Category Archives: Places

Let The Chaos Begin

Alert “06880” reader Susan Iseman snapped this photo moments ago, on the first day of the North Compo Road closure, from Cross Highway to Main Street:

(Photo/Susan Iseman)

(Photo/Susan Iseman)

The road will be shut for 30 days, due to culvert work.

Meanwhile, not far away, Jeff Gray reports that — contrary to previous indications — North Avenue is still closed, at the Merritt Parkway bridge.

Safe travels!

North Avenue Bridge To Open Monday!

Sources say that on Monday, the Merritt Parkway North Avenue bridge will open again to 2-way traffic. It’s been closed completely for the past 2 months.

The bridge reopens a mere 14 months after Connecticut Department of Transportation work began. It’s just 12 months behind schedule.

A few cosmetic details remain. But the project is essentially completed.

Just in time for the new closure, a few hundred yards away on North Compo.

These lights -- unused for the past couple of months, because North Avenue was closed at the Merritt Parkway -- will soon be removed.

These lights — unused for the past couple of months, because North Avenue was closed at the Merritt Parkway — will soon be removed.

Big Change On Main Street

For years — perhaps decades — the Main Street streetscape has been marred by the dilapidated condition of #257.

Just beyond Kings Highway North, as you head out of town, the handsome home had fallen into disrepair. There was often someone puttering around, but paint peeled and the roof sagged.

Recently though, work has been done.

257 Main Street

The work is not finished. But already it looks so much brighter and better.

Even the moldings sparkle.

A Modest Traffic Proposal

News that culvert work will close Compo Road North between Cross Highway and Main Street beginning Monday — for 30 days* — has raised the specter of even-longer-than-usual delays from Coffee An’ to the take-your-life-in-your-hands Main Street/Weston Road/Easton Road intersection. And, of course, on side streets.

Alert “06880” Westporter Chip Stephens has a simple, why-didn’t-I-think-of-that?! solution:

Open Cross Highway to 2-way traffic, from North Compo to Main Street.

This short stretch of Cross Highway is now one-way. Temporarily opening it to two-way traffic could ease construction-related delays.

This short stretch of Cross Highway is now one-way. Temporarily opening it to two-way traffic could ease construction-related delays.

It’s not unheard of. Back when Chip — a 1973 Staples High School graduate — was a kid, traffic flowed both ways there. Now it’s eastbound only.

The temporary fix would not solve all of Westport’s traffic woes.

But it couldn’t hurt.

*Official estimate. If you believe that, I have a North Avenue Bridge to sell you.

Weathering The Storm

Last night’s thunderstorm tore a narrow but destructive path through Westport.

The owner of this Colony Road home assessed the damage philosophically: “It’s only a tree.”

Colony Road after thunderstorm - August 14, 2016

Colony Road after thunderstorm 2 - August 14, 2016

More thunderstorms are possible through Tuesday.

And we don’t have to tell you: It’s hot!

Life On The Roseville Road Curve

The Roseville Road home is just about perfect. Built in 1923 on 2 acres of grass and woods, it’s handsome, welcoming and filled with love.

It’s where Linda Gramatky Smith grew up, and her father, Hardie Gramatky — painter/author/illustrator of “Little Toot” fame — worked. It’s where she and her husband Ken still live today.

Linda and Ken Smith's lovely Roseville Road home.

Linda and Ken Smith’s lovely Roseville Road home.

But no place is perfect.

Linda and Ken’s house sits on the dangerous curve, not far from the McDonald’s intersection at the Post Road. Time after time — often in snow, or at night — drivers end up on the front lawn. In the woods. Or through their stone wall.

Hardie Gramatky moved his family there in 1947. From then through his death in 1979, with unfortunate regularity, they heard the loud bang of a crash.

Homer Mills Sr. — a local mason — told Hardie that the stone wall was “my annuity.” Twice a year, he rebuilt it.

The stone wall after a recent accident. Drivers hit it when they fail to negotiate the southbound (toward McDonald's) curve.

The stone wall after a recent accident. Drivers hit it when they fail to negotiate the southbound (toward McDonald’s) curve.

The night Hardie collapsed — he’d just been honored by the American Watercolor Society — the wall was hit again. “This has not bee an good day,” the artist said. He died 2 days later.

In 1982, Linda moved with her mother to New Jersey. She and Ken bought the house, and for the next 11 years they rented it out. They were gone, but the accidents continued.

In 1994 — a year after the couple moved back here, and into their home — a 17-year-old speeder from Weston slammed into the post. His air bag saved his life. Linda and Ken got one for their own car.

A humorous plaque on the side of Linda and Ken Smith's house.

A humorous plaque on the side of Linda and Ken Smith’s house.

When Joe Arcudi — Linda’s 1960 Staples High School classmate — ran for 1st selectman, he promised to do something about the dangerous curve. (He recalled driving fast on the same “Rollercoaster Road” as a rite of passage in his own youth.)

After Arcudi was elected, he and Police Chief William Chiarenzelli met with Linda and Ken. They discussed a stop sign on nearby Colony Road, and a speed bump (there had been one a while earlier on Roseville near Whitney Street, but it was removed after a driver took it too fast and hit his head on his roof).

Ultimately, they settled on a couple of very large yellow signs with big arrows. Those have been a “significant help” in decreasing the number of accidents, Linda says.

But they have not stopped entirely. On Memorial Day morning in 2013, Linda drove out of her garage and felt a bump. It was a large rock.

Looking around, she spotted a car upside down near the woods. Fortunately, no one was still inside.

A Memorial Day accident 3 years ago put this car into the Smiths' woods.

A Memorial Day accident 3 years ago put this car into the Smiths’ woods.

A 23-year-old from Fairfield had flipped his car the night before, taking out a tree and pushing a rock toward the garage. He’d walked to McDonald’s, where a friend picked him up.

“His insurance company was great,” Linda says.

A couple of Sundays ago, at 12:15 a.m., Linda, Ken and their 9-year-old grandson heard a screech, then a crash.

This time, it was a 20-year-old Westporter. He was charged with traveling too fast, failure to stay in the proper lane, and operating a motor vehicle under suspension and without insurance.

The aftermath of the most recent crash.

The aftermath of the most recent crash.

“It’s no longer every 6 months. But it’s still very scary,” Linda says. “People travel too fast. We constantly worry that someone may die.”

“This house has been part of Linda’s family for almost 70 years,” Ken says. “This comes with the territory.”

He has a ritual. When a guest leaves, he walks onto Roseville Road. When the coast is clear, he gives the driver a wave.

That’s not Ken’s idea. For decades, Hardie Gramatky did the same thing.


Click here for “06880+”: The easy way to publicize upcoming events, sell items, find or advertise your service, ask questions, etc. It’s the “06880” community bulletin board!

Bright Vs. Blight

For years, the Weston Road/Easton Road/North Main Street rotary near Exit 42 — the unofficial “Welcome to Westport” landmark for everyone coming off the Merritt Parkway — was maintained, as a public service, by Daybreak Nursery.

But when financial problems caused the nearby business to close, the triangular plot grew grungy.

Now — suddenly — the space looks gorgeous.

(Photo/Russ Miller)

(Photo/Russ Miller)

I don’t think it was a state Department of Transportation project. But huge props to whoever got it done.

Meanwhile — across town — another “Welcome to Westport” site looks decidedly less welcoming.

(Photo/Joanne Romano)

(Photo/Joanne Romano)

Just one more reason to avoid I-95, and take the Merritt.

Little Cottage, Big Memories

Much as many of us mock Facebook — even as we check it many times a day — it’s a great place for interesting info. There’s a lot more there than cat photos, or rants and raves about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

The other day, Jerri Graham posted these beautiful thoughts:

When we first moved to Westport from Taiwan, we lived in a little cottage on the corner of Main Street and Wild Rose. One bedroom separated by a curtain, a bathroom that had more mold than tiles, and a dusty loft that I fashioned into a bedroom for my then 6-year old. She was young and small enough that I could pass off living in a storage area as cool.

We lived there for almost 4 years. It wasn’t perfect, totally overpriced, and falling apart in so many places, but it was home and part of the tradeoff of living in a town like Westport.

I wonder who purchased the big house and the little cottage where we once lived. Bob, the aging ladies’ man of a hair stylist, occupied the main house on the property. With a silver ponytail that smelled of his scented oil, he always embraced me warmly.

He moved when they sold the house a year or so ago. I’ve seen him occasionally, and am so grateful for his time in my life.

Jerri Graham's cottage, on Main Street at Wild Rose Lane.

Jerri Graham’s cottage, on Main Street at Wild Rose Road.

In this cottage my world came together and fell apart a dozen or so times. In the little kitchen, I baked my first muffins after waking up at 3 a.m. with a desire to start a business.

I tested my first granola bar recipes here, figuring out ratios and baking until I went to my real job in the morning (kale granola is not a good idea, especially when it burns in the oven of a small kitchen).

I cried a lot in this cottage. For example, when I realized I hadn’t chosen the ideal spouse, feared being homeless, and longed to escape all of the pain in my life. In the driveway, I found out my childhood best friend had killed himself. I sat kicking gravel for an hour after trying to wrap my head around it all.

There were slumber parties where 7-year olds managed to laugh, play, and have fun. There was an annual ball drop from the loft/bedroom on New Year’s Eve. There were neighbors on this street I still know and speak with regularly who will always be a part of my life in Westport.

Every day I drive or walk by this little bit of my history. I’m excited and hopeful for whoever moves into this property that they’ll have nothing but happiness there.


Click here for “06880+”: The easy way to publicize upcoming events, sell items, find or advertise your service, ask questions, etc. It’s the “06880” community bulletin board!

Oh My 06880 — Photo Challenge #83

Most photo challenges are snippets of photos. They’re cropped closely. This is a photo challenge, after all — not a slam dunk or easy softball pitch.

Last week’s was an actual photo (thanks, Patricia McMahon!). I ran it because it was beautiful. But I also thought it was challenging enough to test most readers.

Nope. A record 17 of you knew — almost immediately — that the clouds hovered over trees, grass and a stone fence that can be found at the curve on North Compo Road, near Evergreen Avenue. It’s the entrance to Winslow Park. (Which, as many readers noted, was once the site of the Westport Sanitarium.)

Congratulations to Adam Stolpen, Michael Moore, Peggy O’Halloran, Diane Bosch, Rich Stein, Dorian Barth, Shirlee Gordon, Robin Welling, Molly Alger, Dan Herman, Sally Korsh, Jennifer Piseck, Vanessa Bradford, Elayne Landau, Mary (Cookman) Schmerker, Lynne Betts Baker and Carissa Baker. (Click here to see the fantastic image; scroll down for comments.)

Oh My 06880 -- July 31, 2016

(Photo/Seth Schachter)

Now we’re back to normal for the this week’s photo challenge. If you know where it is, click “Comments” below. And, as always, feel free to add any back story.


Click here for “06880+” — the easy way to publicize upcoming events, sell items, find or advertise your service, ask questions, etc. It’s the “06880” community bulletin board!

Everyone Into The Pool!

Westporters love their privacy. 

And their pools.

But here, counterintuitively — and from the very exclusive Burritts Landing neighborhood on Long Island Sound, off Saugatuck Avenue — comes this story from Bruce Kasanoff. It originally appeared on the “What Inspires Me” section of LinkedIn:

My neighborhood is a bit odd, in that a few dozen houses share one swimming pool. This is because 50 years ago, one large property was subdivided and the developer left the existing pool intact. He specified that all houses would jointly share in its usage and upkeep.

The 100-year-old pool has two-foot thick walls and is larger than a typical residential pool. It is great for swimming laps. (I say this theoretically, as someone who doesn’t actually swim laps.)

Very few people aspire to share a pool with a few dozen neighbors. Instead, people want their own pool.

After 15 years of sharing, I can tell you that sharing is much, much better. You pay less for upkeep, yet enjoy a bigger pool. But that’s not even close to the best benefit.

Bruce Kasanoff wasn't kidding. That's one giant swimming pool!

Bruce Kasanoff wasn’t kidding. That’s one giant swimming pool! (Photo courtesy of Google Earth)

Thanks to the pool, we have an extremely social and friendly neighborhood. Instead of hanging out in our own yards, we hang out together at the pool. We meet each others’ friends and relatives. We share food and sometimes have communal dinners.

Here’s where it gets really interesting, at least to me. Sharing the pool created a culture of sharing in our neighborhood. When my kids were younger, our neighbors approached us with a proposal. Our swing set was getting pretty shaky, and our kids had mostly outgrown it. So our neighbors offered to buy a much nicer new one that we would share, but — because they didn’t have a flat spot in their yard — they asked to put it in ours. We agreed.

Then another neighbor bought a trampoline, that everyone shares. Another bought a soccer net. Same deal. Today, the swing set is long gone but we share a garden with our neighbors.

I’d like to think that this is where we are headed as a society: sharing more.

Increasingly, technology makes this easier. For example, The People Who Share website lists over 8,000 companies and organizations that facilitate sharing. Share a car, house, meal, artistic event, or even a dog.

You don’t need a venture capitalist and a programming team to start sharing. You just need to adopt a sharing mindset. Once you do, don’t be surprised if you discover that sharing is contagious.

(Hat tip: Maxine Bleiweis)