Category Archives: History

Memorial Day: We Remember

The photo below shows the World War II memorial on Veterans Green, across from Westport Town Hall, where a ceremony takes place after today’s parade (approximately 10:30 a.m.). Other monuments there honor veterans of other wars.

World War II is particularly important today. The grand marshal — Battle of the Bulge Purple Heart awardee Ben Pepper — will ride in the parade. His grandson will then read his speech, at Veterans Green.

If you’ve been to a Memorial Day ceremony on Veterans Green, you know how meaningful and powerful it is. If you’ve never been: make this the year.

Friday Flashback #349

Westport’s Memorial Day parade has been a town highlight for nearly a century.

But coincidentally, 2 parade photos from the same year — 1965 — popped into my inbox within a few days of each other last week.

One — posted by Paul Ehrismann on Facebook — shows a gaggle of kids and parents, turning the corner from the Post Road (State Street) onto Myrtle Avenue:

Their outfits — today, quite politically incorrect and culturally misappropriated — show they were part of the Westport YMCA’s “Indian Guide” program.

I was never an Indian Guide, so I don’t know whether they learned actual history or stereotypical myths about Machamux, the Pequots, and other people and tribes who lived here nearly 4 centuries ago.

But if I had to guess …

The other photo came from Adam Stolpen:

In 1965, Adam was a Staples High School student — and the one delivering a Memorial Day address. The site for the ceremony in those days was Jesup Green. (Today it’s at Veterans Green, across from Town Hall.)

Others in the photo include Westport resident and former Connecticut Governor John Davis Lodge (all in white, with a Navy cap); World War I veteran and grand marshal E.O. Nigel Cholmeley-Jones (to the right of Governor Lodge, with hands folded), and Temple Israel’s rabbi, Byron T. Rubenstein (seated at far left).

Adam thinks the man in uniform on the far right may be parade director Frank Cunningham.

The Memorial Day parade has endured for years. But over the past few years, attendance has been a bit down.

Yet it’s one of those things that makes Westport feel like a small town — and a very American one.

The parade begins Monday at 9 a.m., at Saugatuck Elementary School. The route takes it down Riverside Avenue, then onto the Post Road and Myrtle Avenue, ending at Town Hall.

A very inspiring ceremony — with brief speeches, patriotic music, a 21-gun salute and a tribute to grand marshal, 99-year-old World War II veteran Ben Pepper — follows, around 10:30 at Veterans Green.

Don’t miss it! And maybe 58 years from now — in 2083 — your picture will be part of a “Friday Flashback” too.

(“06880” is as “Westport” as the Memorial Day parade. Please click here to support our work. Thank you!)

Photo Challenge #437

George Washington slept at the Marvin Tavern.

He only ate (and/or drank?) at the Disbrow Tavern. But that’s the one with the plaque that was featured as last week’s Photo Challenge. (Click here to see.)

The Disbrow Tavern — which the Father of Our Country visited as a general, leading patriot troops in the Revolutionary War — was at the site of the current Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, on Church Lane at Myrtle Avenue.

The plaque was placed in 1932, to commemorate the bicentennial of Washington’s birth.

His visit to the Marvin Tavern — near the present-day Post Road West and Kings Highway South — came later, during his presidency. The owner went all out to prepare a feast, but Washington ate and drank sparingly. And though he appreciated the effort, he was not pleased with his accommodations.

There is apparently also a plaque on the front lawn of a house at the corner of Hillandale and West Parish Roads, in the first president’s honor. Several readers thought either that, or the Disbrow Tavern site, was the subject of the photo.

Congratulations to John McCarthy, Elaine Marino, Seth Schachter, Peter Hirst, Jonathan Prager, Robin Jaffee Frank, Marcia Falk, Andrew Colabella and Matt McGrath for knowing exactly where George Washington slept.

Or, at least, ate.

The stone masonry in today’s Photo Challenge hints at an earlier age. But it’s more modern — perhaps, once, a way to protect mailboxes from destruction by what were then called “juvenile delinquents.”

If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Sunil Hirani)

Roundup: DATTCO Buses, Capt. Nash’s House, AAPI Month …

Westport’s school buses may look different next fall.

They’ll still be yellow. But “Dattco” may not be on the sides.

The New Britain-based company’s contract is up for renewal this year. When the Board of Education meets Monday (May 1, 7 p.m., Staples High School), Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice will recommend that the 5-year contract beginning July 1 be awarded to First Student. They’re a national company, with a strong presence in this area.

They were the only 2 providers to bid. Scarice and Westport Public Schools CFO Elio Longo found that:

  • Over 5 years, the district will save $126,011 for the base transportation services provided by First Student.
  • Dattco offered $6 million in coverage for sexual misconduct insurance, but the RFP required $11 million. First Student provided the required amount.
  • Dattco failed to submit a letter from its insurance carrier stating that the minimal insurance limits required in the RFP will be met.
  • Dattco gave a “0” credit for use of a bus lot provided by the district. First Student provided a credit of $1,529,031 over 5 years for use of the lot.

The Board of Ed will have a busy agenda, beyond the bus contract. They’ll also discuss the Staples High School roof project, an equity action plan, and policies on weighted grading and calculation of grade point averages, credit for online courses, graduating requirements, and enrollment in advanced courses and programs.

For full details on the bus contract and other agenda items, click here.

A familiar sight. (Photo/Joyce Joiner)


“06880” doesn’t usually promote real estate open houses.

But we also don’t usually get a chance to see a 1740 home.

18 West Parish Road is the house; today (Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m.) is the date.

18 West Parish Road

Built nearly 300 years ago by Captain Thomas Nash for Zachariah Burr — Aaron’s brother — it was an inn during the Revolutionary War.

It’s filled with history. For instance, the Delft blue tile fireplace is original

And — allegedly — Captain Nash galloped up the steep, original stairs on his horse, as he chased his wife in anger.

Captain Nash’s stairs.

In the 1930s another famous owner — Edward T. Bedford — maintained stables and a trotting track just north of the residence.

A 20th century bonus: The kitchen in the attached cottage was a bomb shelter in the 1950s.

Toni Horton Mickiewicz (Staples High School class of 1978) is the realtor.

It sounds like an extremely interesting home. But if you plan to buy it to tear it down: Please, please, PLEASE: Find yourself another open house to go to. (Hat tip: Pam Docters)


Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month begins tomorrow.

AAPI Westport celebrates with a variety of events. They include:

The Story and Legacy of Vincent and Lily Chin (May 1-31, New Canaan Library). Learn more about Vincent and Lily Chin. His racially motivated murder more than 40 years ago galvanized the Asian American community.

Healing Asian Hate Since Vincent Chin (May 8, 6:30 p.m., New Canaan Library):  Panel discussion, including Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, and Stamford DEI officer Carmen Hughes.  Click here for more information. and to register.

AAPI Westport Book Club reads “From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry: the Killing of Vincent Chin and the Trial that Galvanized the Asian American Movement,” by Paula Yoo.” This young adult book is suggested for ages 13 and up. Book discussion date and location TBD.

Meet children’s book author Karina Yan Glaser (May 13, 1 to 3 p.m., Westport Library). She will discuss “What Do You Need to be a Writer?,” and talk about how being an Asian American author has influenced her work. A book signing follows. This is an all ages event; best for grades 1-6. Click here for more information.

AAPI Happy Hour at MoCA (May 18, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.).

To learn more about AAPI Westport, click on the video below.


Pamela Turnure Timmins — Jacqueline Kennedy press secretary (and the first ever hired by a first lady), and who may or may not have had an affair with her husband, President Kennedy — died Tuesday in Colorado. She was 85, and had  lung cancer.

What makes her death “06880”-worthy is that she graduated in the mid-1950s from the Bolton School for girls in Westport.

Her Washington Post obituary does not explain what she was doing in this area as a teenager. But she certainly led an interesting life. (Hat tip: Allen Siegert)

Pamela Turnure Timmins


The Connecticut Appalachian Mountain Club brings one of their most popular speakers to Saugatuck Congregational Church.

David Pressler will discuss “Exploring the Californian Anza — Borrego Desert and Beyond.” The event is May 9.

From snow-covered landscapes, high mountains, lakes and the Salton Sea, to dry desert vistas and unusual lava-formed rock landscapes (that were the “American West” of movies from the 1930s to the ’50s) — home once to dinosaurs, mammoths, giant turtles and other animals — it’s a vast, beautiful place.

Wine, dinner and dessert begins at 6:15 p.m. Pressler’s presentation is at 7:30. The cost is $10 for members, $15 for non-members (pay at the door). For more information, email

California’s Borrego Desert. (Photo/David Pressler)


Westport’s ospreys continue to fascinate us — and there are more than the most famous (and visible) pair, at Fresh Market.

Daniel Johnson captured (on film) one of the Burying Hill Beach pair. It’s a natural for today’s “Westport … Naturally” feature.

(Photo/Daniel Johnson)


And finally … in honor of the soon-to-come (and likely little-mourned) end of the DATTCO era:

(School buses? Ospreys? Jackie Kennedy’s press secretary? If there’s a Westport connection, “06880” covers it. Please click here to support our work. Thank you!)

Westport’s Minute Man: The Story Behind The Statue

For over a century, the Minute Man has stood as Westport’s most beloved symbol. Harry Daniel Webster’s statue was dedicated in June 1910.

But this will make you feel really old: The skirmish it commemorates — the Battle of Compo Hill — took place 133 years before that.

The Minuteman statue in 1912 -- 2 years after its dedication.

The Minute Man monument in 1912 — 2 years after its dedication.

If you’ve lived in Westport a while, you know at least some of the story behind the monument.

But many new residents may pass by, on the way to the beach, and not give it a second thought.

Or they may think it’s a typical New England nod to some generic Revolutionary War soldier.

There’s much more to our Minute Man than that. On the 246th anniversary of Westport’s most famous battle, here’s the back story.

Twenty-six ships carrying 2000 British troops under the direction of General William Tryon — a force larger than at Lexington or Concord — landed at Compo Beach at dusk on April 25, 1777. Tory loyalists planned to guide them up Compo Road to Cross Highway, across to Redding Road, then north through Redding and Bethel to Danbury, where they would burn a major munitions depot.

Patriots fired a few shots at the corner of the Post Road and Compo, but the British marched on. In Danbury they destroyed the Continental Army’s munitions, then headed back toward their waiting ships at Compo.

Hastily assembled patriot forces fought them in the fierce Battle of Ridgefield. Led by Brigadier General Benedict Arnold — not yet a traitor — and outnumbered 3 to 1, the patriots deployed a strategy of selective engagement.

British forces landed at Compo Beach, marched to Danbury, marched back south and -- after the Battle of Compo Hill -- retreated to Long Island.

British forces landed at Compo Beach, marched to Danbury, returned south and — after the Battle of Compo Hill — retreated to Long Island.

The next day — April 28, 1777 — patriots tried to capture the Redcoats at a bridge across the Saugatuck River. That forced the soldiers to march 2 miles north, and swim across.

Meanwhile, marksmen waited on Compo Hill (the current site of Minuteman Hill road).

Twenty colonials were killed, and between 40 and 80 wounded when the British made a shoulder to shoulder charge with fixed bayonets — but, wearing everyday work clothes and using hunting guns or pistols, they gave them a fight.

It was reported that resistance here was more severe than at Lexington and Concord.

Graves of some of the patriots who fell that day lie along Compo Beach Road, just past the Minuteman statue. British soldiers are buried across Gray’s Creek, by the Longshore golf course.

Though Tryon returned to burn Norwalk and Fairfield, never again during the American Revolution did British troops venture inland in Connecticut.

One of the documents on display -- and for sale -- at the Westport Historical Society this weekend.

Document from the past.

The next time you pass the Minute Man, think about the Battle of Compo Hill. That’s the reason our Minuteman stands guard, facing Compo Road.

Like his fellow patriots 246 years ago, he’s ready to give the Brits his best shot.

The Minuteman statue today.

The Minuteman statue today.


There are a number of good historical sources about the Battle of Compo Hill.

One of the most fun, colorful — and detailed — was unearthed recently by alert reader Deborah Johnson.

She discovered “The Battle of Compo Beach,” a 9-page booklet, written and illustrated by C.M. Owens.

Hand-written, with meticulous lettering, it was published by the Hillspoint PTA. Built as an elementary school in 1960 to educate Westport’s booming school-age population, and open for just over 2 decades, today it’s the Hillspoint Road childcare facility with the domed roof.

The booklet shows the British coming ashore …

The booklet has lasted longer than the school.

Now it’s up to all of us — old-timers and newcomers alike — to keep the memory of the Battle of Compo Hill alive.

… and a description of the march to Danbury. (Courtesy of Deborah Johnson)

(“06880” covers Westport’s present, and past. Please support our work. Click here to contribute — and thank you!)

Roundup: Grounded Boat, Beach Food, THC …

A boat ran spectacularly aground yesterday at Compo Beach, near the cannons.

(Photo/Pete Powell)

For the rest of the day — as the tide went out — it sat there, stuck on the jetty rocks.

(Photo/Jamie Walsh)

Two people on board the New York vessel, “Andiamo” — motoring, not sailing — were rescued by Norwalk police. Neither was injured.

One observer — among the many who flocked to see the unusual sight — said the pilot had tried to avoid lobster traps.

(Photo/Karen Como)

As evening drew near, the boat remained. A salvage crew was expected to attempt a rescue, at midnight’s high tide.

(Photo/Michael Diggin)

Nearly everyone who was there sent photos to “06880.”

Thanks to all who submitted shots. Sorry I could not use them all!


Two applicants have submitted additional material, in advance of Monday’s Planning & Zoning Commission meeting (7 p.m., Zoom; click here for the link).

Bluepoint Wellness is in the pre-application process to allow sales of “hybrid” (medical and recreational) marijuana sales at its 1460 Post Road East location. Currently, recreational cannabis sales are not allowed in Westport. Click here for their materials.

There is also a pre-application on a proposal for a change from a single family residence in a residential area into a home offering services for up to 12 unrelated seniors in need of memory care. No specific location has been identified. Click here for those materials.

And the P&Z will hear a request for a “fitcore extreme” (ropes-style) course at Coleytown Middle School, and will discuss a modification of standards of accessory dwelling units. Click here for those materials.

Bluepoint Wellness, at 1460 Post Road East, is in the same shopping plaza at Bevmax. There is no large scene above the medical marijuana dispensary.


Last month, Bedford Middle School 7th graders wrote letters, drew pictures and created posters for youngsters in Lyman, Ukraine — Westport’s sister city.

In a couple of weeks, Ukraine Aid International will deliver them all to boys and girls in that embattled town.

Now, every other Westport student can do the same.

It’s a great project for families and friends. Letters, drawings, posters of encouragement — all are welcome. They’ll be combined with the BMS project, for delivery to Lyman soon.

They can be dropped off on the front porch of 2nd Selectwoman Andrea Moore’s house: 2A Baker Avenue (between Compo Road South and Imperial Avenue). Blue and yellow balloons (Ukrainian colors) will be on the mailbox.

The deadline is May 5. Questions: Email

One of the Bedford Middle School 7th grade pieces of writing and art, for students in Lyman.


Parks & Recreation director Jen Fava reports that Hook’d — the Compo Beach concession stand — will open April 28.

From then through the Friday before Memorial Day, it will operate from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

From the Saturday before Memorial Day through Labor Day, hours will be weekdays, 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; weekends and holidays, 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Hours of operation from the Tuesday after Labor Day through October 1 are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; from October 2 to October 15, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.


Yesterday, Old Mill Grocery & Deli was named as one of 10 Preservation Award honorees, by the Westport Historic District Commission.

Today they added another. The century-old spot at the foot of Compo Hill is one of 7 Award of Merit winners, from Preservation Connecticut. The ceremony is May 4, at the New Haven Country Club.

For more information, click here.

A small group of Westporters marshaled a massive effort to save the building from developers, and open Old Mill Grocery & Deli. (Photo/Matt Murray)


Westport Police made 2 custodial arrests between April 12 and 18.

One arrest followed a January complaint by a customer of First County Bank, alleging someone had cashed a fraudulent check for $2,940 using their identification, after her car had been broken into and her purse stolen.

The bank provided surveillance photos of the suspects, and said the same women were involved in similar incidents at banks in other towns. A suspect was arrested in New Jersey, extradited to Connecticut, and charged with larceny, conspiracy to commit larceny, identity theft and conspiracy to commit identity theft. The whereabouts of the other suspect are unknown.

The other arrest came after an officer noticed a vehicle traveling on Post Road East at an extremely slow speed, with flashers activated. He later saw the vehicle in a parking lot. While speaking with the driver, he suspected the use of drugs or alcohol. The driver failed field sobriety test, and was arrested for driving under the influence.

Don’t leave your purse in the car!


Phases 1 and 2 of the Long Lots Preserve project are completed.

Phases 3 and 4 are underway. And Sustainable CT has offered to match ever dollar donated.

Funding will support the purchase — wholesale — of trees, shrubs, wildflowers and grasses.

They range from $6.50 hyssop wildflowers and $45 viburnum shrubs to $115 pin oaks and $245 grey birch trees.

Plantings will be spaced densely, to out-compete invasives, and maximize habitat and food resources for migrating birds and other wildlife.

Click here for more details, and to donate.

Earlier work at the Long Lots Preserve.


Tuesday was Yom HaShoah, the Day of Remembrance of the horrific deaths of more than 11 million people –including 6 million Jews — during the Holocaust.

A town-wide memorial service was held Monday night at the Conservative Synagogue. Over 200 attendees heard readings by students, followed by a memorial candle lighting and Holocaust prayer led by Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn, to remember those who were lost.

The evening included a video discussion with Bill Sperber of Detroit and Albert Hersh of Cleveland. They were imprisoned at Auschwitz at the same time, but had never met previously.

They described life in the concentration camp, their release and journey to the United States, and their lives since. It was an emotional and inspiring evening for Westporters — and, 77 years later, for Bill and Albert.

Click below for the video: “Two Survivors, One Conversation.” (Hat tip: Dick Kalt)


The Y’s Men of Westport and Weston took a field trip this week to the Wilton Library.

Michael Bellarosa, curator of its Dave Brubeck Collection, provided a tour of the largest collection of artifacts dedicated to the memory of the legendary jazz pianist and composer, a long-time resident of Weston and Wilton until his death in 2012 at 91.

Michael Bellarosa, Brubeck Collection curator.


Scott Haimes — the CEO and artistic director of New York’s Roundabout Theater, who helped rescue it from bankruptcy and become one of America’s largest nonprofit theaters, died on yesterday. He was 66, and had lived with cancer for over 20 years.

Earlier in his career, Haimes was managing director of the Westport Country Playhouse. Click here for a full obituary.

Todd Haimes (Photo courtesy of the NY Times)


The grounded boat wasn’t the only unwanted visitor at Compo yesterday.

Check out these “guests,” in today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo:

(Photo/Dinkin Fotografix)


And finally … yesterday’s action at the Compo Beach jetty brings to mind:

(One more Roundup, once again jam-packed with stuff. Please click here to support this daily “06880” feature. Thank you!)

Unearthing History

Who is buried at Burying Hill Beach?

Local lore says it’s Native Americans.

Dr. Robert Liftig isn’t so sure.

A writer and teacher who has lived in Westport for almost 50 years, he recently retired after 4 decades as a Fairfield University professor. His courses focused on local Colonial history.

He’s done quite a bit of, um, digging, The small Greens Farms beach is beloved by many. Like others throughout town, they’ve often wondered about its name.

Burying Hill (top-center), and beach of the same name. (Drone photos/Brandon Malin)

First, some background.

In 1637, a band of Pequots — burned out of their Groton home — were chased by English settlers to a swamp between what is now the Southport Dunkin Donuts and Equinox. (A small memorial commemorates the Great Swamp Fight, the last battle of the Pequot War.)

They were burned and hacked to pieces in what Liftig calls the continent’s “first intentional genocide.” (A leader, John Underhill, is the man for whom Underhill Parkway is named.)

With the area safe for colonists, Thomas Newton, John Green and Henry Gray obtained a land grant to settle the area in 1648. Daniel Frost and Francis Andrews joined them soon. Andrews came from upstate; he, with Thomas Hooker and others, had founded Hartford in 1635.

The group were known as the Bankside Farmers (for Bankside, England, where some of the 5 came from). The area was later named for one of those 5: Greens Farms.*

An early map of Green’s Farms. The Bankside Farmers’ lands ae shown on Long Island Sound, next to “Burial Hill.”

Andrews hired a servant: 12-year-old Simon Couch. A few years later the boy married Andrews’ daughter Mary. He worked as a tailor, ran a horse saloon, and bought Andrews’ widow’s farm. At his death in 1688, age 53, Simon Couch was a wealthy man.

He also bought Forest Point, a “beautiful hill overlooking the sea.” It became a cemetery — perhaps for Andrews, along with Couch himself, his family, and some of their slaves. (It is unclear whether those slaves were Blacks or indigenous people.)

Liftig cites an excerpt from the book “History of Fairfield.” Simon Couch was

buried in land belonging to him at Forest Point, looking out upon the Sound, which he had set apart as a family burial place and which was long known as the Couch Burial Hill.

This spot could be pointed out until within the last few years [date of publication unknown], but now almost every trace of the tombs & graves have been obliterated.

Liftig believes Andrews — one of the founders of Hartford — is also there: buried below where the beach toilets are now located.

Bathrooms and lifeguard offices, at the top of Burying Hill. (Photos/David Squires)

Simon Couch, meanwhile, is listed on Find A Grave as occupying “Plot #1.”

When Green’s Farms Congregational Church established its first cemetery (at the current corner of Greens Farms Road and the Sherwood Island Connector) in the early 1700s, subsequent Couches were buried there. (One stone honors “Thomas Couch lost at sea, taken by French or pirates.”)

The family grew quite wealthy, from the triangle trade. One branch moved to North Carolina. Another Captain Thomas Couch married into the Boone family, and moved to Kentucky.

Liftig has found that the Couches — and Daniel Boone — are related to his daughters Anya and Dorothy.

Liftig himself grew up in Avon, Connecticut. He joined the Peace Corps, met a “pretty Kentucky girl,” and married her. They moved to Westport.

Delving into the history of his town, he was stunned to find that his wife’s ancestors lived here.

He was even more surprised to learn of the Couch connection to Burying Hill Beach. His daughter Dorothy had a summer Parks & Recreation job, working at the front gate.

The entrance to Burying Hill now floods often. (Photo/Sally Fisk)

Parks & Rec administers the beach because in 1893, the town of Westport purchased the property for a picnic area. Ten years later, they added the swale nearby (called “Ye Olde Battleground”) — between the “burial hill” and what later became the Bedford (and later Harvey Weinstein) homes.

The Couches later married into the Bedford and Jesup families, Liftig says.

But when he inquired about the possibility of a plaque memorializing the bodies buried in the hill — including, possibly, a founder of Hartford — he was told there is no proof.

Cars should not drive on Burying Hill. It is a historic burial ground. (Photo/Rusty Ford)

Yet an old Westport Historical Society publication, “Buried in Our Past,” says:

We can surmise that the Couches shared the hill with some of the early settlers — the Greens, Andrews [sic], Frosts and Grays.

In his book “Greens Farms,” George Penfield Jennings, states he remembers seeing many gravestones on the hill, but by the time the State Legislature established the area as a town park in 1893, only one broken marker remained.

Now that marker is gone. Burying Hill has the distinction of being the first park on the Connecticut shoreline recognized by the State.

Neither Parks & Rec, the Westport Historical Commission nor the Westport Museum for History & Culture confirms Liftig’s findings.

But he is convinced: The burials in Burying Hill Beach are real.

And historic.

(Dr. Robert Liftig can be contacted directly:

*Should there an apostrophe, making it Green’s Farms? That’s been a question ever since. 

(There’s plenty of history in Westport’s hills and beaches. “06880” unearths it all. Please click here to support our work. Thank you!)

Roundup: Beachside & Owenoke Teardowns, P&Z Agendas …

The request by owners to demolish the 112-year-old, 8,500-square foot home at 114 Beachside Avenue is remarkable enough.

As first reported by Westport Journal, the Tudor mansion includes 7 bedrooms, 7 bathrooms, 2 half-baths, a wooden deck, and a brick patio and terrace.

Alert “06880” reader — and longtime Westporter — Don Willmott writes:

“The owners in the 1970s were family friends. I have fond memories of running around that gorgeous house, the biggest one I had ever been in. The sweeping lawn, which sloped gently down to the Sound, was stunning.”

114 Beachside Avenue

But that’s not all.

As Don notes, the home was later owned by Phil Donahue and Marlo Thomas. Her “diva-like antics there were memorialized by her disgruntled butler in the nutty 1990 tell-all book, ‘That Girl and Phil.'”

“it’s sad to see it go,” Don says. “I hope someone salvages the beautiful woodwork before the bulldozer arrives.”

As large as Phil and Marlo’s mansion was, it’s dwarfed by new construction closer to Long Island Sound. Take a look:

Phil Donohue and Marlo Thomas’s “old” 8,500-square foot house is at the top (north) of this photo.(Photo courtesy of Don Willmott)

The newer and spectacularly larger house is at the bottom of the property. Clearly, the 1911 home has to go.

But that’s not the only multi-million-dollar shoreline home that will soon be torn down.

In fact, demolition of 34 Owenoke Park has already begun.

That 4,600-square foot, 5-bedroom, 4 1/2-bath house was built in — are you sitting down? — 2016.

The owners are demolishing it — along with the property they own next door — to build a new one.

Because … well, because.

34 Owenoke Park (Photo courtesy of


There are some interesting items on next Monday’s Planning & Zoning Commission meeting (April 3, 7 p.m., Zoom). They include:

  • A request by the 1st Selectwoman, on behalf of Westport PAL, to remove the Doubleday clubhouse at PJ Romano Field (behind Saugatuck Elementary School), and replace it with a new, larger structure.
  • An application to convert the existing 120-bed skilled nursing facility at 1 Burr Road (next to from Kings Highway Elementary School) into a 68-bed memory care facility.
  • A pre-application meeting (no public comment) on a proposed 8,000-square foot commercial recreational facility, behind the electrical sub-station behind Coffee An’ and The Grapevine.

Also on the agenda: an expected pro forma request to release the site bond for 1076 Post Road East. That’s the supposed site of an Amazon Fresh grocery store, replacing the former Barnes & Noble.

Exterior work has been completed, along with parking lot and sidewalk improvements. So — according to law — the bond must be returned.

Even if, as seems increasingly likely, Amazon Fresh will never move in.

(Click here for the Zoom link to Monday’s Planning & Zoning Commission meeting.)

Westport PAL clubhouse at PJ Romano Field.


Carl Addison Swanson — a Staples High School graduate and Vietnam veteran — writes:

The 2017 Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act recognizes the over 3 million Americans who served in our military from November 1955 to March 1975.

[Signed into law by President Trump on March 28, 2017], the date is particularly significant. It marks the date we finally left Vietnam for good (March 29 1975).

Forty-four Westporters served in Vietnam. Five did not come home, as noted on the plaque in Veterans Green across from Town Hall.

Westport’s Vietnam memorial, in Veterans Green.

Over 58,000 Americans lost their lives in Vietnam in combat. Over 300,000 have died in the decades following, due to exposure to Agent Orange.

Today is a day to remember those who made it home, those who didn’t, and a reminder that although our country was deeply divided during Vietnam, most of our wounds healed. Eventually. Maybe? Some day?


US Attorney for the District of Connecticut Vanessa Roberts Avery was joined by leading law enforcement representatives at last night’s “United Against Hate: Identifying, Reporting and Preventing Hate Crimes” session.

The Westport Library hosted the interactive program, in collaboration with the US Attorney’s Office, Westport PRIDE, Westport and Norwalk chiefs of police, and the Connecticut State Police’s Hate Crimes Unit.

Vanessa Roberts Avery, US Attorney for Connecticut, at last night’s Westport Library event. (Photo/Dan Woog)


Only 3 days remain in The Great Westport Pizza Contest.

There are 8 categories (Best Slice, Personal, Meat, Gluten-free, Veggie, Plain, Delivered and Flat Bread Pizza), and 14 participating restaurants (Cuatro Hermanos, Gallo Express, Golden Pizza, Joe’s, Julian’s Kitchen, La Plage, Old Mill Grocery & Deli, Outpost Pizza, Pizza Lyfe, Rizzuto’s, Romanacci, The Spotted Horse, Tutti’s and Via Sforza).

Anyone can vote online. Every voter is entered in a drawing, to win a free pizza from one of the 8 winning restaurants.  

Winning restaurants receive plaques from the sponsoring Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce. For more information and to vote, click here.

Enjoying pizzas at Old Mill Grocery & Deli — one of the participants in the Great Pizza Contest — are (from left) 2nd Selectwoman Andrea Moore, Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce director Matthew Mandell, Police Chief Foti Koskinas, 3rd Selectwoman Candice Savin and 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker.


Bedford Middle School students do know rocket science.

And many other types.

Last weekend, 2 BMS Science Olympiad cleaned up at the Connecticut championships.

After a long, grueling day in Coventry, they won 15 out of the 23 gold medals. Events ranged from Anatomy & Physology and Bio Process Lab to Codebusters and Experimental design.

The teams have practiced since the fall, under the guidance of teachers Dr. Daniel Cortright and Kathry Nicholas.

The wins earn the Bedford squads a trip to Kansas in May. They’ll represent Connecticut in the National Science Olympiads.

Bedford Middle School Science Olympiad champs.


“Gold Coast Mystery Series” author Timothy Cole reads and chats at the Westport Book Shop next month (April 13, 6 p.m.).

The series includes “The Sea Glass Murders” (a Connecticut Book Award finalist), “Murder This Close,” and recently published “The Moscow Five.”

Timothy Cole


The Greens Farms Garden Club invites everyone to meet Trish Manfredi. The noted floral designer and flower show judge will create art with surprise plant materials, and containers presented by the audience.

The event is next Tuesday (April 4, 11 a.m., Green’s Farms Church). Refreshments will be served.

Trish Manfredi


“06880” has mentioned “The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical” twice already.

The Coleytown Company production opens this Friday (7 p.m.). at CMS. The show also runs Saturday (April 1, 1 and 7 p.m.) and Sunday (April 2, 1 p.m.).

We normally wouldn’t add another plug. But Inna Agujen Veloso’s video may be the best middle school sizzle reel ever made.

Click here for tickets, and more information.


Bridgewater Chocolate welcomes New York artist and fashion illustrator Kelsey Linnartz to their Main Street store on April 8 (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.).

She’ll customize ivory boxes, using her trademark bright colors — with a purchase, of course.


Longtime Weston resident Joan Williams died peacefully Monday evening. She was 87.

Joan moved to Weston in the early 1970’s with her first husband, commercial artist Paul Williams. She was a very successful businesswoman who worked first for a commercial art studio in Detroit. She moved to a management position at Weston Racquet Club, helping it to flourish through the ’80s.

She later became the first employee of Newman’s Own. Joan worked with Paul Newman and A.E. Hotchner, handling finances of the company for 28 years and earning the tile of CFO.

Joan loved her home. She enjoyed playing tennis, collecting art and antiques, listening to music and singing, reading, gardening, and spending time with her Scottish terriers and cats.

Her family says, “Joan will be remembered for her frank and honest manner as a beautiful woman.”

She is survived by her husband Steve Campbell, stepson Adam Campbell, nephew Mark Kalnow and niece Sheryl Reiber.

At Joan’s request there will be no funeral or public memorial service, just a private gathering. In lieu of cards and flowers, contributions may be made to the Yale Eye Center at Yale New Haven Hospital.

Joan Williams


Amy Schneider’s first egret sighting of the season — on the Saugatuck River — is perfect for today’s “Westport … Naturally” feature.

(Photo/Amy Schneider)


And finally …. Amazon Fresh’s finished-but-not-opened Westport store (story above) is not its only one.

A number of the retail giant’s high-tech, “just walk out” stores are fully built out — but empty — across the country.

They’ve been dubbed “zombie stores.” So …


(From Amazon Fresh and the PAL clubhouse, to Beachside Avenue and Owenoke Park, “06880” covers the town. Please consider supporting us. Click here — and thank you!)

Roundup: Easter Baskets, Rising Sisters, Abilis Gala …

It’s an Easter tradition: custom-made baskets, filled to the brim and beautifully decorated, from Savvy + Grace.

Savvy shoppers can click here for the website. Call 203-221-0077. Email

Or go old school: walk in and shop local (146 Main Street).


Women’s History Month ends Friday.

But “Rise Up, Sisters!” — a traveling exhibit from the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame, chronicling a diverse group of women instrumental in the suffrage movement — opens a 3-week run at the Weston History & Culture Center April 16. The exhibit ends May 7. It’s open Sundays and Thursdays, from 1-4 p.m.

The many different stories include the Smith sisters of Glastonbury, who spoke up about injustices against women and helped to spark others to follow in their footsteps, and Alice Paul, who put her life on the line to force the issue on a national level.

For more information, click here.


Abilis — the nonprofit providing services and support to more than 800 individuals with special needs and their families — celebrates its annual Spring for Abilis Gala April 29, at Darien’s Woodway Country Club.

Leslie Smith Clarke of Westport — mother of a young adult who enjoys Abilis services — co-chairs the event.

Billy Blanks Jr. — a longtime Abilis supporter — is the celebrity emcee. There’s music from ETA, dinner, dancing, and live and silent auctions.

It’s the first post-COVID in-person gala. Click here for tickets, and more information.

Bidding opens soon for the Abilis Giving Garden and Art Gallery, with one-of-a-kind artwork created by the program participants, along with silent auction items.

The Giving Garden is also where supporters can purchase items for Abilis’ programs, like diapers, educational games and books for the Birth to Three program.


Former Staples High School guidance department chair Bob Hanf died last week. He was 79 years old.

The Massachusetts native earned a liberal arts degree from Harvard College in 1965, and a master’s in guidance from the Harvard School of Education a year later.

He began his career in education with the Westport Public Schools, and remained there for 34 years until his 2000 retirement. His impact on thousands of students — and his entire department — was profound.

After retiring, Bob and his late wife Kathy moved to Upper Arlington, Ohio. He helped many students in Columbus Schools prepare for college, as a volunteer with the Project Grad program.

The couple met at a conference. They shared their first meal together at (coincidentally) Bob and Kathy’s Diner. They married in 1998 in Rhode Island where Bob had summered with his family most of his life, enjoying sailing, kayaking, and rooting for the Red Sox.

Bob is survived by his sons Rob (Mary) and Mike (Laura) Zelch; grandchildren Zoe, Chloe, Bailey, Zachary, and Michael; sister Marion DeTora (Andy); niece Andrea DeTora Reagan (Brian)l grand-niece Caitlin and grand-nephew Daniel.  

Bob’s life will be celebrated in a private memorial service. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Kobacker House Hospice in Columbus, OH.

Bob Hanf


Longtime Westporter Glenn Gerry, died earlier this month, after a long illness. He was predeceased by his wife of 63 years, Louise (Weezie) in 2011.

The Providence native moved to Greens Farms at 16 with his family. He graduated from Staples High School the next year.

After 2 semesters at Yale University and a 1- year tour of duty in the Navy (where he spent time painting the USS Coral Sea in Chesapeake Bay), he attended the University of Connecticut before moving back to Westport to work as a carpenter to support his growing family.

Glenn never gave up on achieving higher education. He attended the University of Bridgeport at night, graduating with a BS in electrical engineering in 1970.

He worked at the Burndy Corporation and Pitney-Bowes for many years, before becoming a quality  control engineer and traveling throughout the U.S. and Mexico. He branched out to freelance contracting before retiring.

Glenn loved music. He was a tenor with the Greens Farms Church choir. He also filled in at the Unitarian Church, and sang with the Westport Madrigal Singers for many years.

His family says: “Known as a constant teacher of all things, Glenn was the person his grandchildren went to with math and science homework. All his children learned to care for a car at an early age. He taught us how to paint a house, bait a hook, identify constellations and skate on our little pond behind our Morningside Drive house, which Glenn built with family help in 1955.

“Glenn was known as a ‘baby whisperer’ among his family. He always had an aura of peace and safety around him. Somehow he was able to impart that peace to a squalling infant.

“He opened his house over decades to his sister, friends of his children and friends of grandchildren as a safe house while they contemplated their next life move. It was also the place to be for Friday folk music sing-alongs in the ’60s.

“Most of all, Glenn should be remembered for his early strikes at social injustice. While working at Burndy during the ’60s he befriended a man of color, and a recently emigrated German man. They had trouble fitting in. He hosted those men and their families to dinner at our house. InclusionGlenn always insisted on inclusion.”

“Glenn will be missed by all who knew his quiet, yet always accepting, self. His ability to commune without words, just sitting together. His way of “taking the back roads, rather than the highway. And always his profound love for his wife, Louise (Weezie), who died in 2011.

Glenn is survived by his children Michael of Riverside, California, Stephen of Redding Ridge, Judith Platt of Randleman, North Carolina and Evelyn Gerry Eastman of Norway, Maine; siblings George (Cliff) Clifford of Hendersonville, North Carolina, Connie Testani of Shelton, and Linda Clifford of Nokomis, Florida; 7 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren, and 1 great0great grandchild; a nephew and 3 nieces.

To leave condolences for the family, click here. Services will be announced at a later date.

Glenn Gerry


Laurie Sorensen’s tête à tête daffodils serve as a welcome “Westport … Naturally” reminder that spring is already here.

Yesterday’s weather notwithstanding.

(Photo/Laurie Sorensen)


And finally … happy 78th birthday to Diana Ross.

Years ago, I walked into Atticus Book Store & Café on Main Street. The moment I entered, I sensed something was going on. There was energy and excitement in the place, but I had no idea why.

It took a few minutes to realize that the woman Billboard named “Female Entertainer of the Century” in 1976 was sitting at the counter.

Everyone gave her her space. Just like fellow (but lesser) Supremes Mary, Flo and Cindy knew, you didn’t mess with Miss Diana.

But boy, was it fun watching her eat lunch.

At the 2:05 mark below, Diana Ross’ earring falls off. Watch her catch it like a pro!

(Diana Ross makes everyone smile. You can put a smile on our “06880” face: Please click here to support this blog. Thank you!)

Houdini: The Great (Westport) Escape

You’ve probably never seen a movie of Harry Houdini.

You’ve also probably never seen a movie of Longshore, back in the day when it was Frederick E. Lewis’ private estate.

But now — thanks to Facebook — you can see both.

At once.

On the “Westport, Connecticut: Old Photos from the Westport of Our Youth” page, Colabella  — the young Representative Town Meeting member who was not even alive when the Longshore bathhouses were torn down — posted what is said to be the only surviving film of Houdini doing his “overboard box escape.”

The information comes from John Cox’s “Wild About Harry” blog. It covers all things Houdini.

For nearly a century, the date and location of the film — edited by the magician/ stunt performer’s brother Hardeen — has been a mystery.

Now — thanks to a letter at David Copperfield’s International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts — the back story is known.

The escape took pace on June 30, 1917, during a Red Cross And Allied War charities drive at Lewis’s home.

The film shows Houdini being lowered into Long Island Sound, at what is now Longshore.

It purports to show his escape too (though according to a YouTube commenter, that footage was spliced in from Houdini’s film “The Master Mystery”).

But there is no mystery about the gala affair in Westport.

Bridgeport Times story previewed it 3 days earlier:

Nearly every woman of prominence in the shore colony is busily engaged in the arrangements, which will continue throughout the week. Workmen and architects are transforming the Lewis estate into a veritable fairly land; tents are being put in place for the society circus, side shows, concessions and charity booths, while the boat house will be utilized as a petite theatre … and for moving pictures.

Frederick Lewis’ palatial home. Parts of it are recognizable today, as the Inn at Longshore. (Photo/courtesy of Alden Bryan)

There would be elephants, stage stars — and “one of the really sensational engagements … the wizard Houdini.”

He was expected to “make a new experiment which is filled with excitement and daring. The fearless magician will perform what he calls the ‘submarine submerged box mystery.'”

He would be:

shackeled hand and foot, placed in a packing case which is securely nailed and sealed by a committee and after the box is weighted a huge crane which is being placed on the landing pier of Mr. Lewis’ boathouse will carry the box out over the water and drop it into the Sound.

Houdini wagers that he will appear on the surface two minutes after the case has been submerged. This will be Houdini’s first appearance in the state of Connecticut and his last public appearance in America for some time.

As the film shows, that’s exactly what happened. The “wizard” was shackled, nailed in a packing case, dumped in the water … and then he re-appeared.

How he did it was one mystery.

Where he did it was another one.

Now — thanks, the Facebook post says, to “David Copperfield and the Westport Museum for History & Culture” — that mystery has finally been solved.

(Click here, then scroll down to see the Facebook post.)

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