Category Archives: Places

Remembering Chuck Berry

I only saw Chuck Berry perform live once.

It was in 2002, at the Levitt Pavilion’s annual fundraiser.

He was on a double bill with Little Richard.

Neither was very good. Both were well past their sell-by dates.

Chuck Berry — who died yesterday at 90 — was already 75.

Yet looking back, it’s very impressive that he was still performing — and still doing a (modified) version of his famed “duck walk.”

And how cool that I — and the rest of Westport — could see one of the true legends (and founders) of rock ‘n’ roll, right in our back yard.

That’s my only live memory of Chuck Berry.

But this is “06880,” where “Westport meets the world.” Our town is probably filled with people who played or recorded with, went into business with, or otherwise knew Chuck Berry well. (Weston too: I’m thinking of you, Keith Richards.)

Click “Comments” below, to share your memories.

PS: Roll over, Beethoven! And tell Tchaikovsky the news.

So What Are You Gonna Do Now With All That Milk And Eggs?

Trader Joe’s and Stop & Shop were stripped nearly bare. Gas stations were jammed. The Blizzard of the Year Decade Century Millennia Entire History of the Universe Since the Big Bang was coming!

It snowed this morning. The wind blew. A couple dozen homes were without power.

Ninety minute later, the juice was back on.

That was pretty much the story today. There was a storm for sure, and a bit of flooding. But to find the last time predictions were so far off, you have to go way back to November 8.

It was a day for Netflix. Finishing your taxes. And for Westport students to do homework.

Because you know — the Forecast of Doom notwithstanding — they’ll be back in school tomorrow.

Snow will fall. But birds have to feed. Kathie Motes Bennewitz made sure they had enough to eat.

Saugatuck Shores and coastal areas got hit with flooding, from the wind, high tide and full moon. When the storm receded, Max and Logan Manchester kayaked down Spriteview Avenue.

Water whipped up against Schlaet’s Point, on Hillspoint Road… (Photo/Ian Warburg)

…and nearby Compo Beach. (Photo/Ian Warburg)

This morning — with a statewide travel ban in effect — I-95 was deserted. This is the view looking north, from the Hales Road overpass. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

Have You Seen The Rotary Club Sign?

For as long as the Red Barn has been on Wilton Road — maybe longer — a sign for the Rotary Club of Westport stood on the side of the road.

Made of handsome cast iron, with a blue background, it noted when and where the club met.

Rick Benson — longtime Rotary member, and the guy you call on whenever something needs doing — had the chains replaced in 1994, and the sign repainted.

The Rotary Club sign. (Photo and artwork/Lynn U. Miller)

The club is ready to put up new signs at 7 prominent gateways to Westport. One will be at the (former) Red Barn site.

Much to their surprise, members discovered recently that the old sign is gone. All that’s left is a vine-encrusted metal post.

Rick canvassed club members. He called a few folks who might have picked it up for themselves. He checked with the Westport Historical Society.

Because he’s that kind of guy, he even had the area scanned with a metal detector.

Nada.

The missing sign, on Wilton Road.

So he’s asking “06880” for help. If you — or anyone you know — has intel on the whereabouts of the Rotary Club’s old sign, email Rick: ben3rb@aol.com.

Or — for complete confidentiality — contact “06880” (dwoog@optonline.net). I’ll get the sign back to Rick, no questions asked.

FUN FACT: The Westport Rotary Club turns 100 on March 7, 2024. That makes it more than a decade older than the Merritt Parkway, whose Exit 41 is near the old (and new) sign.

Friday Flashback #29

As Bedford Square nears completion, it’s shaping up as a handsome addition to downtown. David Waldman has taken the original lines of the Bedford Building — the Tudor YMCA, built in 1923 — and extended them along Church Lane, then up across Elm Street.

But Bedford Square has nothing on the grandeur of its namesake’s estate.

E.T. Bedford —  director of Standard Oil, and philanthropist of (among others) Bedford Junior High and Bedford Elementary School — lived on Beachside Avenue, next to Burying Hill Beach.

Here’s what his house looked like in 1920:

e-t-bedford-estate-beachside-avenue-1920

He wasn’t the only wealthy Beachside resident. This is a view of “Nirvana” — E.B. Sturges’ home (and personal dock) — in 1909:

nirvana-e-b-sturges-residence-beachside-avenue-1909

Yet the Bedford influence was hard to avoid. That’s his windmill in the distance, toward the right side of the photo.

(Hat tip: Ken Bernhard)

From Cuba, With Love

Westporters June Eichbaum and Ken Wirfel just returned from a great National Geographic expedition to Cuba. June sends this report, and some wonderful photos:

Our “people to people” visa facilitated a unique cultural exchange. We met extraordinary teachers and students in the visual and performing arts, including an 18-year-old young man in Cienfuegos who choreographed and danced a pas de deux of passion and violence in gay love.

At Isla de Juventud, an all-girl string quartet played a Telemann violin concerto.  We were energized by the percussion and dance of Habana de Compas, rooted in Santeria rhythms. We spoke with cigar factory workers, farmers and a Santeria priest.

Man with cigar. (Photo copyright June Eichbaum)

Man with cigar. (Photo copyright June Eichbaum)

We met a librarian who ran a Google-donated internet center with computers for children, and mechanics skilled in antique car restoration. We visited open-air markets where butchers sold unrefrigerated meat, alongside fruits and eggs.   We walked through a crumbling, abandoned prison for political prisoners and hard-core criminals.

Cuba is both amazing and sad. It is amazing because of the openness, compassion and joy of the Cuban people — their resilience, love of family, and music and art that infuses their world.

The sadness was ours, as we observed Cubans lacking what we consider essential to our everyday lives, like appliances, food (without needing a ration card), cars, even functional plumbing.

Apartment building with clotheslines. (Photo copyright June Eichbaum)

Apartment building with clotheslines. (Photo copyright June Eichbaum)

Yet the United States continues its embargo — not sanctions, but an embargo — an anachronism that has outlived its purpose. All it does now is deprive poor hard-working people.

For instance, Cubans can’t import US cars or car parts. As a result, Cuban mechanics in a time-warp fashion parts for cars from the 1950’s, or import parts from other countries.

One man showed us his ’58 Chevy. He was allowed to import a Mercedes engine from Germany, but not from the US.  Then he pointed to a Chinese container ship in the harbor that was delivering a shipment of new buses.

'58 Chevy in old Havana. (Photo copyright June Eichbaum)

’58 Chevy in old Havana. (Photo copyright June Eichbaum)

Another embargo-imposed time warp is that Cuban-Americans who send money to their relatives in Cuba must use Western Union, not US banks.

So what does Cuba have to do with Westport?

Westporters and Cubanos have shared values:  love of family; devotion to children; engaging in hard work; living in an inclusive society.

Cubanos do not discriminate based on ethnicity or race. They see themselves as one people — not black or mulatto or white.

Woman in colorful dress, old Havana. (Photo copyright June Eichbaum)

Woman in colorful dress, old Havana. (Photo copyright June Eichbaum)

Historically, Westport was the only town in Fairfield County that sold homes to Jews.  “Gentleman’s Agreement” — the 1947 movie with Gregory Peck about anti-Semitism in Fairfield County — told this ugly story.

Cubanos are passionate about the arts and creativity — whether dance, music, theater, painting, sculpture, embroidery, weaving, sculpture or pottery. Life in Westport is energized by groups like Westport Country Playhouse, Westport Art Center, Westport Public Library, Staples Players and Westport Community Theater.

Girl practicing trumpet in high school courtyard. (Photo copyright June Eichbaum)

Girl practicing trumpet in high school courtyard. (Photo copyright June Eichbaum)

On the flight home I thought about transforming the “people to people” Cuba expedition into a two-way street.  Charleston, South Carolina has already provided a model in its annual Spoleto USA Festival.

This event has become one of America’s major performing arts festivals, showcasing both established and emerging artists with performances of opera, dance, theater, classical music and jazz.

Imagine the positive impact of Westport hosting these gifted Cuban artists of all ages with performances over a week at different venues throughout town.  And imagine how it would bring people together at a time when our country is so divided.

Abandoned prisons. (Photo copyright June Eichbaum)

Abandoned prisons. (Photo copyright June Eichbaum)

Santeria religious doll. (Photo copyright June Eichbaum)

Santeria religious doll. (Photo copyright June Eichbaum)

Bedford Square Takes Shape …

… and it looks like it’s been here forever!

Thanks to WestportNow and photographer Jennifer Johnson for this great photo!

bedford-square-february-17

Friday Flashback #25

A few weeks ago, alert “06880” readers were identified the 1920s-era Flambeau Tea Room.

Now how about the Westover Inn?

westover-inn

The front view of this postcard — courtesy of Seth Schachter — looks like it really could be in Westport.

Or anywhere else in New England.

I’ve never heard of it. Seth hasn’t either.

But — according to the back of the postcard — it was right there on the Post Road.

westover-inn-back-of-card

There’s one clue as to its vintage: the phone number. Those were the days when you needed only 5 digits to make a call.

Sometime in the 1950s, Bell introduced the “CA 7” (for CApital) prefix to Westport.

If you have any memories of the Westover Inn, click “Comments.”

And if you know where it was located, we’d really like to know.

Searching For The Quintessential Westport Shot

The Compo cannons and Minute Man monument. Sherwood Mill and Nash’s Ponds. The Saugatuck and Aspetuck Rivers. The Bridge Street and Post Road bridges.

Those — and many others — are photographers’ favorites. From the water to the Weston border, our town teems with great scenes to shoot.

Now one of those images may land on the cover of the next Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce‘s Visitors/Membership Guide.

And it could be yours.

The Chamber is seeking “quintessential” Westport photos. The last time they asked — in 2015 — they received over 1,000 submissions, from dozens of amateur and professional photographers.

Westporter Mark Litvinoff was the winner, with a gorgeous shot of the Levitt Pavilion.

Mark Litvinoff's winning photo from 2015.

Mark Litvinoff’s winning photo from 2015.

Scores of other images were used inside the 68-page booklet and map. Every winner received photo credit.

Any resident or businessperson from Westport or Weston can submit any number of entries. Send them to matthew@westportwestonchamber.com, with the subject line “Photo Contest.” Deadline is March 1.

“06880” will publish the winning image, and worthy runners-up.

Friday Flashback #24

“06880” readers like our Friday Flashbacks. This one they’ll love.

Actually, it’s a two-fer. Back in the day, Westport was home to not 1, but 2, sanitariums. (Sanitaria? Whatever. If you’ve forgotten your medical history, a sanitarium was a hospital for the treatment of chronic diseases, often tuberculosis or mental disorders.)

The best known and most visible was originally the former mansion of Henry Richard and Mary Fitch Winslow. Built in 1853 and named Compo House, the palatial home was surrounded by guest houses, servants’ and gardeners’ quarters, and gorgeous gardens. Former president Millard Fillmore was a visitor, and extravagant fireworks were shot off there every July 4th.

By 1907, it had become the Westport Sanitarium. Here’s how it looked then:

westport-sanitarium-1907-now-winslow-park

The building was torn down in the 1970s. It had long earlier fallen into disuse, becoming an attractive nuisance to teenagers, drug users and other random folks.

No wonder. It was just a few steps away from downtown, on land bordered by the Post Road and North Compo.

Today, it’s the site of a dog park. Its name is Winslow, in honor of the original owners. The sanitarium is the reason for all those asphalt paths, in places you’d never expect them.

Our 2nd sanitarium — named for its owner, Dr. McFarland — was on Long Lots Road. In later years it became a full-fledged psychiatric hospital, called Hall-Brooke. A building visible from Long Lots was renamed McFarland Hall.

This is what Dr. McFarland’s Sanitarium looked like in the early 1900s:

dr-mcfarlands-sanitarium-hall-brooke

The photo above is of the main building. The other building was visible for many years from Long Lots.

If you’ve got memories of either sanitarium, click “Comments” below.

(Photos courtesy of Seth Schachter)

Photo Challenge #107

Last week’s photo challenge was like Goldilocks.

It was not too easy. Not too hard. It was just right.

There was a great balance between right answers, and wrong.

The wrong guesses went in every direction. Seth Schachter’s waterfall photo showed not Lees Pond. Not Nash’s Pond. Not Devil’s Den.

It was Bulkley Pond. That’s by Sasco Mill, on the Westport/Southport border. It’s right behind Shake Shack. And — sssshhh!  — there’s a cute little parking area, for your enjoyment.

Andrew Colabella, Billy Scalzi, Joyce Losen and Katie Augustyn knew exactly where that hidden-in-plain-sight site was. Click here for the photo, and all the comments.

This week’s photo challenge is a lot uglier. But — like the 3 Bears — it takes all kinds to make up Westport.

If you know where in Westport to find this, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)