Category Archives: History

Uncovering 300 Years Of Church History

In 2011, Green’s Farms Congregational Church celebrated its 300th anniversary.

The other day, operations director Claire England sent me a copy of a souvenir brochure, produced for that occasion.

I’m amazed I didn’t see it earlier. It’s filled with astonishing stories, intriguing sidelights, and tons of fun facts.

I’m sorry it’s taken me 6 years to get around to reporting on this. But after 3 centuries, that’s not so bad.

Here are a few things I learned:

† In colonial days, communities were led by their churches. The term “1st selectman” — for our town’s leader — dates back to the days when the secular leader of the church was “selected first.” Even after Westport was incorporated in 1835, Green’s Farms Congregational members served as 1st selectmen. In 1997, Diane Goss Farrell — a Green’s Farms congregant — was elected 1st Selectwoman.

Before services were announced by a drum or bell, early settlers were called to worship by the beating of 2 thin strips of board, from a high hill.

So, the brochure asked, was Clapboard Hill named for the excellent quality of building wood that was harvested there, or for its great location that allowed worshipers to hear the clapping of the boards?

An early map of Green’s Farms. Turkey Hill and Clapboard Hill are in the center. The 1st church site (now marked by Machamux boulder) is just below that. The 2nd site is marked “Colonial Church” (center left). “Third and Fourth” Churches are also noted at the top. Green’s Farms’ founding Bankside Farmers properties can be seen along Long Island Sound. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

 In 1742, Reverend Daniel Chapman — who had served as minister since the church’s founding 31 years earlier — was dismissed. The reason: He “hath led for several years an Eregular [sic] life …in being sundry times overtaken in drinking to excess.”

150 years later, then-Reverend Benjamin Relyea noted: “In those times, when it was an act of discourtesy in making pastoral calls to refuse to partake of something from the array of decanters which always stood upon the sideboard, the only wonder is that any minister ever went home sober.”

After the British burned the 2nd Green’s Farms Church (located near the current commuter parking lot, at the corner of what’s now the Sherwood Island Connector and Greens Farms Road), services were held in private homes for 10 years.

Meanwhile, the new American government compensated our local church for its losses during the war with land in the Ohio wilderness, known as the “Western Reserve.” The church later sold its Ohio lands, to raise money for the new meeting house (on Hillandale Road, site of the current building).

Lucy Rowe’s headstone.

The original Bankside Farmers — founders of Green’s Farms parish — owned slaves. A century later, many freed slaves lived in Green’s Farms as respected residents. When slavery was finally abolished in Connecticut in 1848, the “last of the slaves” — Charles Rowe — was church sexton. He lived on Hyde Lane, near where Long Lots School is now. He and his wife Lucy are buried in the Green’s Farms Upper Cemetery (adjacent to the current church.)

The church’s original burial ground still stands, on the corner of Green’s Farms Road and the Sherwood Island Connector. The oldest gravestone belongs to Andros Couch, who died in 1730 at 57. Also buried there are the church’s 1st 3 ministers, who served for a total of 110 years; several sea captains, including Franklin Sherwood, and Dr. Ebenezer Jesup — a surgeon in George Washington’s army — along with his 3 wives.

In 1911, the church celebrated its 200th anniversary by commissioning a bas-relief plaque honoring past ministers. The artist was Gutzon Borglum — the same man who carved Mt. Rushmore. He seldom did small commissions — but friends in the congregation asked him for this one.

On November 25, 1950, the 100-year-old steeple crashed down during a hurricane. The weight of the bell carried it through the roof of the meeting house, into the Sunday School.

At the time, declining membership had already created doubts about the church’s future. Services attracted as few as 27 people, with the collection seldom reaching $5.

Insurance covered part of the steeple damage, and a subscription campaign raised the rest. Many non-members — calling the steeple a “landmark” and a “beacon” for sailors — contributed. That drive helped save the church. By 1957, membership had grown so large that 2 Sunday services were needed.

Part of the 1951 fundraising appeal.

There is much more of interest in the Green’s Farms Church’s 300-year historical brochure.

Here’s to its next 294 years!

Acorn Squash Soup Still Mmmmm Good — After 240 Years!

The Spotted Horse is not an old-fashioned place. It’s got a fresh menu, and a lively bar scene.

But it does call itself a “tavern.” It’s housed in a 215-year-old building.

And now it’s serving a dish from the Revolutionary War.

No, the acorn squash soup wasn’t made all those years ago. But it was popular then. And all the ingredients date from 1777.

The soup is tied in to the current Westport Historical Society exhibit. “The British Are Coming!” celebrates this month’s 240th anniversary of the Redcoats’ landing at Compo Beach.

(They were headed for Danbury, to burn an arsenal. We — well, some of our ancestors — surprised them along South Compo on the way north, then engaged them in a big battle on Compo Hill when they returned.)

As part of the exhibit, WHS board member Ed Hynes asked the restaurant to feature something from that period. They chose the soup.

Acorn squash was plentiful here then. Allspice — another key ingredient — was a popular import from the Caribbean.

Both Hynes and WHS immediate past president Ed Gerber have enjoyed the Spotted Horse soup. They call it “delicious.”

It will be featured all month.

At a 2017 — not, unfortunately, 1777 — price.

(For a full list of all “The British Are Coming!” events, click here. The exhibit runs through May 29.)

Acorn squash soup

Nash’s Pond: The (Way) Back Story

Like most Westporters, you’ve probably admired the blue house set back from Kings Highway North, near the busy Post Road intersection.

You may know that behind it is Nash’s Pond.

You may or may not know that the pond — probably big enough to be a lake — was named for the Nash family. In 1835 Daniel Nash was one of the men who helped incorporate Westport, as a town separate from Norwalk, Fairfield and Weston.

You probably do not know that a Nash descendant — also named Daniel — still resides in Westport. In fact, he and his family live in that blue house.

The former Nash ice house -- now Daniel Nash's home. (Photo/Frank Rosen)

The former Nash ice house — now Daniel Nash’s home. (Photo/Frank Rosen)

You almost surely do not know that it was originally an ice house. Or that Daniel and his wife Nicole have spent the past decade restoring it, so that future generations of Nashes can remain there too.

The next generation — his 7-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son — will be the 14th in Westport. The Nashes arrived around 1650, from southern colonies — more than 2 centuries before the ice house was built.

“We’re trying to spruce it up,” Nash says modestly. (He’s doing the same for several other buildings nearby, called “the compound.”)

He’s cleaned the foundation, brought the inside up to code, redone the vents, reshingled the roof and added molding. It now looks like a home, not a business.

But what a history it had.

The Nash family erected a dam in 1879, and built 3 identical ice houses the following year. Workers harvested the ice from the pond, and stored it through the summer. After being sawed into blocks, the ice was sent to New York City for sale.

“It was a booming business, until electrical refrigeration came along,” Nash says.

Nash’s Pond is magical in every season. (Photo/Peter Tulupman)

The family has had a number of different occupations. Nashes have worked as farmers, hat makers, cider makers, and of course ice merchants.

Daniel’s great-grandfather was the last Nash businessman. Daniel’s grandfather and father managed the property. He’s spent much of his time doing the same.

Growing up, he loved the area — the big rock outcropping, stone foundation and waterfall. Every winter, he skated on the pond named for his family.

He and Nicole were married on the pond.They moved into the ice house, fulfilling his childhood dream. As the couple had children, they “carved out” rooms inside for them.

“It’s a work in progress,” Nash says. “We want to make it look fresh for the town. It’s on a major corner, and everyone sees it.”

Daniel Nash is taking his time. He wants to make sure the renovation of the ice house into a home for future generations is done right.

After more than 360 years here, the Nash family continues to care about their town.

And take care of it.

(Hat tip: Frank Rosen)

Kindertransport Conversation Comes To Playhouse

Every day, the world loses Holocaust survivors.

In an age of rising anti-Semitism and distrust of “others,” hearing their first-hand stories is more important than ever.

Margie Treisman

Recently, Margie Treisman — a Westport Country Playhouse trustee and Anti-Defamation League national commissioner — was asked to help develop educational programming around an upcoming Playhouse production of “The Pianist of Willesden Lane,” about the Kindertransport children’s rescue.

She called Margie Lipshez-Shapiro. An ADL of Connecticut official and noted Holocaust educator, she knows almost every living survivor in the state who is willing and able to tell their tale.

Lipshez-Shapiro suggested Ivan Backer, a Kindertransport survivor who has written about his journey, and his life afterward. Backer will be at the Playhouse next Wednesday (March 29, 7 p.m.), as part of conversation called “From Hate to Hope.”

The event — sponsored by the Playhouse, ADL and TEAM Westport — is funded by the Anita Schorr “Step in and Be a Hero” Fund. Schorr — a longtime Westporter and Holocaust survivor who inspired thousands with her story of horror and hope — died last year. The event is free, but seats must be reserved by phone (203-227-4177). For more information, click here.

“The Pianist of Willesden Lane” follows a week later with a limited run at the Playhouse (April 5-9). The true story of a young musical prodigy, it intertwines the themes of family, hope and survival with piano selections by Chopin, Beethoven, Bach — even a little Gershwin. Click here for more information.

Westport Links With America’s Oldest Synagogue

You wouldn’t think that a recent “06880” story on an antique New York City map would lead to a Westport connection with the oldest synagogue in North America.

Then again, you wouldn’t figure that Luis Gomez was Jewish.

The piece focused on Westporter Robert Augustyn, and a 1740 map his company acquired. It was the first to show that synagogue, on Manhattan’s Mill Street.

Benjamin Gomes, great-grandson of Luis Moses Gomez.

Robert Jacobs quickly responded. He and his cousin Joel Treisman — both Westporters — are direct descendants of Luis Moses Gomez. The Sephardic Jewish immigrant, whose parents escaped the Spanish Inquisition, led the drive to finance and construct Shearith Israel — that first-ever New York congregation, founded in the late 1680s — and served as its first parnas (president).

But Jacobs’ story goes much deeper.

He is not a religious person. Yet in 1973, his family got a call from the owner of a house in Marlboro, New York. He was selling his property, which originally belonged to a direct Jacobs ancestor: Gomez.

In 1714, he had purchased 1,000 acres near Newburgh, New York. Later, with his sons Jacob and Daniel, he bought 3,000 more.

Gomez built a fieldstone blockhouse to conduct trade and maintain provisions in the Mid-Hudson region.

“Everyone thinks of the early settlers in this region as Dutch and English,” Jacobs says. “But there were some very important Jewish settlers too.” Gomez arrived in New York City in 1703.

Jacobs adds, “Jewish immigrants were not just the Ashkenazis and Russians of the late 1800s. Sephardic Jews were here too.”

They were world traders. Gomez’ family was involved in chocolate, potash, furs and other commodities. They also quarried limestone, milled timber — and donated funds to rebuild New York’s Trinity Church steeple.

Jacobs was just 27 when the Gomez house went on the market. He called his cousin, Treisman.

Robert Jacobs and Joel Treisman.

As they researched its history, they learned that Gomez was not the only fascinating character. During its 300 years, “Gomez Mill House” served as home to Revolutionary patriot Wolfert Ecker; 19th-century gentleman farmer and conservationist William Henry Armstrong; artisan and historian Dard Hunter, and 20th-century suffragette Martha Gruening.

Six years after buying the property, Jacobs’ family created a non-profit. In 1984 the Gomez Foundation purchased the Mill House, and established it as a public museum.

The Gomez Mill House today.

The house is being preserved as as a significant national museum. The oldest standing Jewish dwelling in North America, it’s on the National Register of Historic Places.

Jacobs’ foundation also offers programs about the contributions of former Mill House owners to the multicultural history of the Hudson River Valley. Over 1,000 children tour the museum each year.

Today, Jacobs says, “Freedom, tolerance and opportunity is one of the missions of Gomez Mill House.” The foundation’s work seems particularly timely today.

One of the lovingly restored rooms in the Gomez Mill House.

Jacobs and Treisman serve on the board. They’re joined by fellow Westporter Andrée Aelion Brooks. The former New York Times writer — an expert on Jewish history — lectures frequently for the foundation.

Not many people — even Jews — know about Luis Moses Gomez.

But Robert Jacobs, Joel Treisman and their family have spent 40 years getting to know their ancestor. The story they share is fascinating.

And Gomez Mill House is just an hour and a half away.

(For more information on Gomez Mill House, click here.)

Friday Flashback #31

Protests are nothing new in Westport. As noted a few Friday Flashbacks ago, they date back to at least 1913, when women of the Equal Franchise League participated in Suffrage Week activities.

Perhaps none were bigger though than the rallies against the Vietnam War. There were several, culminating in a National Moratorium Day march on October 15, 1969.

Over 1200 Staples students — joined by some from the 3 junior highs — marched from the high school tennis courts, down North Avenue and Long Lots Road, all the way to the steps of the YMCA.

The long line of marchers headed downtown. The A&P is now the firehouse; the Esso gas station is a Phillips 66. (Photo/Adrian Hlynka)

They carried American flags and wore buttons saying “Peace Now” and “Hell No, We Won’t Go.” Along the way, pro-war students threw eggs at the marchers.

There were adults downtown too, to hear speeches (including one from Iowa Senator Harold Hughes).

More of the enormous downtown crowd. The former Max’s Art Supplies is on the extreme left; what is now Tiffany is on the far right. (Photo/Adrian Hlynka)

It took 4 more years. But in 1973 a peace treaty was signed. Two years later, the last Americans were evacuated from the US Embassy roof.

A portion of the crowd — primarily Staples students — protesting the Viet Nam war in 1969. (Photo/Adrian Hlynka)

A Staples student states his case. (Photo/Adrian Hlynka)

A portion of the crowd in front of the Y. The Fine Arts Theater (now Restoration Hardware) was showing “Alice’s Restaurant” and “Medium Cool.” Police stood on the roof next door. (Photo/Adrian Hlynka)

The crowd was predominantly — though not entirely — made up of Staples students. (Photo/Adrian Hlynka)

Rabbi Byron Rubenstein of Temple Israel addresses the crowd from the steps of the Y. (Photo/Adrian Hlynka)

Selma’s Bloodroot Turns 40

In January, hundreds of local women protested the new president. Earlier this month, some skipped work to demonstrate the impact of “A Day Without a Woman.”

If they wanted a place to organize, strategize — and eat a delicious, healthful meal — they could have headed to Bloodroot.

For 40 years, the Bridgeport restaurant/bookstore has been a feminist hangout and outpost. It was there at the start of the women’s movement. It nurtured the hearts, minds and stomachs of generations of activists.

It’s still there. But how many people know of Bloodroot’s Westport roots?

In 1961, Selma Miriam was a self-described “mama with 2 kids.” A landscape designer working with the famed Eloise Ray, her one requirement for a house was that it have a garden.

She found a perfect spot on Hiawatha Lane. Nearly 60 years later, it’s still home.

During her first decade in Westport, Selma got involved in the burgeoning women’s movement. She was president of Westport’s NOW chapter. So was Noel Furie.

It was the 1970s. Women’s bookstores were opening around the country. Selma and Noel liked the idea.

They also liked to cook. The idea of a vegetarian restaurant/bookstore was born.

She and Noel looked at locations along the Post Road, and in Wilton. Everything was ugly.

Then they heard about a plot of land in Black Rock, right on Burr Creek. There was room for a garden. Birds flitted. The light was natural.

Bloodroot is tucked away, off a residential street in Black Rock.

Selma went to nearly every bank in Fairfield County. None would give a woman a mortgage — though they never said it quite that way.

Finally, Harvey Koizim — the founder of Westport’s County Federal Bank — agreed to a 10-year balloon mortgage.

Bloodroot opened in 1977, on the spring equinox.

Selma liked the idea of women working together, sharing common wisdom. She did not like the idea of women serving anyone. To this day, diners give their orders at a window by the kitchen, then pay. When meals are ready, their names are called. When they’re done, they bus their own dishes.

The menu, the kitchen, and Noel Furie.

It took a while for people — especially men — to understand Bloodroot. Salesmen would arrive, look at Selma, and ask for her husband.

Irene Backalenick wrote about Bloodroot for the New York Times. When an editor called to arrange a photogapher, Selma asked for a woman.

The paper sent a man. He used a fisheye lens, which Selma says “made all our heads look swollen.”

The other day — for a story on Bloodroot’s 40th anniversary — the Times sent another photographer. She was all over the place, taking hundreds of shots. Her husband — a Times opinion page editor — simultaneously served as her assistant, and held their 8-month-old baby.

“What a difference!” Selma says. “And it all seemed so natural.”

Selma Miriam, during a quiet moment at Bloodroot.

During its 40 years, Bloodroot has employed countless people: high school and college students, dropouts, middle-aged, part-time and full-time. All are women.

Several current employees come from Mercy Learning Center, Bridgeport’s literacy and life skills center for low-income women. They’re Haitian, Ethiopian and Congolese. “Such wonderful people,” Selma says. “They have great cooking knowledge. And an incredible work ethic.”

Bloodroot’s Ferris Avenue location — in the middle of a residential neighborhood — is not easy to find.

“We don’t get walk-in trade,” Selma says. “People have to find us.”

But find Bloodroot they did. They came for the food and/or the books. They stayed for the community.

One big change has been in the bookstore. In the beginning, Bloodroot played a huge role helping women find feminist books and magazines.

Over the years, two factors — Barnes & Noble, then Amazon — have destroyed women’s bookstores. (Including, ironically, the Amazon Cooperative in Minneapolis, the first feminist bookstore in the country.)

The bookstore section of Bloodroot.

Now, Selma says, she sells one book every couple of weeks. She took up the slack by publishing cookbooks. There have been 4 so far, plus a 2-volume “Best of Bloodroot.” There are calendars too, with 13 new recipes a year.

Of course, you don’t have to buy her recipes. Ask, and she’ll tell you. “The more we share with each other, the better we’ll all be,” she says.

At 82, Selma still loves Bloodroot. She is especially excited about the menu.

She continues to develop new dishes. She’s using more plant-based food, and has introduced vegan cheese, butter and whipped cream to diners.

The warm, welcoming interior of Bloodroot.

Three things keep Selma going. “The place is beautiful. I love to cook. And I love the diversity of people,” she says.

Her customers are loyal. (And — despite her initial belief that men would  not come — they include both genders.) The staff, in turn, feels a strong connection with their diners.

Selma has big plans for Bloodroot’s 40th year. She’s looking back by playing women’s music from the 1970s and ’80s.

And she’s looking ahead by inviting vegetarian restaurants from around the state to her place.

They bring their best dishes, to show Bloodroot customers the wide variety available. “I don’t cook Indian food or Jamaican food,” Selma says. “But that’s vegetarian too.”

She invites them for another reason too: to bring people together, in a warm, beautiful place.

That’s the community Selma Miriam created.

That’s Bloodroot.

(Click here for more information on — and directions to — Bloodroot.)

The British Were Coming! Jono Walker Was (Almost) There

Some Westport residents have been here a few years. Some grew up here. Some trace their local history back even longer.

Jonathan Walker is a 10th-generation Westporter. He traces his local ancestry to 1662. Three centuries later, Walker grew up in a house on the very same road — South Compo — where that pioneering Bennett family lived.

But that’s not even the most remarkable part of this story.

Walker — nicknamed Jono, as a member of Staples High School’s Class of 1970 — has just written his first book. “A Certain Cast of Light” is a tale of the Bennett and Walker families’ lives here in Westport during the Revolutionary War, and beyond.

Jessie "Gigi" Bennett -- Jonathan Walker's great-grandmother -- was born in 1862.

Jessie “Gigi” Bennett — Jonathan Walker’s great-grandmother — was born in 1862.

It’s fiction. But it’s based on a story Walker heard growing up, from his great-grandmother Jessie “Gigi” Bennett.

And it was told to her by her own great-grandfather. In other words, Walker spoke to someone with a living link to a time before the United States was even born.

Bennett’s great-grandfather claimed that — as a boy in 1777 — he climbed a tree and watched the British land at Compo Beach. He then saw them march past his South Compo house, on the way to burn an arsenal in Danbury. A few minutes later, Bennett witnesssed the skirmish near the Post Road.

Bennett told Walker’s great-grandmother that 3 wounded British soldiers were brought to his house. The reason: The Bennetts were Tories.

As Walker researched this fascinating tale, he discovered that the injured men were not “Redcoats,” as he’d always assumed. They were “Greencoats” — provincial loyalists who joined the British fight, with the promise they’d be granted land in Mississippi.

They were at the front of the column that day for 2 reasons. They knew the way to Danbury. And they knew which homes — including the Bennetts’ — belonged to Tories.

The story Walker heard included details like this: One of the injured men, Capt. David Lyman from New Haven, was operated on in the Bennetts’ house. Supposedly his leg was amputated, and the bone remained in the cellar.

Deliverance Bennett's house still stands on South Compo Road. It's where wounded British soldiers were taken, and "given succor."

Deliverance Bennett’s house still stands on South Compo Road. It’s where wounded British soldiers were taken, and “given succor.”

There was more to the lore. The owner of the Bennett house — the Tory named Deliverance — had 9 children. One was Gigi’s great-grandfather. But Deliverance’s brother, Joseph Bennett, lived up the street. He was a patriot — and a captain in the rebel American Home Guards.

How could one family be so divided? Walker always wondered. How did Joseph Bennett end up in Deliverance’s bigger house by the end of the war? Why was Deliverance — despite losing his standing in the community, and his property — allowed to remain here, and not flee to Nova Scotia like other Tories?

Those questions are at the heart of Walker’s new book.

In it, a fictional character — 13-year-old Haynes Bennett — climbs that tree and watches the British land. Defying his father, he joins the patriots. The book is written in Haynes’ voice, 50 years later, as the narrator tries to imagine why his Tory father acted as he had.

In writing “A Certain Cast of Light,” Walker says he drew on fights with his own father, Bill, over the Vietnam War.

Jonathan Walker

Jonathan Walker

The 1820 and ’30s — when Haynes “writes” the book — was a fraught time in Connecticut. Walker made his narrator an abolitionist. It was not an easy position to advocate. Like his father, he was tormented by neighbors.

Walker did his homework. He studied the privateers and “skinners” who roamed Long Island Sound, ensuring that New York City’s trade in tea, cotton, china — and slaves — could continue without interruption. In Fairfield County, emotions on both sides of the slave trade ran so high that neighbors poisoned each other’s wells. During the 1700s, Walker says, the Bennett family owned slaves.

Like the Bennetts’ history in Westport, Walker’s book spans many years. He started it during the 1970s, as a student at Union College. He’d heard stories, but that was the first time he actually thought about what it meant to be a Tory family during the Revolutionary War. Even then, he says now, he did not realize how dangerous that was.

Jonathan Walker grew up in this "poor man's farmhouse," across South Compo Road from the larger Bennett house.

Jonathan Walker grew up in this “poor man’s farmhouse,” across South Compo Road from the larger Bennett house.

In pre-internet times, Walker did his research at the Westport and Pequot libraries, and in New York City.

He figured he’d take 2 years to write his novel. But he got an MBA, became a father, and real life took over.

Three years ago — after retiring from a career in business — he returned to his book.

The cover of Jonathan Walker's new book.

The cover of Jonathan Walker’s new book.

Historical accuracy was important. Walker researched sailmaking, and apple tree farming. A book of 18th-century slang provided expressions like “that tarnal idiot,” and enabled him to write dialogue for college-educated Bennetts, as well as those who were farmers.

But one thing always bothered Walker. Though his ancestors were as important to Westport as families like the Burrs, Sherwoods, Coleys and Stapleses — in fact, Narrow Rocks Road was once called “Bennetts’ Rocks” — nothing here remains named for them.

Delving into the past, and writing his book, he realizes one thing: “We were on the wrong side of history.”

(Next month, the Westport Historical Society celebrates the 240th anniversary of the British landing at Compo Beach, march to Danbury and subsequent Battle of Compo Hill. As part of its programming, on April 18 [7 p.m.], the WHS hosts a talk by Jonathan Walker, and a book-signing. “A Certain Cast of Light” is available on Amazon and Kindle.)

Disgraced President’s Desk For Sale In Westport

If I had a desk belonging to the only President of the United States to resign, I probably wouldn’t want to sell it.

If I did want to sell it, I probably would use a high-end auction house. I probably would not put it on Craigslist.

And if I did put it on Craigslist, I’d probably put “NIXON’S DESK!!!!!” in the headline — all in CAPS, with plenty of exclamation points!!!!!

I’m just sayin’.

But right there on the New York Craigslist is this:

Gorgeous mahogany desk — $1450 (Westport)

And the photo:

But not until you read the text do you find (verbatim):

Mahogany desk. Spectacular.

This desk was president Nixons. I do not have a certificate of authenticity. But if you are interested and come see the desk I would be more than happy to tell you the story.

It’s 72″ x 36″ x 30″. The condition is “like new.”

And here’s the Craigslist map, showing where it’s located:

If an “06880” reader ends up with Nixon’s desk, please let us know.

And if you spot any Spiro Agnew furniture for sale on Craigslist, tell us too.

Robert Augustyn, Henry Hudson, And America’s First Synagogue

Today’s New York Times reports on a fascinating 1740 map. It’s the first to honor Henry Hudson for navigating “his” river — and also the first to show the first synagogue consecrated in North America, on Manhattan’s Mill Street.

The rare map is on display in New York for the first time. And — equally fascinating for Westporters — one of our neighbors played a key role in its acquisition.

Robert Augustyn

Robert Augustyn is a dealer in fine antique maps. He owns Martayan Lan Fine Antiques Maps, Atlases and Globes, the wonderfully named Manhattan firm that’s offering one of only 3 engravings of the John Carwitham map known to exist. It was discovered recently in a private collection in Italy.

In Manhattan in Maps 1527-2014, Augustyn explains that before 1740, calling the waterway “Hudson’s River” would have lent support to Dutch territorial claims. Hudson was English by birth, but had been hired by Netherlands businessmen.

Augustyn — who has lived here with his wife Katie since 1996 — has lent his map expertise to the Westport Historical Society, most notably in a 2011 exhibition. He’s involved in more contemporary activities too, including the library, Little League and A Better Chance of Westport.

The “Carwitham Plan” map can be seen through Sunday, at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair (Park Avenue Armory). If you’d like it for your wall, the minimum price is $125,000.

(Click here for the full New York Times story.)

Details from the 1740 Carwitham Plan map. “Hudson’s (or North) River” can be seen on the left. Click on or hover over to enlarge.