Category Archives: Friday Flashback

Friday Flashback #29

As Bedford Square nears completion, it’s shaping up as a handsome addition to downtown. David Waldman has taken the original lines of the Bedford Building — the Tudor YMCA, built in 1923 — and extended them along Church Lane, then up across Elm Street.

But Bedford Square has nothing on the grandeur of its namesake’s estate.

E.T. Bedford —  director of Standard Oil, and philanthropist of (among others) Bedford Junior High and Bedford Elementary School — lived on Beachside Avenue, next to Burying Hill Beach.

Here’s what his house looked like in 1920:

e-t-bedford-estate-beachside-avenue-1920

He wasn’t the only wealthy Beachside resident. This is a view of “Nirvana” — E.B. Sturges’ home (and personal dock) — in 1909:

nirvana-e-b-sturges-residence-beachside-avenue-1909

Yet the Bedford influence was hard to avoid. That’s his windmill in the distance, toward the right side of the photo.

(Hat tip: Ken Bernhard)

Friday Flashback #28

Before South Moon Under. Before Klaff’s. Before Muriel’s Diner, shaped like a trolley car.

Before all that — on the block between what is now Taylor Place and the Taylor parking lot, across the Post Road from what is now Starbucks and what was then the very new Westport Public Library — stood this very handsome row of buildings.

klaffs-block-in-1915

Click on or hover over to enlarge. 

According to Seth Schachter — who sent this fascinating 1915 postcard — the area was traditionally called “Hulbert’s Block” (or perhaps “Hurlbutt’s,” for the famed Weston family). This is the first time he’s seen it called “Post Office Block.”

The post office is at the far right (with a bicycle leaning against the pole). A store belonging to Wm. E. Nash is in the center.

As a bonus, here’s the back of the postcard:

friday-flashback

The sender — “Leffer” — tells Miss Jeannette Smith (in beautiful penmanship) that’s he (or she) has marked the building in which he (or she) will live with an “X.” You can see it on the far right of the postcard — just above the post office.

Meanwhile — totally coincidentally — just yesterday I received this photo from Lee  Saveliff.

It shows the entire block — this time, from the perspective of the corner of the Post Road near Main Street. Taylor Place is on the left. Club Grill later became Muriel’s Diner. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

taylor-place-and-club-grill

Lee says that her great-grandparents — Leonard and Julia Gault — owned the Club Grill building. The larger one — closer to the river and bridge, with Pat’s Diner and Achorn’s Pharmacy (!) — was owned by the Klaff family.

This shot looks to be from the 1940s or ’50s. In November of 1974, the block burned to the ground. Lee saw the flames from her home, on Imperial Avenue.

Downtown Aerial View: The Sequel

Yesterday’s “Friday Flashback” featured an aerial view of Westport, circa 1965. Readers remarked on long-lost icons like the Victorian house on Gorham Island, and long-lamented additions like the Wright Street building.

In case you missed it, here it is:

Click on or hover over to enlarge.

And now — if you’d like to compare — here’s what downtown looks like today.

downtown-westport-aerial-view-2016

Alert reader Glenn Payne sent along this Google Earth view.

You can tell it’s recent, because Bedford Square is under construction, and the Kemper-Gunn house has already been moved from Church Lane to Elm Street.

Click on or hover over both images to enlarge. They get bigger — just like downtown did.

Friday Flashback #27

As Bedford Square nears completion — and an Elm Street/Baldwin parking lot land swap is back in the news — it’s a great time for a bird’s-eye view of downtown Westport, 1965-style.

Click on or hover over to enlarge.

Click on or hover over to enlarge.

It’s tough to see the old Y (new Bedford Square), or any part of Elm Street, thanks to the trees. But this photo — by R.P. Lentini, courtesy of alert “06880” reader Matt Murray — intrigues me for several reasons. Among them:

  • The old Victorian house still stood on Gorham Island
  • The Wright Street building was a decade in the future
  • The building between Christ & Holy Trinity Church, and what is now Seabury Center.

What stands out for you? Click “Comments” below.

Friday Flashback #26

Last month’s Women’s March on Washington was quite an event. It drew dozens of Westporters — some of whom had never participated in anything like it before. They returned home excited, energized and empowered.

Just imagine how the women of the Westport Equal Franchise League felt, when they participated in Suffrage Week activities right here in 1913.

Kathie Motes Bennewitz — the town art curator and amateur historian who unearthed all this information — provides a clipping from the Bridgeport Evening Farmer of November 13 of that year. It says:

A meeting of the Westport Equal Franchise League was held at the home of Mrs. Rose Barrell on Myrtle avenue yesterday afternoon. The final arrangements for the Suffrage Week which will be held next week was made. The first gun of the week will be fired on Sunday evening when the Rev. K. McKenzie will address the gathering at Holy Trinity church at 7:30 o’clock. On Monday a rally and parade will be held which will be followed by addresses.

The parade will form at the corner of Myrtle avenue and Main street and will march to the Square. A brass band has been secured and it is expected that a large number of women will be in line. After the parade a rally will be held at which the following will give addresses: The Wage Earning Women, Mrs. E. Gregory of South Norwalk; The Necessary of Mother’s Vote, Mrs. Robert Fuller; Probation Work by Mrs. D. O. Parker of Greenwich, who at present is probation officer of that town; Taxation Without Representation, Mrs. Rose Barrell. The other speakers of the evening will be Mrs. G. C. Brown, Mrs. Rufus Putney and others.

How did the parade and rally go?

We don’t know. There was no follow-up report.

However, Kathie did find out that the Westport Equal Franchise League — to support women’s right to vote — had been formed a year earlier, in March 1912.

And Kathie learned that the 1913 Suffrage Week events in Westport were part of a national movement, kicked off by a parade in Washington, DC.

The women's suffrage parade marches down Pennsylvania Avenue on March 3, 1913. The National Park Service did not offer a crowd estimate.

The women’s suffrage parade marches down Pennsylvania Avenue on March 3, 1913. The National Park Service did not offer a crowd estimate.

The Westport Equal Franchise League kept going. The participated in the Hartford Suffrage Parade on May 2, 1914.

Six years later, the 19th Amendment — giving women the vote — became the law of the land.

A poster for the Hartford suffrage event. Westport women participated.

A poster for a Hartford suffrage event.

Friday Flashback #25

A few weeks ago, alert “06880” readers were identified the 1920s-era Flambeau Tea Room.

Now how about the Westover Inn?

westover-inn

The front view of this postcard — courtesy of Seth Schachter — looks like it really could be in Westport.

Or anywhere else in New England.

I’ve never heard of it. Seth hasn’t either.

But — according to the back of the postcard — it was right there on the Post Road.

westover-inn-back-of-card

There’s one clue as to its vintage: the phone number. Those were the days when you needed only 5 digits to make a call.

Sometime in the 1950s, Bell introduced the “CA 7” (for CApital) prefix to Westport.

If you have any memories of the Westover Inn, click “Comments.”

And if you know where it was located, we’d really like to know.

Friday Flashback #24

“06880” readers like our Friday Flashbacks. This one they’ll love.

Actually, it’s a two-fer. Back in the day, Westport was home to not 1, but 2, sanitariums. (Sanitaria? Whatever. If you’ve forgotten your medical history, a sanitarium was a hospital for the treatment of chronic diseases, often tuberculosis or mental disorders.)

The best known and most visible was originally the former mansion of Henry Richard and Mary Fitch Winslow. Built in 1853 and named Compo House, the palatial home was surrounded by guest houses, servants’ and gardeners’ quarters, and gorgeous gardens. Former president Millard Fillmore was a visitor, and extravagant fireworks were shot off there every July 4th.

By 1907, it had become the Westport Sanitarium. Here’s how it looked then:

westport-sanitarium-1907-now-winslow-park

The building was torn down in the 1970s. It had long earlier fallen into disuse, becoming an attractive nuisance to teenagers, drug users and other random folks.

No wonder. It was just a few steps away from downtown, on land bordered by the Post Road and North Compo.

Today, it’s the site of a dog park. Its name is Winslow, in honor of the original owners. The sanitarium is the reason for all those asphalt paths, in places you’d never expect them.

Our 2nd sanitarium — named for its owner, Dr. McFarland — was on Long Lots Road. In later years it became a full-fledged psychiatric hospital, called Hall-Brooke. A building visible from Long Lots was renamed McFarland Hall.

This is what Dr. McFarland’s Sanitarium looked like in the early 1900s:

dr-mcfarlands-sanitarium-hall-brooke

The photo above is of the main building. The other building was visible for many years from Long Lots.

If you’ve got memories of either sanitarium, click “Comments” below.

(Photos courtesy of Seth Schachter)

Friday Flashback #23

Alert “06880” reader Dana Pronti emailed this photo. It’s a 1930s view — looking east on Newtown Turnpike — at what is now the Country Store on Wilton Road. The photo was taken from where the Three Bears restaurant once stood.

wilton-road-lookingi-from-3-bears

Click on or hover over to enlarge.

That’s now the site of Chabad Lubavitch.

Here’s today’s view, from the same spot:

(Photo courtesy of Google Earth)

Has it changed much? You be the judge.

Friday Flashback #22

In the early 1950s, Peter Barlow took this photo:

westnor-diner-1950s-peter-barlow

Here’s the back story. The car-carrying  truck was parked outside the Westnor Diner one evening. The Westnor was on the corner of Post Road West and Sylvan Road North — where J. Pocker and Belmondo are now. The diner’s name comes from its Westport location, near Norwalk — get it?

In those days — before I-95 — all trucks traveled on the Post Road. It was a mess. As much as we loathe the highway, it’s taken tons of traffic off our streets.

Peter — who took this photo with an amateur camera (using a flashbulb) — figures that with all the snow on the truck, the driver was inside “having a leisurely meal.”

This is a serene scene. But directly across the street, a few years earlier — on May 2, 1946 — a truck blew a tire, smashing into a drum filled with vulcanizing cement.

The resulting explosion set off a spectacular blaze. Fire chief Frank Dennert, former fire chief Francis Dunnigan, and 2 other firefighters were killed. Eight people were injured. It was one of the worst disasters in Westport history.

Friday Flashback #21

Tomorrow afternoon and evening, hundreds of families will flock downtown for First Night.

The scene — in the Taylor parking lot and along the Riverwalk, on the banks of the Saugatuck and looking toward National Hall — is a bit different now than in the late 1950s or early ’60s.

That’s when Peter Barlow snapped this photo. He was testing lenses for a local camera shop.

And we think traffic is bad these days!

(Photo/Peter Barlow)

Click on or hover over photo to enlarge. (Photo/Peter Barlow)