Category Archives: Longshore

Friday Flashback #93

Earlier this week, I posted a story about Deej Webb’s great new book about F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald’s memorable 1920 sojourn in Westport. The central thesis is that those 5 months influenced everything else the famous author wrote — including “The Great Gatsby.”

Webb’s “Boats Against the Current” is filled with fascinating photos — notably several of Frederick E. Lewis’ 175-acre property that later became Longshore.

There’s this, of the mansion that we now know as the Inn at Longshore and Pearl restaurant:

(Photo/courtesy of Alden Bryan)

There were references too to Lewis’ lighthouse. It may have inspired some of the scenes in The Great Gatsby.

I’ve posted the photo below before. But I erroneously identified it as showing a big bash at Longshore. In fact — according to Webb — this is “a glittering summer party, complete with band, at the Lewis estate.” It certainly does look Gatsby-esque.

There’s also this fascinating map, drawn in 1921 by noted artist John Held.

Held included the lighthouse (right above the words “Long Island Sound”).

Check out the enormous boat sailing up the Saugatuck River, just south of downtown.

And — if you’re really eagle-eyed — you’ll notice that Held misspelled Bridge Street as “Brigde.”

What else stands out? Click “Comments” below.

Wired!

Nearly every day, alert “06880” reader Morgan Mermagen runs by Longshore.

For a month she’s seen wires hanging so low, she can actually touch them.

It’s the same on Hales Road:

(Photos/Morgan Mermagen)

They’re strung through loops, and are not affixed at each pole. The slack allows them to hang low in one place, high in another.

At first Morgan thought the wires were part of a storm clean-up, and on someone’s to-do list. Now she wonders what’s going on, and why no one has done anything.

She does not know who they belong to: Eversource? Optimum? Someone else?

She hopes someone will pay attention.

Hopefully now, someone will.

For Scott And Zelda, Westport Was Far More Than A Summer Fling

When Richard “Deej” Webb was 14, he read “The Great Gatsby.”

Through his bedroom window across from the Minute Man monument, he could see the house that — decades earlier — F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald once rented.

In between was Longshore. Deej caddied, biked and ran there. He knew every inch of the property well.

In 1996, when Barbara Probst Solomon wrote a New Yorker story claiming that Westport — not Great Neck, Long Island — was the inspiration for Gatsby’s “West Egg,” Webb was fascinated.

By then he was teaching US history at New Canaan High School. But the 1980 Staples graduate’s heart — and home — remained here.

Webb studied Solomon’s theories. He researched Longshore, and environs. Convinced she was right — and that Westport, in fact, influenced both Fitzgerald and his wife far more than anyone realized — Webb spoke to whomever he could.

Many Fitzgerald scholars and fans were interested. Most Westporters, he says, were not.

In 2013 Webb participated in a Westport Historical Society roundtable examining the town’s literary past. Organizer Robert Steven Williams — a novelist — asked Webb if he’d like to collaborate on a documentary about Fitzgerald’s time here.

The film will be shown on public television this fall. A companion coffee table book — “Boats Against the Current” (taken from a famous “Gatsby” line) — will be published next month.

The book cover shows the iconic photo of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, in front of their South Compo house. The image was Photoshopped — long before that term came into general use.

“Boats” is thoroughly researched, lavishly illustrated, and immensely educational. It should be required reading for every Westporter.

Webb and Williams took Solomon’s original thesis — that Fitzgerald’s home next to the 175-acre estate of reclusive millionaire Frederick E. Lewis (now Longshore) informed not only the author’s physical description of Jay Gatsby’s mansion, but also much of the novel’s emotional power — and expanded it to encompass nearly the entire Fitzgerald ouevre.

In 1920 — when F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald lived in Westport — F.E. Lewis owned a magnificent next door. His mansion (above) now serves as the Longshore inn, including Pearl restaurant. (Photo/courtesy of Alden Bryan)

In 1920, his first book — “This Side of Paradise” — had just been published. Fitzgerald was making great money. He and Zelda were newly married — and kicked out of New York’s finest hotels, for debauchery.

Westport was their honeymoon. It was also their first home. Here — especially at Lewis’ next-door estate — they enjoyed celebrity-filled orgies. And they skinny-dipped at Compo Beach.

Zelda at Compo Beach — before (or after) skinny-dipping. (Photo courtesy of “Boats Against the Current”)

Their experiences and memories — along with the town’s sights and smells — all became part of “Gatbsy”; of “The Beautiful and the Damned”; even of Zelda’s paintings, Webb says.

In fact, he adds, “Westport shows up in their works more than any other place they lived.”

The back story of Lewis — a descendant of one of the wealthiest families in American history — is particularly fascinating. He’s not a familiar name. But his parties at what later became Longshore — which the Fitzgeralds surely must have attended — were beyond legendary. One even featured Harry Houdini. (Yes, he performed an escape trick right there.)

His and Williams’ painstaking work has been accepted by many Fitzgerald scholars, as well descendants like granddaughter Bobbie Lanahan.

Robert Steven Williams (left) and Richard “Deej” Webb flank the Fritzgeralds’ granddaughter Bobbie Lanahan.

The New York Times recently published a story on Webb and Williams’ project. The international attention was gratifying.

But the duo have a more local concern too.

All around town — including Webb’s boyhood Compo Beach neighborhood — homes are being torn down. Big new houses are replacing older ones with important  histories.

Webb and Williams worry the same fate may befall Fitzgerald’s house. And, they fear, few people will care.

The current owners, Webb says, “are fantastic. They’re well aware of the significance, and treat it with great respect.”

But there’s no assurance a future owner will not tear the 1758 structure down.

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald slept — and partied — here, on South Compo Road.

There is only one museum in the world dedicated to F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. It’s in Montgomery, Alabama, where he wrote portions of 2 novels.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful, Webb and Williams ask, if at some point the town could buy the house, and turn it into a “Fitzgerald Center”?

“Sometimes Westport has amnesia about its history,” Webb says. “It’s an incredible past. It’s hard to find an American town that has more. But it’s disappearing in front of our eyes.”

Of course, as a history teacher — and amateur historian – Webb knows the one thing that never changes is change.

When the Fitzgeralds arrived in 1920, he says, “farmers in  Westport worried about all the New Yorkers coming in.”

With their lavish parties and skinny-dipping orgies, those newcomers had a new way of doing things.

One hundred years later — thanks to F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald — those Westport days live on.

And — thanks to Deej Webb and Robert Steven Williams — they’re memorialized forever.

(To pre-order “Boats Against the Current” on Amazon, click here; through Barnes & Noble, click here.)

Pic Of The Day #386

Longshore pools are ready for summer (Photo/Nicola Sharian)

Pic Of The Day #360

The longtime home of Westport’s Parks & Rec Department, at Longshore by the golf course. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Fore?!

The Longshore golf course was supposed to open today.

Not gonna happen.

This photo of the Longshore golf course was actually taken on February 18. The scene today does not look much different. Except that the sun is not out. And it’s still snowing. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Westport, this was the scene the day after April Fool’s Day:

Evergreen Avenue, looking toward town. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

 

Pics Of The Day #338

Celebrating the first full day of spring!

Beachside Avenue (Photo/David Squires)

Grace Salmon Park (Photo/Doris Ghitelman)

Compo cannons (Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

Longshore (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

Pic Of The Day #309

Winter break skating at the Longshore PAL rink. (Photo/Michael Winser)

Snow Scenes

Nearly everyone in Westport is gone. It’s a holiday weekend, and the start of the schools’ winter break.

For the few folks left in town, yesterday’s snowfall was perfect. A few inches of heavy white stuff fell at night. There was little traffic, no major events to disrupt.

When we woke up this morning, the storm had moved on. The sun was bright, the snow already melting.

It was beautiful — and, hopefully, fleeting. By midweek, temperatures are expected to hit 65.

So how are things in Cabo, Antigua, or wherever else you all are today?

One view of Nyala Farm …

,,, and another.

Burying Hill Beach

One view of Longshore …

… and another. (All photos/Larry Untermeyer)

 

Pics Of The Day #263

Longshore, during yesterday’s snowstorm …

… and early this morning. (Photos/Patricia McMahon)

The sun came out soon. This was the scene at Old Mill Beach… (Photo/Jaime Bairaktaris)

… and then the sun set later this afternoon, at Compo. (Photo/Armelle Daniels)