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DISCLAIMERThis blog is personal opinion, and is not representative of the views of the Westport School District or Board of Education.
Category Archives: Downtown
No one is alive today to remember, but in 1906 the cornerstone was laid for a new Westport Public Library.
Since 1877, residents had had access to books, magazines and newspapers — contributed by their neighbors — on the 2nd floor of the Hurlbutt building on State Street (Post Road). That’s the block between Taylor Place and the entrance to the Taylor parking lot, by the river.
There were very few volumes, however. The public could check out books on Tuesdays and Fridays only.
The 1906 library was a gift from Morris K. Jesup. He donated land opposite the Hurlbutt building — near the corner of the Post Road and Main Street — plus $5,000 for construction.
Two years later — on April 8, 1908 — 300 Westporters turned out for the dedication. Morris Jesup was not there. He had died 4 months earlier.
In 1986 the library moved across Jesup Road — to landfill not there in Jesup’s day. Two renovations later, it is the pride of the town.
But back in another century, so was Jesup’s. The cornerstone still stands, though the building now houses an art gallery and other tenants. (Starbucks and Freshii are in an addition, from the 1950s.)
That cornerstone was last week’s Photo Challenge (click here to see). Dan Vener, Robert Mitchell, Tom Trisch, Christine McCarthy, Chip Stephens, John Hartwell, Elaine Marino, Bobbie Herman, Seth Schachter, Seth Goltzer, Linda Amos, Bruce Salvo, Susan Huppi and Mary Ann Batsell all knew exactly what the photo showed.
You could look it up. But they didn’t have to.
As for this week’s Photo Challenge, here’s a hint: It has nothing to do with a library. Obviously.
If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.
A few days ago, the New York Times ran a story about the Archive of Contemporary Music. The non-profit houses one of the world’s largest collections of popular music: over 3 million recordings, plus music books, memorabilia and press kids.
There are “shelves upon shelves upon shelves of vinyl records and CDs, signed Johnny Cash records… boxes of big band recordings, world music and jazz and original soundtracks.”
It also holds the bulk of Keith Richards’ famed blues collection. (He’s on the board of advisers.)
But rising TriBeCa rents are forcing the mammoth collection elsewhere. They’ve got until June to find a new space.
Nile Rodgers — the record producer and co-founder of the band Chic — is also on the Archive’s board.
Which raises an intriguing idea, first proposed by alert “06880” reader Jeff Mitchell. With those 2 luminaries so involved — and living in Westport and Weston, along with other great recording artists like Michael Bolton and Jose Feliciano, not to mention our long musical history of legendary concerts from Bo Diddley to the Doors; REO Speedwagon writing 157 Riverside about their time here; Johnny Winter and Joe Cocker recording and rehearsing in Westport — why not invite the Archive of Contemporary Music to set up shop here?
I’m (semi) serious. We already have a Museum of Contemporary Art (formerly the Westport Arts Center). a Westport Museum for History and Culture (most recently the Westport Historical Society), plus the Westport Country Playhouse (unchanged after 90 years). This would be one more cultural attraction.
Where would they go? That’s for wiser heads than mine to decide. But we do have an unused building sitting smack in the middle of Baron’s South.
And we keep talking about all those vacant stores on Main Street…
Well, that didn’t last long.
The Meatball Shop — the Westport outpost of the New York-based restaurant that opened on June 22 — will serve its last balls on Sunday.
A hostess who answered the phone tonight laid the blame on “expensive rent and not enough customers.” She said the staff was informed yesterday.
The Meatball Shop took over from The ‘Port. That restaurant lasted 13 months — twice as long as The Meatball Shop. Before that, the ground floor of National Hall was home to Vespa. Before that, it was Cafe Zanghi.
It’s a wonderful space — but huge. Parking is tight.
On the other hand, 2 nearby restaurants — OKO and Bartaco — are flourishing.
There is no word on what will replace The Meatball Shop.
After this story was posted, Adam Rosenbaum — The Meatball Shop CEO and partner — emailed this statement:
Yes, we will be closing our Westport location after dinner service this Sunday, January 12th.
We have really loved being a part of the community, and have been so lucky to have built meaningful relationships over the past 6 months. Breaking bread with neighbors is what we are all about, and we felt like Westport was the next spot for us. Unfortunately, although it was a tough decision, we have a lot on our plate for 2020.
We are currently focused on a large re-branding, to evolve and grow into our second decade. Highlighting our delicious, responsible and sustainably sourced menu…and also add a few more dishes that we know our loyal guests will be excited about! (https://www.themeatballshop.com/news-item/dear-ballers/ )
This means making some tough decisions to focus our efforts on the NYC market locations, with a few more exciting things to come this year!
We hope that the Westport community, and all of Fairfield County, will follow along on the journey, and we hope to revisit Connecticut soon.
Seems like there are a lot of wrought iron fences in town.
One surrounds Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. Another sits outside “Fort Apache” — the medical center on Kings Highway North,near Wilton Road.
Neither of those fences was last week’s Photo Challenge, though. Amy Schneider captured the one at Winslow Park. It was built for a previous use of the rolling land bordered by North Compo and the Post Road: originally handsome estate for Henry Richard and his wife Mary Fitch Winslow (click here for that amazing back story), then part of the mysterious and spooky Westport Sanitarium (click here).
The first person to correctly recognize that fence was Fred Cantor — though he qualified “Winslow Park?” with a question mark.
We see that fence all the time, stuck at that Post Road/Compo traffic light. Next time, look a bit more closely.
Today’s Photo Challenge is a cornerstone. No one is alive today who remembers it being laid — but it was an important one. Click “Comments” below if you know where it is.
Last month, a Friday Flashback featured a handsome Al Willmott painting of old-time Westport, with National Hall, the Post Road bridge, and a merchant ship. For years, it hung in Dr. Peter Ferrara’s dental office.
Now practicing in Shelton, Dr. Ferrara still loves this town. He sent along another favorite Willmott painting from his office.
For a couple of decades, Ships anchored downtown. At the corner of the Post Road and Taylor Place — replacing the longtime Colgan’s and Thompson’s drugstore — it was the restaurant to go, for any occasion: meeting friends. Showing Westport to out-of-towners. In the middle of shopping. Before or after movies a few doors away.
And — on a cold winter’s day, like Willmott painted — there was nothing better than Ships’ lobster bisque.
But a glimmer of hope can be seen on an empty storefront at 180 Post Road East. There — directly opposite Le Penguin — a sign announces that 180 Chez is opening soon.
From the outside, it looks enticing. From the words on the website — oooh la la!
Chez 180 is a unique patisserie & experience, offering contemporary desserts, fresh baked breads and pastries, artisanal coffee and beverages, as well as a wide variety of savory creations to satisfy every palate.
Enjoy a culinary experience, and discover a menu full of fresh local ingredients highlighting superior quality and taste.
Chez 180 is the creation of Carlos Perez. He trained at the French Culinary Institute, then worked at top New York restaurants before returning home to Connecticut.
In 2006 Perez opened La Palette Bakery in Watertown. He operated it for 13 years, while also working as an executive chef. He closed La Palette in June, to pursue Chez 180.
The website notes: “With dreams coming to fruition, Chef Perez and the team at Chez 180 look to bring a whole culinary experience, ranging from sweet to savory, to Westport and surrounding communities.”
Who needs pizza? Soups, sandwiches and salads? Or even shirts and pants?
Pretty soon, we’ll have Chez 180.