Category Archives: History

Happy Columbus Day!

Columbus Day is a holiday that’s fallen out of favor.

Christopher Columbus didn’t “discover” America. It was here all along, as every Native American knows.

He wasn’t even the first outsider to find the continent — not by a few centuries.

Today, Westport schools were not even closed.

Back in 1957 though, Columbus Day was a Big Deal.

In Mark Groth’s Saugatuck Elementary School 2nd grade classroom, Pat Bonardi — a 1st year teacher — had her students create a replica of the Santa Maria. They used packing crates, drawing paper and flower pots.

The Westport Town Crier immortalized their work:

Mark Groth stands proudly on the far left of the Santa Maria. Next to him are Ann Denues, Doug Golden, Paula Cairo, Sarah Waldo and Richard Fell.

Mark Groth stands proudly on the far left of the Santa Maria. Next to him are Ann Denues, Doug Golden, Paula Cairo, Sarah Waldo and Richard Fell.

Mark thanks his mother for saving that clipping, 59 years ago. He also thanks — and remembers — Miss Bonardi.

“When the time came around to pick 2 students for the Audio-Visual crew (rolling 16mm or filmstrip projectors around to classrooms), I had my hand up first,” he says.

Now he’s just retired — after 40 years as media producer at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

He worked with all kinds of fancy equipment there. And 2nd graders today — at the “new” Saugatuck El, on Riverside Avenue — probably use desktop animation software and tablet apps to create a 2016 version of the Santa Maria.

If they still teach about Christopher Columbus in school.

Westporters Renovate 2 Historic Structures. Now Neighbors Want Them Torn Down.

Most Westport preservation battles follow the same pattern.

A historic house is sold. The new owner wants to tear it down. Outraged residents object. Others point out that preservationists could have bought the home, but did not — and the people who did, can now do whatever they want.

In rare cases — like 93 Cross Highway108 Cross Highway, or the one across the street at #113 — the home is saved. It’s a handsome stretch on an important main road.

Further down Cross Highway though, something bizarre is happening.

Near the Fairfield border sits 188 Cross Highway. The gorgeous 2.9-acre property includes a saltbox built in 1728,  a barn circa 1790-1810, and 2 legal pre-1959 cottage apartments.

When the British marched past in 1777 en route to Danbury — taking brothers Benjamin and Daniel Meeker prisoner, and sacking the house — it was already half a century old.

The "Meeker house" in the 1930s, as photographed for a WPA project. After the Revolutionary War, Benjamin Meeker built the barn in back. It -- and the house -- still stand today.

The “Meeker house” in the 1930s, as photographed for a WPA project. After the Revolutionary War, Benjamin Meeker built the barn in back. They still stand.

The Schilthuis-Meeker house — Sally Schilthuis was influential in preventing construction of Merritt Parkway Exit 43 in the area, resulting in the current “No Man’s Land” between Exits 42 and 44 — is one of 5 remaining nationwide of original medieval structure Colonial revival construction.

In 2003, Mark Yurkiw and Wendy Van Wie purchased the property. It was in foreclosure. The houses were in distress, ready to be plowed under. But the couple saved the historic homes.

For 2 decades, they have poured time and energy into their renovation project. The result is gorgeous.

The exterior of 188 Cross Highway.

The exterior of 188 Cross Highway.

But it’s been costly.

And one couple can’t live in 2 houses. They live in the barn, and rented out the saltbox. The tenants wanted to buy. Mark and  Wendy would love to sell to them — as a practical matter, and to make sure the historic structure is loved, cared for and maintained as it deserves.

They’re even willing to add covenants to keep — in perpetuity — the historic house as a single-family dwelling; forever maintain the facade, and do whatever else is necessary to maintain the house where it is. In other words, no future owner could move — or demolish — the structure.

Right now though, they can’t sell. Planning and Zoning regulations don’t permit 2 homes to exist on 1 piece of property.

Sounds like a win-win: for Mark and Wendy, and the neighborhood.

But a small cadre of Cross Highway neighbors object.

At a Planning and Zoning Commission hearing on Thursday, they (and their lawyer) cited traffic, safety, density, the fact that the house is currently unoccupied, and the sight of dandelions on the lawn as reasons to reject the application.

A recent, sun-dappled fall day.

A recent, sun-dappled fall day.

After 2 hours of heated testimony — during which Wendy and her supporters countered most of the objections, then offered even more covenants and encumbrances to save the historic building and properties — the real issue came through.

Robert Yules and a few other neighbors opposed the subdivision because it would save the historic houses.

He said essentially that the state of the property did not reflect his McMansion, and others nearby. The grounds — period gardens and stone walls, with cobblestone walkways — did not match his extremely well-kept lawn.

One more view of 188 Cross Highway.

One more view of 188 Cross Highway.

“Trash” and “eyesore” are usually not associated with painstaking historic rehab projects. But they were Thursday night.

It’s astonishing. Yet in this through-the-looking-glass tale, there’s something even more eye-popping.

In 2006, Robert and Susan Yules wrote to the P&Z supporting the efforts of their “friends and neighbors,” Wendy and Mark, on the “renovating and improving of the main house and free standing cottage/barn.”

The Yuleses added, “Their efforts have transformed the buildings significantly. Please permit them to continue to remodel the buildings as they will enhance the beauty of the neighborhood.”

An interior view of the bright, high-ceilinged renovated barn.

An interior view of the bright, high-ceilinged renovated barn.

They were not the only neighbors to appreciate Mark and Wendy’s work.

Others described how Mark and Wendy had “lovingly restore(d) these irreplaceable architectural treasures” to their “deserved place” in Westport and American history.

Now the Yuleses and a few neighbors have changed their tune. They believe a new, large construction better fits the neighborhood than a plan that would save 2 structures — lovingly restored, and paying homage to the days when history quite literally marched past the front door.

“Houses are only kept alive by their owners,” Mark says.

“This is very discouraging. We’re not trying to ‘win.’ We’re trying to give the town something.

This could be one of the most topsy-turvy tales I’ve ever told.

But don’t take my word for it. Drive by 188 Cross Highway. (That’s the official number. The mailboxes have always said 178 and 180). See for yourself. Then — if you want to contact the Planning & Zoning Commission — click here.

Oh My 06880 — Photo Challenge #93

Last week’s photo challenge was aimed at Connecticut history buffs.

Seth Schachter’s shot showed the topmost part of the historical interest marker at the Compo Road South/Post Road intersection. If — rather, when — you’re stuck at that light, you can see it amidst all the other signs and stuff.

The portion I posted showed only the state motto (“Qui Transtulit Sustinet”). Both Nancy Hunter and Jill Turner Odice knew that it means “He who transplanted still sustains.”

Jill also joined Elizabeth Thibault and Brandon Malin in identifying the sign. It points to the site “one mile south” where on April 25, 1777, 2000  British troops landed en route to their raid on a Danbury arsenal.

Compo Beach is a bit further away than one mile. But because so few people recognize the historic marker, who cares? (Click here for the photo and comments.)

This week’s photo challenge comes courtesy of Lee Scharfstein. If you know where in Westport you’d find this, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Lee Scharfstein)

(Photo/Lee Scharfstein)

Judith Hamer Helps Tell America’s Horrible, Inspiring History

Judith Hamer’s great-great-grandparents were slaves.

She earned a Ph.D., then served as director of education for the Rockefeller Foundation and was a professor at Columbia and NYU. She’s lived in Westport for 37 years, and raised 3 daughters here.

Those 2 worlds — slavery and professional achievement — intersected recently. Judith was a special guest at a preview before the official opening of the National Museum of African American History and  Culture in Washington, DC.

Judith Hamer (left), her sister Carolyn Thompson Brown, and brother-in-law Tim Eastman take photos at the National Museum of African American History and Culture preview. (Photo/Marvin Joseph for the Washington Post)

Judith Hamer (left), her sister Carolyn Thompson Brown, and brother-in-law Tim Eastman at the National Museum of African American History and Culture preview. (Photo/Marvin Joseph for the Washington Post)

Judith and her sister, Carolyn Thompson Brown, donated several artifacts to the 5-story museum, a proud and important new addition to the Smithsonian just 3 blocks from the White House.

One of the items was a photograph of their great-great-grandparents, Philip and Maria Johnson. Born in Virginia, he spent 50 years a a slave. But after the Civil War — and freedom — the couple bought a small farm in Virginia.

Around 1880, they posed for a photo. The Washington Post described them as “wearing heavy clothes, faint smiles and the mantle of freedom.”

Smithsonian curators turned that image into a wall-sized poster. It hangs as an introduction to the museum’s section on Reconstruction and Jim Crow.

Judith Hamer and her sister donated this photographer of their great-great-grandparents, Philip and Maria Johnson. The white spot in the center is the glare from Judith's camera.

Judith Hamer and her sister donated this photographer of their great-great-grandparents, Philip and Maria Johnson. The white spot in the center is the glare from Judith’s camera.

Judith’s sister — who also earned a Ph.D. — knows the museum’s founding director, Lonnie Bunch III. When he asked for artifacts, she thought of films their father had taken in the 1940s. What was much more compelling, though, were the sisters’ older photos — and their father’s Cornell University banner.

Another image they donated shows their grandmother Laura Johnson Thompson holding their father Frank on her knee. He was born in 1903.

Laura Johnson Thompson -- Judith's grandmother -- holds Judith's father Frank. Judith says it was probably traditional for young boys to wear dresses for formal photographs.

Laura Johnson Thompson — Judith’s grandmother — holds Judith’s father Frank. Judith says it was probably traditional for young boys to wear dresses for formal photographs.

Laura married a Pullman porter, and moved to New York City. They owned a house, and some rental property. Their son Frank — Judith’s father — graduated from Cornell in 1924. His slightly tattered banner introduces the museum’s section on education.

Judith says that her and her sister’s donations — along with the entire museum — show “what black people could achieve when they were freed.” They demonstrate too what their descendants achieved, as they moved up into America’s middle class.

Judith Hamer and her sister also donated their father's Cornell banner to the museum.

Judith Hamer and her sister also donated their father’s Cornell banner to the museum.

The museum’s exterior is as impressive as what’s inside, Judith says. It stands adjacent — and in contrast to — the tall, white marble Washington Monument.

The Museum of African American History and Culture features lacy grillwork — an art form mastered by New Orleans slaves. It evokes, Judith says, “the dark shadow of slavery that haunted George Washington, the Founding Fathers. It still haunts us today.”

The haunting facade of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. (Photo/Judith Hamer)

The haunting facade of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. (Photo/Judith Hamer)

Judith says the museum “is the first representation of the singular contributions of black folks in America.” Her contributions are “important pieces of the whole story.”

But the new museum does not contain all of Judith’s artifacts.

Her great-grandparents David and Arnetta were born into slavery. They were freed in 1863. Three years later, they got married in Wake County, North Carolina. The certificate calls them “lately slaves, but now free.”

But the certificate lists David’s last name as Mordechai.

That had been his slave name. As soon as he was emancipated, he changed it to Thompson.

For the nearly 4 decades she’s lived in Westport, that framed marriage certificate has hung on her wall.

“It’s a nice counterbalance to my degrees, in case I ever forget where I came from,” Judith Thompson Hamer says.

I doubt she ever will.

And now — thanks to the contributions of her, her sister and many others — millions of Americans will never forget too.

(Hat tip: Harold Bailey)

9/11 “Taps”

An alert “06880” reader who has never emailed before — and who requests anonymity — shares a special moment:

A friend and I were walking today. We took a seat at Old Mill Beach, on the bench next to the old Positano restaurant. We’ve walked there many times, but never sat down.

About 10 minutes into our conversation, a man appeared on the sidewalk. He started to play “Taps.”

Everyone nearby stood. A young boy put his hand over his heart.

When the man finished, we applauded and yelled “thank you!” He gave a quick wave, then disappeared.

My friend and I — who on September 11, 2001 were both newly married, and living in New York — cried our hearts out, right there on the bench.

We felt badly we had not taken a picture of the man playing “Taps.” Then we realized no photo could have captured that experience.

I don’t know the man’s name. But I hope he knows what a special moment he provided to the handful of people fortunate enough to have seen and heard him today.


Birth, Life And Death: Westport’s 9/11 Babies

Nearly 3,000 people were killed on September 11, 2001.

Another 13,328 Americans were born that day.

Hillary O’Neill was one of them.

Her parents — Coleytown Middle School teacher Glenn, and Heather, a landscape designer — spent that awful morning at Norwalk Hospital. They watched on TV as the Twin Towers fell, the Pentagon burned, and the world wondered what would happen next.

Hillary arrived at 2:55 p.m. Outside the delivery room hospital staff rushed around, preparing for an overflow onslaught of victims from Manhattan who never came.

Hillary O'Neill (Photo courtesy of Esquire)

Hillary O’Neill (Photo courtesy of Esquire)

Today, Hillary turns 15. Her birthday feels like none of the other 364 days of the year. This month, published her insights.

Hillary says that her parents never tried to hide her unique birthday from her. They showed her videos and news stories about 9/11. She heard “the panic in people’s voices.”

When she was 9 days old, President Bush declared a war on terror. It’s been going on ever since. “It’s the norm for me,” she told Esquire.  “And I feel like it’s only going to get worse.”

Like her friends, the Staples High School sophomore thinks — and worries about — the high cost of education. Conflicts in the Middle East. Terror attacks.

But in the tales she’s heard about the day she was born, Hillary also finds hope. She says:

When I heard the stories about how 9/11 was in the days afterwards, I heard how everyone came together, and everyone was nicer to each other. To me, it’s important to be able to be that sense of hope. I know some of our family friends lost their spouses or parents, and on my birthday, they always make sure to send me a card or text. I think it’s such a hard day for them that thinking about it as my birthday is a lot easier—something happy on a day that would otherwise have no joy.

For me, my birthday is big because it’s happy and marks me getting older, but for the rest of the world, my birthday means one of the worst days they can remember. On my birthday—I don’t know how to put it into words. Conflicting, is what I’m trying to say.

It’s conflicting emotions, because I feel like it’s really important to have a day to remember the victims of 9/11, but I also want to celebrate. I’ve come to the point now where I can find a way to do both. Now, honoring victims has become the celebration of my birthday—like volunteering, which I did last year. That’s just as good as any celebration to me.

Heather and Hillary O'Neill. (Photo courtesy of Esquire)

Heather and Hillary O’Neill. (Photo courtesy of Esquire)

I’m proud to be an American. I’m glad I live in a country where change can happen, even though it might be difficult. My dad for example, he’s from Ireland, and when he moved here, his whole family wanted to be in America because it represented this hope and future you could have. It’s represented hope for so many people from other countries. I feel like we need to get that feeling back.

Being born on 9/11 is a part of who I am. It’s a responsibility to bring hope to the world that I try to carry with me every day.

(Click here to read the full Esquire interview with Hillary O’Neill.)

Another Staples High School student — Gabriel Dick — was born 6 days after Hillary.

His birth was tinged with even more sorrow: His father was killed when the North Tower collapsed.

He never knew his dad, Ariel Jacobs. But Gabi imagines him on the top floor, he told

“I think he knows he’s gonna die, but he’s at peace and he’s just hoping my mom and I are gonna be okay.”

Gabi believes his father is “out there — somewhere, guiding me along my path in life.” He and his mother release red balloons on 9/11, with notes to Ari.

Gabriel Dick (Photo/Abbie Townsend Venture Photography Greenwich)

Gabriel Dick (Photo/Abbie Townsend Venture Photography Greenwich)

Fifteen years later, Gabi says, “I know that I missed out, but I don’t need people to feel sorry for me because there’s nothing for me to remember. I just need them to understand that I lost something.”

(Click here to read the full People magazine interview with Gabriel Dick.)

(Hat tip: Kerry Long)

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Sherwood Island Shines Today

You could say that Sherwood Island made lemons lemonade out of lemonade lemons.

A better analogy would be: The state park’s admirers and friends made foie gras out of goose poop.

Less than 2 weeks ago, “06880” published alert reader Ellen Bowen’s complaint that the 9/11 Living Memorial there — Connecticut’s tribute to state residents lost on that tragic day 15 years ago — was an unkempt disgrace.

Very quickly, several things happened.

Tony Palmer — owner of T. Palmer Landscaping and Anthony’s Nursery and Garden Center, both in Westport — donated a 3-man crew. Working gratis for 2 days, they weeded, pruned rose bushes, cleaned and helped the overworked, under-budgeted park staff get the memorial in tip-top shape.

Tony returned this week, with a mission. He made sure that everything was perfect for today’s 5:30 p.m. ceremony.

Other volunteers turned out yesterday, to weed, clear and prune a large garden bed that visitors pass on their way to the memorial.

The garden bed on the way to the Sherwood Island 9/11 memorial.

The garden bed on the way to the Sherwood Island 9/11 memorial.

Bowen’s story also brought attention to Friends of Sherwood Island. The non-profit does important, seldom-noticed work everywhere in the park. Its annual fundraiser — ShoreFest — is set for 6 p.m. tomorrow.

Local businesses and individuals rushed to offer goods and services for the silent auction.

In addition, a major donation — for ongoing plantings — was made to the Friends’ tree committee.

It’s easy for Westporters to overlook Sherwood Island. Residents may not realize Connecticut’s oldest state park is also home to our 9/11 memorial — and a robust organization that serves the entire 220-acre property.

Thanks to Ellen Bowen’s alert, more Westporters now do.

And many are doing whatever they can to help make Sherwood Island sparkle.

Hillary Clinton’s Westport Lover

Six years ago — shortly after Seth Schachter moved to Westport — someone knocked on his door.

The daughter of an elderly neighbor across the street did not offer a welcoming apple pie. Instead she asked, “Do you know who lived in your house?”

Seth had no idea. She said she’d be back in a few minutes.

The neighbor’s daughter returned with a copy of a 1999 Globe story. (The supermarket tabloid, not the well-regarded Boston newspaper.) It showed a photo of Schachter’s new house — next to the White House.

Globe photos of David Rupert's house, and Hillary's.

Globe photos of David Rupert’s house, and Hillary’s.

Turns out that 17 years ago, Gail Sheehy wrote Hillary’s Choice. The biography of the then-First Lady included an account of the “tempestuous” relationship between Wellesley College student Hillary Rodham and David Rupert, a government major at Georgetown University (where, coincidentally, a classmate was Bill Clinton — who had not yet met his future wife). Rupert and Hillary met when she spent her junior summer in Washington.

After the book came out, reporters hoping for more scrambled to find the First Lady’s former boyfriend. They found him on Rustic Lane, off Greens Farms Road — in the house Schachter now owns.

The reason Rupert was such a catch — and why satellite trucks raced to Westport — was because of Sheehy’s provocative writing. She said that Hillary kept the relationship “secret from some of the people in her life.”

She added: “Rupert was every bit as abrasive and competitive as Rodham.” But “he liked her spunk.”

David Rupert and Hillary Clinton, while they were dating.

David Rupert and Hillary Clinton, while they were dating. The Globe called him a “Jim Carrey look-alike.”

By 1969, Sheehy wrote, their long-distance relationship was suffering. However, Rupert “discovered something unexpected about Hillary: get her away on a weekend, and she could be playful.” (He did not tell Sheehy whether his girlfriend “inhaled,” but urged the author to “read between the lines.”)

Rupert felt he was Hillary’s “first true love.” In another book — Bill and Hillary: The Politics of the Personal, author William H. Chafe calls Rupert “her second serious boyfriend.”

And the Globe story quotes a neighbor of Rupert’s — presumably from Westport — as saying, “He was the man who made a woman out of Hillary.”

As a student at Yale Law School, Hillary made weekend trips to Bennington, Vermont, where Rupert had moved. But their differences grew, as neither was willing to relocate to accommodate the other.

In the Globe‘s words, “they would argue about politics, the Vietnam War — and make up with passionate love.”

Rupert and Hillary dated for almost 3 years. Her college friend Nancy Pietrafesa told Chafe, “they had an intense love affair.”

In the final stages of their relationship, Rupert told Sheehy, “I never stated a burning desire to be President of the United States. I believe that was a need for her in a partner.”

David Rupert, around 1999.

Instead, he headed toward the non-profit sector — “all very noble, but not where Hillary wanted to go.” He earned a master’s degree in management — from Yale, ironically — and became an executive with both public and private organizations.

(The Globe story called Rupert “pretty darn successful himself … happily married and living in a $500,000 house in Westport, Connecticut.”)

Back then, Rupert knew of Hillary’s relationship with fellow Yale Law student Bill Clinton. In fact, they started going out while she was still dating Rupert. “If you care for him, then go for it,” her boyfriend told her about Clinton.

Which brings us back — almost 30 years after they split — to the 1999 Globe coverage. A headline teased “Hillary’s Affair with Jim Carrey Look-alike.” The story compared Rupert’s Rustic  Lane house with hers — at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The full Globe story, with all its details.

The full Globe story, with all its details.

The Globe noted that when Chelsea Clinton discovered a photo of Rupert in her mother’s album, Hillary called him “a very special friend from a lot of years ago.”

I knew David Rupert. I spoke with him a few times about his brush with fame. Mostly, he was amused. I pressed him for details about his former girlfriend, but he kept mum.

He lived long enough to see her become not only First Lady, but also senator from New York and Secretary of State.

But he did not live to see Hillary Rodham Clinton become the 1st woman nominated by a major party to run for president of the United States. (And, no doubt, for Rupert himself to be rediscovered by the media). He died in May of 2009, at 61.

Which makes Seth Schachter’s Westport house just a minor — but very intriguing — footnote to American history.

The story on Hillary Clinton's romance with David Rupert was overshadowed by Globe stories about

The story on Hillary Clinton’s romance with David Rupert was overshadowed by Globe stories about Paul McCartney, Jackie Onassis, even Annette Funicello.

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Remembering Fred Hellerman

Fred Hellerman — an often unnoticed but hugely influential folk singer, guitarist, songwriter and producer — died yesterday at his Weston home. He was 89, and had been in failing health for several months.

In 1948, Hellerman joined with Pete Seeger, Ronnie Gilbert and Lee Hays to form the Weavers. Their renditions of songs  like “Rock Island Line,” “Midnight Special,” “On Top of Old Smokey,” “If I Had a Hammer,” “Kisses Sweeter than Wine” and “Wimoweh” were key to a national folk revival — and directly influenced many who followed, including Bob Dylan. the Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul and Mary.

In 1950, “Goodnight Irene” was #1 for an astonishing 13 weeks.

That same year — in part because of Hellerman and Seeger’s involvement with left-wing groups during the 1930s and ’40s — the Weavers were swept up in the McCarthy era Red Scare.

Weavers at Carnegie Hall

From right: Fred Hellerman, Lee Hays, Ronnie Gilbert and Pete Seeger.

Blacklisted, they were unable to perform in concerts, or on radio or TV. They broke up in 1952, but in December 1955 reunited for a legendary (and sold out) Carnegie Hall concert.

The Weavers continued (with a few personnel changes) through 1964. They released more than 25 albums during their time together.

Their Thanksgiving reunion concert in 1980, and a 2nd appearance 7 months later at Seeger’s Clearwater Festival, brought them back into the public eye. A 1982 documentary, “Wasn’t That a Time!” secured their place in music history. (It also inspired the 2003 parody, “A Mighty Wind.”)

The Weavers in 1980. Fred Hellerman is at right.

The Weavers in 1980. Fred Hellerman is at right.

Hellerman’s roots in the folk world ran deep. He performed with Woody Guthrie — and produced his son Arlo’s classic (and very long) epic “Alice’s Restaurant.”

Hellerman produced many more songs, working on some in his home studio on Goodhill Road.

I first met Fred when he was an Oscar’s regular. (He earned a spot on that legendary back-wall mural.) We continued our coffee conversations years later at Great Cakes.

Fred Hellerman

Fred Hellerman

I knew instantly he was one of the truly good guys. But it took many years before I realized what a huge name he was, and what he’d accomplished on the music scene. He would not offer too many stories — yet when I asked, he had some great ones. (Particularly about Dylan.)

Fred and I were of different generations. We shared many of the same political sentiments, though. I learned a lot from him.

I’m honored to have known this talented and genuine man, who shared his music with the world.

And I’m proud to have called him a friend.

(Fred Hellerman is survived by his wife, Susan Lardner, and his sons Simeon and Caleb. A memorial service — with music — will be held at a date to be determined.)


Ellen Bowen: Sherwood Island 9/11 Memorial Now An “Embarrassment”

“06880” reader Ellen Bowen recently visited  Sherwood Island State Park. She was stunned at the condition of the state’s official 9/11 memorial. Among the Connecticut residents honored there are several Westporters. 

With the 15th anniversary of that tragic day near, Ellen writes:

Imagine my surprise and disgust to find the plaques covered with goose poop,  and the walkways and grassy areas (including near the water fountain and picnic area) overrun and filled with weeds. The condition was disgusting. And I paid $9 to park.

(Photos/Ellen Bowen)

(Photos/Ellen Bowen)

I am appalled and saddened that a beautiful and contemplative place remembering the victims and heroes who lost their lives that day has become an embarrassment to our town and the state of Connecticut. I will share some of the pictures I took with the Friends of Sherwood Island, local and state government officials, and anyone else I can think of.

I hope they clean it up in time for the governor and 9/11 families’ visit, and the memorial service, on September 8. But I sincerely hope they consider maintaining the memorial on a year-round basis, and not just “for show.”