Author Archives: Dan Woog

Downtown Affordable Housing To Be Demolished Soon

Westport is about to lose 14 more very affordable housing units.

And downtown is set to lose 2 more pieces of its history.

Applications have been filed to demolish 2 buildings: #7 and #15 Belden Place. That’s the tiny, seldom-noticed piece of Main Street property just past Avery Place, opposite Veterans Green and Town Hall.

Supposedly, a developer plans to expand 201 Main Street — the former Nappa screen repair shop — and level the Belden Place rentals behind it, to create the required parking spots.

15 Belden place sits right on the Saugatuck River.

15 Belden place sits right on the Saugatuck River.

#15 is listed in the Westport Historic District Commission inventory. It sits on the bank of the Saugatuck River (with quite a view!).

Though the HDC says #15 was built around 1930, that may be the date it arrived here. It might have been moved from New Hampshire in pieces in the ’30s by Alfred G. Violet. It has long been said that the houses on Violet Lane — not far away, off Myrtle Avenue — which he built in 1928 also came from New Hampshire.

#7 was built in 1920.

Both Belden Place buildings are in disrepair. For years, however, they provided hidden-in-plain-sight, much-needed rental units for local restaurateurs, artists, teachers, hippies and whatnot.

7 Belden Place is behind 201 Main Street (formerly Nappa Doors and Windows), and in front of 15 Belden Place.

7 Belden Place is behind 201 Main Street (formerly Nappa Doors and Windows), and in front of 15 Belden Place.

As Westport prepares to lose more affordable housing units, it should be noted that because these 14 were built before 1990, they do not count toward our 8-30g requirements. So losing them will not hurt us as we try to comply with the state affordable housing mandate.

But losing them will certainly hurt the Westporters who lived there, up until recently when they were told to go.

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

(Hat tips: Morley Boyd and Wendy Crowther)

 

“Save Cockenoe Now” Posters: The Sequel

Yesterday’s post about the “Save Cockenoe Now” posters at Walter and Naiad Einsel’s estate sale reminded readers of a past political battle: When Westporters saved Cockenoe Island from becoming the site of a nuclear power plant.

Everyone who was here then also remembers the Einsels’ iconic artwork.

But alert “06880” reader Jeff Manchester went over to the sale, and found other posters that never gained that cult-status attention. It’s kind of like finding unreleased Beatles tapes, nearly 50 years later.

Here, in all their late-’60s, trippy glory, are 3 of those “unreleased” posters. I particularly like the “Fishin’, Not Fission'” one.

Thankfully — with a big boost from the Einsels — we’re here today to tell that tale.

cockenoe-poster-2-einsel

cockenoe-poster-4-einsel

cockenoe-poster-3-einsel

Boathouse Restaurant: Saugatuck Secret Slips Out

It’s one of those enduring urban — okay, suburban — myths: The restaurant at Saugatuck Rowing Club is private. It’s for members only, but if you go there they’ll (wink, wink) serve you.

Once upon a time, that was semi-true. The restaurant was private, but signing in made you a member for the day.

Now it’s totally false. The Boathouse at Saugatuck is a full-fledged, legit, open-to-the-public restaurant.

And a great one.

With indoor and outside (enclosed in winter) seating, and a spectacular setting — overlooking the Saugatuck River — the Boathouse is one more in a long list of excellent dining options in the neighborhood that has become Westport’s dining hotbed.

Plenty of windows offer a view of the Saugatuck River -- including rowers from the club.

Plenty of windows offer views of the Saugatuck River — including rowers.

Several months ago, says manager and event planner Nancy Burke, the Boathouse added needed parking spots and changed their liquor license, to become an actual restaurant. They can now advertise, and market themselves to the public.

Word is getting out. Executive chef Paul Scoran — formerly of Paci in Fairfield — focuses on innovative American cuisine. There’s plenty of local fish, with other selections too. (I had a really interesting pasta dish, with lobster, shrimp and crab.) The menu changes seasonally. Full catering services are also available.

Westporters may still be confused by the relationship between the restaurant and rowing club. They share a building — and from the dining room you can watch rowers work out in the gym — but they’re 2 separate entities. Both, however, are owned by the same man: Howard Winklevoss, a Greenwich businessman perhaps better known as the father of Tyler and Cameron, twin Olympic rowers/litigants who claim Mark Zuckerberg stole their idea to create Facebook.

There's indoor dining on the 2nd floor (left), and outdoor dining on the deck (enclosed in winter). The bottom floor -- and part of the 2nd -- is devoted to rowing.

There’s indoor dining on the 2nd floor (left), and outdoor dining on the deck (enclosed in winter). The bottom floor — and the right side of the 2nd — is devoted to rowing.

Winklevoss’ Saugatuck Rowing Club helped jump start the revitalization of Saugatuck. Now his restaurant will draw even more folks to the neighborhood.

But although the Boathouse is relatively new — at least as a public venue — it is in some ways part of the “old” Saugatuck.

One of the waiters is Frank DeMace. His grandfather — Tiger DeMace — was the longtime owner of a restaurant that for decades had quite a name of its own: Mario’s.

boathouse-logo

 

Olympic Swimmer Hits The Y

Chad le Clos is a swimmer.

But not just any swimmer. The South African is an Olympic and Commonwealth Games champion. He’s ranked 1st in the world in the 50, 100 and 200 meter butterfly — and is the current world record holder in both the 100 and 200 meter butterfly

He heads soon to Windsor, Ontario for the FINA World Swimming Championships.

If he wins, he’s got the Westport Weston Family Y to thank.

For the past few days, he’s been training there. He has a connection with a Water Rat family, so the Wilton Road facility seemed a great fit.

Chad le Clos (in the water) with Westport Y Water Rat swimmers.

Chad le Clos (in the water) with Westport Y Water Rat swimmers.

This evening, he raced an exhibition 100 yard butterfly there.

Chad le Clos, on the Westport Y starting block.

Chad le Clos, on the Westport Y starting block.

Plenty of Water Rat swimmers, parents and alumni showed up to cheer him on.

Stop the presses: He won.

I'm no swim racing expert. But I'm sure that's a very, very good time.

I’m no swim racing expert. But I’m sure that’s a very, very good time.

Friday Flashback #17

Today’s Friday Flashback is different from most. There’s a reason.

(Photo courtesy of Ray and Patricia Donovan)

(Photo courtesy of Ray and Patricia Donovan)

The 1969 photo shows Jean Donovan on her horse Apple, at Fiddle Horse Farm. The farm was located the west side of Bayberry Lane, midway between Long Lots Road and Cross Highway.

Sam and Bernice Friedson owned it, as well as the Tack Room — a horseback riding supply store on the Post Road, opposite the old post office.

So why is this today’s Friday Flashback? It’s the 36th anniversary of the beating, rape and murder of 4 lay missionaries, by Salvadoran military men. Donovan — a 1971 Staples High School graduate — was one of those women.

Growing up in Westport, there was little evidence she’d become an internationally known martyr. She had a fairly secular upbringing here. She was introduced to horseback riding when she was young, and spent some of her teenage years riding and working at Fiddle Horse Farm. It was one of several working horse farms in Westport.

To share memories of those farms — or of Jean Donovan — click “Comments” below.

(Hat tip: John Suggs)

Staples Crosses Country For National Title

Slowly, methodically, the Staples High School boys cross country team has won increasingly important championships.

Okay, not slowly. Very, very quickly.

First came the FCIAC (league) title. Then the state LL (extra large schools) crown. After that: the state open, New Englands, and a close 2nd place finish at the Northeast regionals.

Tomorrow the squad chases the biggest prize of all. The Wreckers are in Portland, Oregon, where they will run in the Nike Cross Nationals. The event brings together the top 2 teams from every region in the US.

Cross country is not a huge spectator sport. But it’s a great one.

If you’ve got time tomorrow (Saturday, December 3, 2:35 p.m.), you can enjoy a live webcast of the race. Just click here.

And don’t worry about spending a lot of time watching. The Staples cross country team will cover the course — as usual — very, very quickly.

Staples cross country captain and star runner Zak Ahmad wins another race.

Staples cross country captain and star Zak Ahmad wins another race.

Save Cockenoe: Then And Now

Last month, “06880” previewed Walter and Naiad Einsel’s estate sale. I don’t usually promote that stuff — but the longtime local artists’ Victorian farmhouse was filled with thousands of pieces of folk art, antiques, paintings, prints and advertising items. It seemed like a great Westport tale.

Andrew Bentley was one of the many art lovers who was there. He says it was “more like a folk art museum than a house.”

Andrew wandered past mechanical toys, kinetic sculptures and books of illustrations, on into Naiad’s studio. Magic markers, colored pencils and scissors were all in place, as if she had gone downstairs for coffee.

Thumbing through a stack of posters, he spotted a large envelope. Inside was a shimmer of gold and bronze. Removing it, he discovered a beautiful metallic silk-screened “Save Cockenoe Now” poster.

save-cockenoe-now-poster

Bentley knew it was from the late 1960s, when Westporters opposed a plan to build a nuclear power plant on the island just a mile off Compo Beach. (Click here for that full, crazy story.)

But he’d only seen a black-and-white thumbnail-sized image of the poster, in Woody Klein’s book on the history of Westport.

Suddenly, he held an original. After nearly 50 years, he says, “the colors were still electric.”

Andrew turned to the stranger beside him. He explained that the poster represented a perfect confluence of Westport’s artistic heritage, revolutionary spirit and environmental priorities.

Then, in another Westport tradition, he gathered up as many posters as he could find, negotiated a bulk discount, and made a list of friends in town who deserved a gift.

In 1967, Westporters saved Cockenoe.

In 2016, Andrew saved its posters.

Both stories are worth telling.

(PS: Andrew Bentley designed the logo for The Flat — the new Railroad Place spot that mixes design, art and objects with contemporary lighting, accessories and jewelry. Owner Becky Goss has a few framed Save Cockenoe Now posters there, ready for sale.)

 

Too Much Trash?

We won’t say there’s a direct correlation between “06880”‘s recent posts about the garbage, parking and staffing problems at the new Westport Starbucks, and Howard Schultz’s decision today to step down as CEO.

starbucks-garbage

Then again, we won’t say there isn’t.

howard-schultz

O Christmas Tree!

With the help of a gaggle of little kids, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe lit the town Christmas tree this evening, on the Town Hall lawn.

Staples’ Orphenians sang. The Westport Historical Society provided hot chocolate. Youngsters gleefully counted down “3 … 2 … 1!”

Rockefeller Center it ain’t.

But it doesn’t have to be. Another Westport holiday season has “officially” begun.

Luke Rosenberg leads the Staples Orphenians.

Luke Rosenberg leads the Staples Orphenians.

Boys and girls help 1st Selectman Jim Marpe with the countdown.

Boys and girls help 1st Selectman Jim Marpe with the countdown.

The tree is lit. It's on the front lawn of Town Hall, on Myrtle Avenue.

The tree is lit. It’s on the front lawn of Town Hall, on Myrtle Avenue.

 

Tina Wessel Service: Time Change

The time for the funeral service for Tina Wessen — the well-known local homeless woman who died recently — has been changed, to accommodate arrivals from out of town.

The new time is 2 p.m., on Friday, December 9. The site is Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, in downtown Westport.

Meanwhile, the Westport Police — who helped secure medical services for Tina’s cat — have released this photo of her beloved pet:

tina-wessen-catThe cat is now safe and sound.