cob.

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