Category Archives: Friday Flashback

Friday Flashback #244

The real estate boom that began in the first days of the pandemic shows no sign of slowing.

Newcomers are not just buying. They’re renovating their properties. So are longtime residents, who — stuck inside their homes for months — decided to finally redo their bathrooms, bedrooms and kitchens.

Do you know how long you have to wait for a marble splashback these days?

Things were much simpler a couple of centuries ago.

Westport historian Deej Webb found this fascinating of the way we once lived. It’s a great shot, of a different time.

Deej does not know where this home was located. But he’s betting that someone in Westport does.

If you’ve got any idea, click “Comments” below. Ideas about where the home was, that is — not about any renovations needed.

PS: Looking at  the 2 folks in the doorway, someone might be able to date it too.

Friday Flashback #243

This has been one of the most beautiful springs in memory. Trees, flowers, bushes — the colors are eye-poppingly wondrous.

There’s only one thing missing: the beautiful tree that stood for decades in front of the old YMCA (now Anthropologie).

Of course, nothing lasts forever. Once upon a time, another large tree graced the Y’s corner on Main Street.

Look what happened:

(Photo courtesy of Seth Schachter, via eBay)


Friday Flashback #242

For the 2nd summer in a row, nearly every Westport restaurant will offer outdoor dining.

Viva Zapata has done it for decades.

Viva’s (as it’s universally known) has not changed much over the years. Here’s a view from the 1970s.

The menu is not much different either.

As for the prices … well, consider what your Westport home cost back in 1969, when this menu was popular, and Viva’s was in its first location. That was Post Road East (State Street), at the entrance to what is now Playhouse Square.

(Photos courtesy of Sam O’Mahony)

Friday Flashback #241

As Main Street enjoys a renaissance — gelato shops! Sundance! something to replace Banana Republic and Bobby Q’s! — it’s worth looking back at what our main downtown drag used to look like.

No, not half a century ago, with stores like Selective Eye, the African Room and Mark’s Place. I’m talking the turn of the century. Last century.

This 1901 Sanborn map was posted to social media by William Weiss. It describes what types of stores were where, as the 20th century began.

On the west side of Main Street — where the Saugatuck River lapped up against the backs of shops — there were a couple of laundries, several “meat” places, a paint shop, drug store, bakery, cobbler, flour and feed story, lumber store, and an enormous coal yard.

The east side of Main Street included a barber, tailor, and more butchers and grocery stores.

And that’s just in the block between the Post Road (State Street) and Elm Street. (Just like today though, a few storefronts sat vacant.)

Click on or hover over to enlarge.

The Riverside Inn was aptly named. It sat right on the river, about where Starbucks is now.

Across Main Street was the Westport Hotel (misspelled on the map). Two decades later that became the YMCA; today it’s Anthropologie.

The primary occupant of Church Lane was a horse shed. That later became a fire station. Now it’s Bedford Square.

Anyone predictions of what a Sanborn map of downtown Westport in, say, 2101 would look like?

Friday Flashback #240

Jim Marpe will not run for a 3rd term as first selectman.

It’s a 24/7 job. He’s on call every night, for everything: hurricanes, blizzards, fires and floods.

That’s in addition to his daily routine: meetings with department heads, commission chairs and state officials. Phone calls and e-mails. Budget preparation, constituent problems, COVID concerns.

Then there are the ceremonial duties. Marpe carried oversize scissors to scores of ribbon cuttings. He welcomed restaurants, real estate offices, banks and stores to town.

The famous scissors. First Selectman Jim Marpe joined Munoz del Castillo family members and friends at the official opening of Bistro du Soleil, near the train station.

Those are typical ops. But our first selectman also knows how to have fun. Here’s a look back at some of Jim Marpe’s less-typical tasks:

Andy Berman, Police Chief Foti Koskinas and First Selectman Jim Marpe assume the push-up position at a charity event.

Marpe sent an electric car on its way at the 2014 rally. Earlier that year he drove Robin Tauck’s Tesla for a week. He loved it.

Enjoying the 2016 Staples High Pops Concert at Levitt Pavilion.

The first selectman and his wife Mary Ellen volunteered at the Rotary Club’s 2016 Lobster Fest.

In 2016, he also volunteered at First Night.

A gaggle of children joins 1st Selectman Marpe (center), 2nd Selectman Jen Tooker (left) and the Staples Orphenians, counting down before Westport’s 2019 holiday tree lightning ceremony at Town Hall.

Friday Flashback #239

As Westport’s downtown renaissance continues, Seth Schachter sends some fascinating postcards from a far different era.

All 3 show “Fountain Square.” The Post Road (then called State Street)/Main Street intersection was as heavily trafficked — for its time — as it is today.

One of the main attractions was a fountain — actually, a horse trough. (“Trough Square” does not have quite the same ring.)

This 1906 view shows the view looking north on Main Street. The first few buildings on the left look similar to today. The Westporter Hotel (right) was replaced in 1923 by the YMCA.

The view below — also from 1906 — looks west on State Street, toward the Saugatuck River and Norwalk. The building in the center of the photo would soon be demolished for — as the postcard says — “the new Jesup Library.” It would be expanded in the 1950s toward the west.

In 1986 the Westport Public Library moved to its present site near Jesup Green; it was replaced by, among other tenants, Starbucks, Freshii and the recently closed Pop’TArt gallery.

In the scene below, similar to the first photo above — probably from the 1920s — the YMCA had already been built (right). A small park outside the library can be seen at the left. The Main Street streetscape is very recognizable.

A horse drinks contentedly from the trough.

And the street is just as rutted as it is now, a century later.

Friday Flashback #238

The news that not one but two gelato shops are coming to Main Street is mouth-watering. They’ll be packed, and add plenty of life to downtown.

But they won’t be the first such places.

In 1954, the Ice Cream Parlor opened where Brandy Melville is now. It was an instant hit. Fred Cantor found this story from that year:

Several years later, the Ice Cream Parlor moved to Compo Shopping Center, where Cohen’s Fashion Optical is now. Its final location was on Post Road East just past Colonial Green, in what is now an office building.

Generations of Westporters remember the Ice Cream Parlor’s wrought iron chairs, penny candy, ice cream concoctions, and the “Pig’s Trough.” If you finished it, you didn’t have to pay. It was $69.95 half a century ago. That’s serious money.

A small portion of the Ice Cream Parlor menu. “The Pigs Trough” cost $69.95 — but was free if one person could eat it all in 3 hours. Above it was the “Staples Fruit Delight,” a large $2 sundae.

And of course, there was the menu, signed by everyone famous who ever enjoyed the Ice Cream Parlor.

Today’s kids are making their own childhood memories at Saugatuck Sweets — the modern-day Ice Cream Parlor.

Soon, we’ll add gelato shops to the mix. Here’s wishing them long, fruitful lives here.

And if they really want to win our hearts, they should add a Pig’s Trough.

Friday Flashback #237

As the real estate market continues to sizzle, Seth Schachter sends a couple of reminders that Westport has long been a favored destination.

And that realtors have long used lots of prose to sell homes.

The September 1925 edition of “Country Life” noted that “Amid century old trees … there is an old Colonial home available to him who seeks the peace and seclusion of the old order, together with the improvements of the present day.”

The 9-room, 2-bath (!) house featured old-fashioned fireplaces. However, it was also “equipped with electricity.”

The property included a large barn, old smokehouse and trout stream. Plus, of course, 49 acres of woodland and open fields.

All yours, for just $27,500.

Much has changed in the past 96 years. For example, Westport is now further from Grand Central than 75 minutes.

A second ad, also from “Country Life,” highlighted a “Charming Island Estate in the exclusive residence colony at Green’s Farms, Connecticut.”

The 35-acre waterfront property boasted 2 houses, “large stone garage with housekeeping apartments for chauffeur and gardener,” a stable, large poultry plant, piggery, well-stocked aviary, greenhouse and boathouse; beautiful sunken garden, extensive vegetable garden, and broad, sweeping lawns, meadows and wooded land.

The main house, with 6 mater bedrooms, had 4 servants’ rooms (in a separate wing). The smaller included 3 master sleeping rooms, plus double maids’ rooms.

The clincher: “Owner wiling to divide if required.’

Friday Flashback #236

“06880” recently took a deep dive into local artists.

We ran a contest to identify the creator of a work — perhaps an ad or magazine illustration — that Alan Neigher unearthed.

We posted automobile advertising art that used Pack Roads and Main Street as backdrops.

This week we feature one of Westport’s — and America’s — best known illustrators.

Stevan Dohanos drew some of Saturday Evening Post‘s most memorable covers. (Along with postage stamps, commissions and plenty else.)

Much of his work included Westport scenes. A favorite model was his son Anthony.

Anthony lives far from here now. From the Big Island of Hawaii, he sent these reminders of his father’s work.

This was the old firehouse on Church Lane. In the 1970s it became part of the YMCA, when they expanded from the original building. Today — reimagined — it’s part of Bedford Square.

That’s Stevan Dohanos himself in the center, talking with firefighters. Check out the Dalmatian between them.

Here’s Anthony in the firetruck. Looking on with smiles are Dohanos, and Fire Chief Harold Shippey.

But life is not all fun and games. When the alarm comes in, the men race to the fire. The dog must stay behind.

Note the realistic map of Westport on the wall!

Friday Flashback #235

Last week’s Friday Flashback of the Pack Roads men’s store stirred plenty of memories.

And though Fred Cantor sent this newspaper clipping in a while ago, it fits now.

The photo caption from the October 21, 1965 Town Crier describes the scene: junior high musicians playing to celebrate an extension being built in the back of a downtown store.

The photo has everything: music, nostalgia (The Remarkable Book Shop) — and there in the background is Pack Roads!

This photo is timely today. Two book stores opened recently downtown: Barnes & Noble, and Westport Book Shop.

Four members of band are still around. Trace Burroughs is a noted artist (and host, with his brother Miggs, of a popular Westport Library podcast). Rick Castillo lives in Norwalk, Chip Jackson in New York, and Tony Pryor in North Carolina. All are still involved in music.

And while the event back in the mid-’60s heralded the expansion of a downtown business, nearly 60 years later Main Street and beyond is undergoing its own renaissance.

Play it again, Rogues!

BONUS FEATURE: After last week’s Friday Flashback, Peter Barlow sent me a dramatic photo he’d taken of Pack Roads back in the ’60s. I added it to the story, but it’s worth posting again:

(Photo/Peter Barlow)