Category Archives: Places

P&Z Decision Likely On Medical Marijuana and Daybreak Property; No Public Testimony Tonight

Planning and Zoning director Mary Young wants “06880” readers to know: Decisions will likely be rendered by the Planning and Zoning Commission tonight at Town Hall, on applications to locate medical marijuana dispensary facilities in town.

Public hearings have been closed, so no more public testimony will be heard.

However, tonight’s meeting is public. It will be televised on Channel 79 (Cablevision) and Channel 6020 (Frontier). It will also be livestreamed at www.westportct.gov tomorrow, beginning at 7 p.m.

Five applicants have proposed medical marijuana dispensaries in Westport.  Zoning regulations adopted in 2017 authorize the P&Z to approve up to 2 locations. However, the Commission is not required to approve any.

A decision on 500 Main Street (former Daybreak Nurseries) is also anticipated at tonight’s meeting. Peter Greenberg of Able Construction returned this  spring with a new application for consideration by the P&Z to construct 9 housing units: 2 two-family dwellings and 4 one-family dwelling units, on the 2.18-acre site. All are age-restricted (55 and over).

The project was reduced in scale, compared to an application denied earlier this year by the Commission. That public hearing has also been closed, so no testimony may be received.

The former Daybreak Nurseries, at 500 Main Street.

Back To Bohemia On Hidden Garden Tour

Day by day, bit by bit, wrecking ball by wrecker ball, Westport’s artistic and “bohemian” past is disappearing.

Fortunately, pockets remain. You just have to know where to look.

This Sunday (June 10, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.), a secret gem takes the spotlight. The Blau Home and Gardens is one of 4 properties featured in the Westport Historical Society’s 27th annual Hidden Garden Tour.

One view of the Blau garden …

Designed by Broadway theater designer Ralph Alswang, the home is rustic and glamorous. From salvaged exposed heavy barn timber beams — uncommon in modern homes of the mid-20th century — to a Romeo and Juliet bedroom balcony window opening to the living room, and a dramatic main staircase, the house off Bayberry Lane was owned by advertising mogul Barry Blau.

Both he and Alswang journeyed from poor, urban roots to the then-freewheeling arts colony of Westport.

The garden — like its owner and designer — is informal and unconventional. It features massive rhododendron groves, towering oaks, antique sculptures, paths, benches, ornamental gates and stunning stone walls.

Blau’s widow is almost 90. The WHS says she and her family want to preserve the home and property. Welcoming Hidden Garden Tour visitors is one way to see it.

… and another.

The tour also includes an English rose garden with Italian fountain; a meticulously restored 1820s onion barn with post-and-beam construction, original stone foundations and antique farm equipment, surrounded by woodland gardens, and a 225-year-old colonial farmhouse in Weston, with 30 varieties of peonies and exotic specimen trees.

In addition to Sunday’s tour, unique items for gardeners and garden lovers from local artisans and businesses are available for sale on the Historical Society’s front lawn (25 Avery Place, 9 a.m.  to 4 p.m.).

That front lawn is well-known, and very visible. To see those 4 hidden gardens though, you need a ticket.

(Click here for tickets: $50 for Westport Historical Society members, $60 for non-members, $75 the day of the tour. Click here for more information.) 

Historic Designation For Bridge Street Neighborhood

Werner Liepolt lives on Bridge Street.

Around the corner is the William F. Cribari Bridge. In 1987 — the first time the century-old span was slated to be replaced by a modern one — Westporters succeeded in gaining National Historic Structure designation for it.

The William Cribari (Bridge Street) Bridge is the gateway to Bridge Street. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

In November 2015 — with plans once again afoot to renovate or replace the Cribari Bridge, and spillover impacts likely for Bridge Street and beyond — Liepolt began a quest to get National Historic District status for his entire neighborhood.

The longtime Westporter knew that many of the houses on his road had contributed to Westport history. Over the years, he’d heard stories from older residents about who grew up where, which families were related, and how beautifully the forsythia had bloomed.

He saw historical plaques affixed to many homes. But to submit a Historic District application, he needed to learn more.

Morley Boyd — Westport’s historic preservation expert — directed Liepolt to a history of the town, and an 1869 document in which Chloe Allen “dedicated to the public” the road between her house (still standing on the corner of Bridge Street and South Compo) and the Saugatuck River.

Chloe Allen lived in the Delancy Allen House at 192 Compo Road South. It was built in 1809.

That half-mile stretch now boasts more than 20 historical resources. Thirty-one properties are eligible for Connecticut State Historic Preservation plaques.

Wendy Crowther noted that a New Yorker cover by Edna Eicke shows a little girl celebrating July 4th on the porch of her 1880 home, on the corner of Imperial Avenue and Bridge Street.

That’s the same house where John Dolan — keeper of the manually operated swing bridge — lived until the 1940s.

The New Yorker cover of June 30, 1956 shows this 1880  home, at the corner of  Bridge Street and Imperial Avenue.

Liepolt also researched what it means to be a National Register District. Benefits, he found, are modest — and obligations non-existent.

A homeowner can do anything to and with a house that any other owner can. An owner who makes restorational repairs may enjoy a tax benefit.

Liepolt learned too that if any federal funding, licensing or permitting is involved in development in a National Register District, that agency must take into account the effects of that action on historic properties, and consult with stakeholders.

Liepolt says this means that a possible Connecticut Department of Transportation plan to use federal funds to widen Route 136 — Bridge Street — as it feeds the bridge over the Saugatuck would require the Federal Highway Authority to consider the effect, and consult with property owners there.

The 1884 Rufus Wakeman House, at 18 Bridge Street.

The goal of this consultation is to mitigate “adverse effects,” Liepolt explains. These can be direct or indirect, and include physical destruction and damage; alteration inconsistent with standards for the treatment of historic properties; relocation of the property; change in the character of the property’s use; introduction of incompatible elements; neglect and deterioration, and more.

In February 2016, Liepolt asked Westport’s Historic District Commission to make a formal request for designation of the Bridge Street neighborhood. It was approved unanimously.

Liepolt worked with HDC coordinator Carol Leahy and an architectural historian to complete the research, take photographs, compile materials and write the final application to the National Parks Service.

The 1886 Orlando Allen House, at 24 Bridge Street.

This past April, the application was approved. Bridge Street is now added to the list of Nationally Registered Districts.

There was no big announcement. I’m not sure if anyone in town really noticed.

But we sure would notice if — without this designation — the look and character of the Bridge Street neighborhood ever changed.

Friday Flashback Follow-Up: Where The Hill Is It?

When I first saw last Friday’s flashback — a shot of an almost-empty Westport road, circa 1930 — I was pretty sure it was taken on State Street (now the Post Road), looking east past what is now Compo Shopping Center, toward where the Humane Society sits today.

But I wasn’t positive. So I asked readers what they thought.

Over 60 comments poured in. Many agreed with my guess. But others ranged up and down the Post Road, and across town to places like Nyala Farm.

Someone even thought I was right, but looking in the wrong direction (the old IHOP would be on the left, with the fire station and then — yes — the Humane Society on the right).

Alert “06880” reader Tom Ryan took out his camera. He offers these 3 images, and some thoughts.

This (above) was his original guess — the same as mine. However, he says, “you can’t see the road bend left (at the top) in the current photo. I think that rules it out.”

Picky, picky.

Here’s his second shot:

It shows Post Road West looking east, with Kings Highway Elementary School just out of the frame on the right.

Tom writes: “This one looks good as well. But notice the angle of the right side of the road. Seems dead straight in the original photo but more angled in today’s photo.”

Finally — looking east on Post Road West, just past Whole Foods — there’s this:

Tom says:

“I think this is a match, mostly because of the angle of the right side of the road in both past and current photos. You can also see the curve left in the distance, and the slope of the road seems to be the same.

“Lastly, the stone wall on the left is still there, and about the same distance from the road as in the original photo (although you can’t see it here because of the trees).”

The mystery continues. There’s only one thing we know for sure.

There was a lot less traffic back in 1930.

The ABCs of “06880”

Last summer, Shelly Welfeld’s mother passed away.

She sought solace in morning prayers at Beit Chaverim synagogue. Then she’d walk down the Post Road, along Riverside Avenue and downtown.

Along the way, Shelly noticed various objects that looked like letters. She took photos — and soon had enough to complete the alphabet.

Out of Shelly’s mourning came a creative and gorgeous collage:

(Photo collage by Shelly Welfeld)

It’s so beautiful, I asked Shelly to share it here.

And so much fun, we came up with a great contest idea.

“06880” readers: Identify the locations for all 26 “letters.” The first correct answer wins a $50 gift certificate, generously donated by The ‘Port restaurant. (HINT: One of the images above comes from the National Hall building.)

Email your entries to dwoog@optonline.net. Deadline is noon on Wednesday, May 23. If no one gets all 26, the person with the most correct answers wins. The decision of the judges (Shelly and I) is final.

Get to work, “06880” readers. The answers are right there, under — and above — your noses.

Friday Flashback #90

Earlier this week, the Westport Historic District Commission voted unanimously to recommend that 13 homes on Lincoln Street, and 4 more on nearby Riverside Avenue, comprise a new Historic District.

The houses were all built between the 1850s and 1930s.

Seth Schachter quickly sent “06880” this postcard, from his collection. It shows Lincoln Street from Post Road West — then called State Street — looking east, toward Riverside Avenue and the Saugatuck River.

Seth guesses the photo is from the early 1900s.

The road does not look much different today.

Which is the best possible reason I know that it should indeed be called a Historic District.

Jory Teltser Is For The Birds

Jory Teltser is one of Westport’s most passionate birdwatchers.

He’s seen over 250 species in this town alone. He’s taken nearly 100,000 photos. He raises money to help keep the Smith Richardson Preserve, a critical habitat for migrating birds.

And he’s still only a Staples High School junior.

Jory is not just a birder. He plays French horn in the orchestra and band, and this summer will tour Australia with Staples’ elite Orphenians singing group.

But birding — spending hours outdoors, figuring out calls, finding new species, learning everything there is to know about these fantastically varied vertebrates — is what gets him up in the morning.

Often very, very early.

Jory Teltser

Jory’s interest was piqued more than 8 years ago. Tina Green — a photographer and patient of Jory’s internist father — took them both to Sherwood Island. Ten feet away was a saw-whet owl.

“It was the size of a fist, all brown with giant eyes, sitting on a cedar tree staring right at me,” Jory recalls. He was intrigued.

But he did not get serious about the hobby until 4 years ago. Tina took him birdwatching after school, and nearly every weekend. “I saw her more than my parents,” Jory laughs.

Ornithology hooked him for many reasons. The biggest: “It gets me out in nature. I experience things most people never see. It can be relaxing and meditative. It calms you down.”

For a while, Jory admits, he was a stressed-out “serious lister.” He raced all around New England, trying to see as many different species as he could. In middle school and freshman year, he skipped school every couple of months to see a new bird.

A red-breasted merganser (Photo copyright Jory Teltser)

He does that far less often now. The most recent time was early March. The attraction: a varied thrush, in Simsbury. “It was an adult male, with very vibrant colors,” he explains.

But he focuses mainly on Fairfield County. There’s more than enough here to keep him excited.

Jory learns about new species and sightings in several ways. A statewide email listserv has about 1,000 participants. He’s one of 5 high school students (one other is from Staples).

There’s Cornell Ornithology Lab’s eBird database — with customized alerts about species he hasn’t yet seen — and several Facebook groups.

When Jory goes birding, he takes along a serious camera.

Jory is largely self-taught. He’s never read a field guide. But he can identify close to 2,000 species visually, and 1,000 by sound.

Being a musician helps, he notes. “I visualize and internalize notes, pitches, timbres, songs and calls.”

One of Jory’s favorite birding spots is Smith Richardson Preserve. “It’s small, but it might be the premier location in the state,” he says.

On May 12 he’ll raise funds for that site on Westport’s eastern border by taking part in the World Series of Birding. For the 3rd straight year he and 3 teammates (one is from Staples) will travel to Cape May County, New Jersey. Starting at midnight, they’ll spend the next 24 hours tallying as many species as possible, by sight or sound. Sponsors pledge money based on the total.

Last year Jory’s group — the Darth Waders — identified 162 species. That placed them 2nd out of more than 100 teams — beating out even traditional champion Cornell.

Common loon. Cockenoe Island is in the background. (Photo copyright Jory Teltser)

Jory also loves Sherwood Island. “We’re so lucky to have a state park in Westport,” he says. Over the past 60 years, more than 300 species have been seen there. That makes it one of the top 100 birding locations in the entire country — despite not being on an open ocean flight path.

Trout Brook Preserve in Weston is another favorite place. Jory calls it “a runway for birds.”

His favorite bird is the red-breasted nuthatch. It’s small and woodpecker-like, with a blue beak and white eyeline. Its migratory pattern, call, behavior and plumage all intrigue Jory.

Not many teenagers are so taken with anything. He may mention to a friend that he got up at “a godforsaken hour” that morning, but doesn’t often talk about it. When he brings friends along, they generally like the hiking and outdoor aspect. But many don’t have his patience, or ability to weather both the physical and mental stress of birding.

Jory has found plenty of friends in the Connecticut Young Birders Club. He’s in the front row, far left.

Jory is undeterred. He loves what he does. And he looks forward to continuing his work with the Aspetuck Land Trust (he’s on their land management subcommittee).

He may not pursue ornithology as a career. He’s considering science, particularly molecular biology.

But he’ll continue to look for — and listen to — the next species. There are 10,000 in the world.

(To donate to Jory’s World Series of Birding Smith Richardson project, click here. To see some of Jory’s many photos, click here.]

Daffodil Mile In Bloom

It’s been a long, hard winter. Sometimes this feels not like April 21, but January 111th.

Don’t tell that to the daffodils. Willowbrook’s famed “Daffodil Mile” is now in full bloom.

That’s great news for the thousands of drivers who pass the Main Street cemetery every day — and the many more bikers, joggers and walkers who wait patiently for the display.

Over the past 10 years, families and friends of Willowbrook’s “residents” (aka dead people) have donated 35,000 bulbs. Each year the line of yellow flowers grows.

Next year, 10,000 more bulbs will be planted.

And in the coming months, cemetery trustees will release details on a new cherry blossom mall.

PS: The cool weather is good for one thing. This year, the daffodils will bloom longer than usual.

(For more information, click here for the Willowbrook Cemetery website.)

We’re Not Sure What’s Right. But This Is Definitely Wrong.

It’s a never-ending debate: Green’s Farms (with an apostrophe) or Greens Farms (without)?

There’s even a sign that says Greensfarms.

But everyone agrees there was more than 1 farm.

Except this, on the Post Road near South Turkey Hill:

 

Vani Court’s New Buddy

Alert “06880” reader Jonathan Greenfield loves Westport. These days, he loves it just a little bit more. He writes:

The residents of Vani Court exemplify the absolute best in neighborly values. They truly reflect all that’s wonderful in Westport.

That quiet street off South Compo — which still consists of many post-war Capes built for returning veterans in the 1940s — is where my rescue dog Buddy Holly ended up 2 days in a row after he pushed his way past my daughter, and through an open door.

My 9-year-old son gave chase. I grabbed a leash and ran to the car, as my 4-year-old daughter pointed the way.

I tried to obey the South Compo speed limit, but panic set in. My son and dog were nowhere to be found.

Buddy, at the beach.

We often include Vani Court on our daily walks. Maybe Buddy was there!

As I turned onto the road, I saw a commotion.

My son arrived out of nowhere — on a bike, which he’d gone home to retrieve. I got out of my car, and learned that 2 drivers had seen my son running along the road. They offered him a ride, to help. He declined, saying he could not get in a stranger’s car!

At the same time, residents on  Vani Court had come outside with their own dogs and treats, hoping to nab Buddy. He darted from one dog to the next, having a great time.

Tim Luciano came close to nabbing him. James McLaughlin tried to lure Buddy into his backyard.

The chase became exhausting. But when Jesse Daignault appeared with his dog Milo, Buddy took interest. With lightning fast hands, Jesse grabbed Buddy’s collar.

Victory! Jonathan Greenfield with Buddy, on Vani Court.

But Buddy was just getting started.

The next day — just as my youngest was leaving for preschool — Buddy pushed her aside. He was ready for another adventure.

This time I took a different approach. I followed him calmly, so I wouldn’t chase him away. He headed back to Vani Court.

Dan and Kelly Merton were out with their golden retrievers. Like a magnet, Buddy went to them. Another mini-circus developed.

Eventually Buddy headed back to our house. He wouldn’t come in though. My wife followed him back to Vani Court.

Soon, I got a text from my wife. Iris said, “Got him!” Melissa Wilson had come out with her dog. She and James McLaughlin lured Buddy into her backyard.

As soon as I got home, I called an invisible fence company. I’m also setting up dates to continue Buddy’s training, so he can run with us and be safely off leash.

We are extremely thankful for everyone who helped. Vani Court is such a special place.

It’s not just the charm of the postwar Capes. It’s the people. They so easily express what it’s like to be neighbors. Thank you!

Buddy, back home with Zach Greenfield.