Category Archives: Places

Photo Challenge #148

You’d think a plaque honoring all of Westport’s veterans — “living or dead” — would be located in a prominent spot. Veterans Green, probably. The VFW, perhaps.

You’d also think that because it was dedicated in 1975, plenty of people would remember where it was.

You’d be wrong.

Jack Whittle and Deej Webb were the only “06880” readers who knew where last week’s photo challenge can be found. (Click here for the image, and all comments.)

It’s not what our veterans deserve. The plaque is at the old Bertucci’s (and older: Clam Box) property, near where a memorial flagpole once stood.

There’s a reason it’s there, and it has nothing to do with clams or pizza. For several decades, a Doughboy statue once graced the median, between the restaurant and Torno Hardware.

It was relocated probably 20-25 years ago to Veterans Green (though it was not called that then). It’s certainly a more appropriate spot — across from Town Hall, next to the Westport Historical Society.

Also appropriately, I’m honored to pass along alert (and patriotic) “06880” reader Adam Vengrow’s reminder:

Veteran’s Day is Saturday, November 11. Westport’s Town Hall ceremony is always inspiring — but  lightly attended. Consider going (10:30 a.m.). School’s not in session that day, so bring the kids too. It’s a great way — besides a plaque — to honor our veterans.

Now here’s this week’s photo challenge. If you think you know where in Westport it is, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Amy Schneider)

Honoring Westporters Who Preserve History

Though the 1 Wilton Road building disappeared, plank by wooden plank, there is some good news on the preservation front.

Next Monday (October 30, 7 p.m., Town Hall auditorium), 1st selectman Jim Marpe and Historic District Commission chair Francis Henkels will present the organization’s 2017 awards.

Eight properties — from all over town — have been chosen. They represent a variety of styles, and were selected for many different reasons.

Taken together, they are proof that Westport still cares about its architectural heritage.

Well, sort of.

Bedford Square

Since 1923, this Tudor revival has anchored downtown. Generations of Westporters knew it as the YMCA. When the Y moved to Mahackeno, there were grave concerns over the future of the building.

Bedford Square Associates — led by David Waldman — made a strong commitment to historic preservation. With hard, creative work and collaboration with town agencies, they and architect Centerbrook Associates designed a mixed-use complex that repurposed the Bedford building. Though there is significantly more space, the character and scale respects the streetscape of Church Lane, the Post Road and Main Street.

Bedford Square (Photo/Jennifer Johnson)

Wakeman Town Farm

This late-1800s farmhouse, with veranda, turned posts and a projecting gable is a Westport landmark. In the 1900s the Wakeman family supplied neighbors with produce, milk and eggs.

In 1970 Ike and Pearl Wakeman sold the historic property to the town. Today it is a sustainability center and organic homestead, open to the public.

Longtime Westport architect Peter Wormser donated his time and talent to rehabilitate the farmhouse. Public Works oversaw construction. Key elements include a rebuilt front porch, and new educational kitchen and classroom. Wakeman Town Farm is now even better able to teach, feed and inspire Westporters of all ages.

Wakeman Town Farm (Photo/Bob Weingarten)

190 Cross Highway

The Meeker homestead stood on the route taken by British soldiers, heading to Danbury to burn an arsenal. But after 2 centuries the barn and 1728 saltbox house fell into disrepair.

When Mark Yurkiw and Wendy Van Wie bought the property in 2003 it was in foreclosure. They rehabilitated the barn/cottage, and got a zoning variance to subdivide the property (making both buildings more likely to be preserved.) They’re now protected by perpetual preservation easements.

190 Cross Highway (Photo/Amy Dolego)

383 Greens Farms Road

This English-style barn was built in 1820 by Francis Bulkley. In 2000 Lawrence and Maureen Whiteman Zlatkin bought the property. They installed a new shingle roof, reinforced the basement foundation and floor beams, replaced exterior siding and enhanced the interior. All work was done with meticulous care, using historically appropriate materials. The barn now hosts civic gatherings, concerts and family events.

Maureen died last month. Her husband hopes that her focus on preserving the barn will inspire other Westporters to do the same to their treasures.

383 Greens Farms Road

8 Charcoal Hill Road

This 1927 stone Tudor revival is a classic example of the homes Frazier Forman Peters designed and built in the area. When Sam and Jamie Febbraio bought it in 2015, it had suffered from severe neglect. They meticulously restored it to its original form, adding 21st-century amenities. A 3rd-generation Westporter, Sam understands the appeal and significance of Peters homes.

8 Charcoal Hill Road (Photo/Bob Weingarten)

101 Compo Road South

Jenny Ong purchased this 1924 colonial revival — listed on the Westport Historic Resources Inventory —  in 2015 “as is” from a bank, with no inspection. Extensive water damage made it uninhabitable. The roof had collapsed, and the exterior was rotted.

The owner hired a structural engineer and architect. The original footprint was maintained, but with new windows, doors and roof. A dormer, stone steps and driveway were added. The rehabilitation replaced basement posts, first floor joists and flooring.

101 Compo Road South (Photo/Bob Weingarten)

37 Evergreen Avenue

The renovation of this 1938 colonial revival — located in the Evergreen Avenue Historic District — included the removal of a later-addition solarium in the front of the house. It was replaced by an addition within the existing footprint. Materials and design reflect and enhance the house’s original character. Owners Bruce McGuirk and Martha Constable worked with the HDC to ensure the work would be appropriate for the historic district.

37 Evergreen Avenue (Photo/Bob Weingarten)

6 Clover Lane 

This 1966 home — designed and built by George White — is a typical New England saltbox-style replication. Its 3rd owners — Lawrence and LJ Wilks — have taken special care to preserve the exterior.

6 Clover Lane (Photo/Bob Weingarten)

One Westporter’s Wondrous Cuba

After a welcome thaw in US-Cuba relations, much about the island 90 miles from the Florida Keys is once again uncertain.

Hurricane Irma inflicted severe damage. Mysterious illnesses have afflicted American embassy personnel in Havana. President Trump has pledged to roll back President Obama’s policies of openness.

Which, says Maite Hernandez, makes this the perfect time to visit.

The Westporter’s parents were born in Cuba. When Fidel Castro took over, they fled to Miami. They soon moved to Puerto Rico, which reminded them of home.

Maite Hernandez and her father Tony.

Maite grew up among her parents’ Cuban friends. She learned to love their food, and heard stories about their homeland.

In 1997, she and her siblings visited Cuba for the first time. She felt like she was home. She met cousins who had never left the island. Immediately, it felt as if they’d grown up together.

She returned twice, in 2011 and 2013. Every time she leaves, she feels as if a piece of her heart remains.

Westporters are curious to learn more about Cuba. They’re fascinated by what they hear: the 1950s cars, the art nouveau and art deco architecture, the beautiful beaches.

Cuban architecture …

They tell Maite they want to visit before things change. Yet, she says, they don’t know how to go there, or have concerns about political implications.

She has an easy answer. Her brother Sixto is the founder of Cuba Travel & Scouting; she’s the Northeast representative. Utilizing family connections, the company offers tours that don’t adhere to government-imposed choices of sites, hotels and restaurants. Each tour focuses on Cuba’s rich history, natural beaaty and architectural wonders.

Westporters who have traveled to Cuba appreciate the experience. Emily Blaikie calls it “one of the most magical places I have ever been. The people are lovely. So are the sights and sounds. And the food is delicious.”

“06880”‘s tagline is “Where Westport meets the world.” Maite Hernandez wants her neighbors and friends here to know that — despite all the bad news recently — a wonderful world awaits them, just a short plane ride away.

… and a classic car.

Weaving Through Westport’s Worst Intersection

In a town filled with traffic lights and stop signs, you’d think one of the busiest and most confusing intersections in town would be tightly regulated.

You’d be wrong.

The Weston Road/Easton Road/Main Street clusterf*** has long defied explanation. Despite traffic funneling from downtown, Cross Highway, the Coleytown area, Weston and the Merritt Parkway — and headed out in all those directions — the confusing, chaotic and dangerous area remains a transportation Wild West.

Quite a welcome to Westport, for those coming off the Merritt. Quite a potential death trap, for all of us.

Over the years, a variety of recommendations have been floated. They range from traffic lights everywhere, to an English/Massachusetts-style roundabout/rotary, to blowing the whole thing up and starting over. (Just kidding on the last one.) (Kind of.)

Recently, Facebook’s Westport Front Porch page has provided a place to discuss the intersection everyone loves to hate.

Jeff Mitchell used Google Earth View to explain his ideas for improvement. Now he’s shared them with “06880.”

First he showed the current situation:

To orient yourself: Weston Road near Cross Highway is at the lower right; Merritt Parkway Exit 42 is just off the top of the photo, in the upper left. Traffic coming from downtown on Main Street is at the lower left.

Next, Jeff offers Solution #1:

It would make the section of Main Street from near the Merritt to the merge by the old Daybreak Florist 1-way, headed toward town.

That would eliminate 2 hazardous merges — in front of Daybreak, and going to the Merritt — but would make life tough for people living on Wassell Lane.

It would also shunt more traffic into the Weston Road/Easton Road intersection. However, Jeff says, replacing the current blinking yellow light with a full stop light — perhaps for rush hour only — could move traffic more quickly to and from the Merritt.

Jeff’s 2nd solution is this:

It would convert all current merges to 3-way stops. This would eliminate all hazardous merges, while keeping Main Street 2-way.

There would be more “formal” stopping and starting — though perhaps no more than currently occurs, with hesitation over who goes when.

Solution #2 would involve construction, including possibly moving a utility pole.

Jeff met last weekend with Avi Kaner. The 2nd selectman had posted several other complex alternatives on Westport Front Porch. They’d been proposed by state engineers in the past. All would take eons to approve and construct — and may include the contentious taking of land by eminent domain.

Of course, these are state roads. It’s their decision what to do, and when.

“06880” readers: What do you think? Click “Comments” to weigh in on Jeff’s plans — or offer your own.

And if you like it just the way it is, we’d love to know why.

Pic Of The Day #173

Green’s Farms post office — does the apostrophe make it official? (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Drumlin Does It The Old-Fashioned Way

Fred Cantor graduated from Staples High School in 1971. After Yale University he got a law degree, married, and worked and lived in New York.

But his heart was always in Westport. He and his wife, Debbie Silberstein, bought a place here for weekends and summers. Then they moved in fulltime.

It’s a decision Fred never regretted — in part because of his close-knit neighborhood.

That friendly spirit remains. Fred reports:

Fred Cantor (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

My family moved to Westport in 1963, when I was in 4th grade, and I have many fond memories of my childhood here. Our home was on Easton Road. I spent many afternoons and weekends playing and/or hanging out with friends on nearby Silverbrook. It was a true neighborhood — at least for kids.

I know a number of “06880” readers lament some of the changes in town in the decades since that time. But I can attest that the small-town, neighborhood feeling is alive and well on the street my wife and I have lived on for the past 20+ years: Drumlin Road.

One prime example: This past weekend we had our annual road barbecue. Close to 50 residents turned out.

The ages ranged from 91 to just under 2 years old. Homeowners who lived on Drumlin since the mid-1950s chatted with a family with young daughters, who moved here just a few months ago.

Every household brought a dish (many were homemade).

Generations mixed (and ate) together at the Drumlin Road party. (Photo/James Delorey)

The friendly interactions during the party reflect the year-round atmosphere.  It’s not unusual to see residents helping out each other out. One man put his new snowblower to use in a winter storm, clearing the sidewalks of his elderly neighbors.

One of my favorite sights is seeing kids come off the school bus and — believe it or not — not stare down at their iPhones but instead talk and mess around with their friends or siblings as they head up the street to their homes. Later in the afternoon, they kick a soccer ball in the front yard, or shoot a basketball in the driveway.

Kids had a great time too at the neighborhood event. (Photo/James Delorey)

Perhaps the size of the lots — 1/4 acre — and the horseshoe shape of the road contribute to the neighborly character of the street. Whatever the reason, my wife and I feel fortunate to have lived more than 2 decades in a place that — to borrow from the slogan of the old Westport Bank & Trust — is truly a small-town neighborhood in a town of homes.

All ages posed for this Drumlin Road party photo, by James Delorey.

If You’re Thinking Of Weston…

06883: Get ready!

Today’s New York Times real estate section profiles Westport’s neighbor to the north.

It’s a fair, balanced account of the pros and cons of buying in the “quiet and wooded” town.

The 2 places will always be linked — after all, we were once part of Weston. And today’s story mentions Westport a few times.

There are references to a couple who looked at our “popular town on the Metro-North Railroad line with beaches and a vibrant downtown. But prices were daunting,” and a real estate agent suggested “they might get more for their money in Weston, a town they hadn’t considered.”

Referring to Weston’s “single plaza in the town center, where the market, pharmacy, hardware store and sole restaurant are housed behind identical brick storefronts,” the Times says “Weston is nothing like Westport. But the more the (couple) looked around, the more it felt like home.”

If you can’t find what you need in Weston Center, you have to head to Westport.

The article notes that Westonites commute from our train station, shop in our stores, and enjoy our restaurants.

Of course, Weston’s school system is excellent. The 2-acre zoning is very appealing. And it’s got Devil’s Den, 3 private clubs and Lachat Town Farm.

Negatives include the “rather sluggish” real estate market, and a property tax rate “higher than that of most surrounding towns.”

That won’t change, says 1st Selectman Nina Daniel.

“When you come into Weston, you breathe a sigh of relief. You are not in traffic. You have a sense of being away from the hurly-burly of the world.”

For years, Cobb’s Mill Inn defined Weston. The New York Times story never mentioned the fabled restaurant.

The Times concludes:

The resistance to change that has long defined Weston has lessened of late, as newcomers push for various amenities. As first selectman, Ms. Daniel is trying to straddle the divide, agreeing with those who want, for example, sidewalks connecting the school campus with the town center, while reassuring others that the town is not headed for mass commercialization. Also up for discussion: a town green, a community center and cluster-style housing for retirees.

(To read the entire story, click here. Hat tip: John Karrel)

Now On Sale: JD Salinger’s “Catcher In The Rye” Westport Connection

Everyone knows F. Scott Fitzgerald spent the summer of 1920 in Westport.

Much less known is that another author — equally important — came here 30 years later.

And finished one of the most famous books in American literature right here in town.

JD Salinger

The man was J.D. Salinger. The book was Catcher in the Rye.

Now a small piece of that big event is up for sale.

Amazingly alert “06880” reader Seth Schachter spotted a letter and envelope for sale on eBay.

Neatly typed by Salinger in his rented home — postmarked May 30, 1950, “Conn.,” with the return address “Box 365, Westport, CT” — it’s sent to Joyce Miller, a staffer on the New Yorker.

It’s described this way on eBay:

A phenomenal letter in which Salinger alludes repeatedly to the piece he is working on and his deadline. Little did he know at the time he was completing what was to become his landmark title, “Catcher In The Rye”, which he finished in 1950 while living in Westport and was published in mid-1951. From referencing his typewriter ribbon, to his self-inflicted deadlines he elates in a Holden Caulfieldesque persona: “Sharing my brand-new silk typewriter ribbon with you. The Supreme sacrifice. Some men covet Cadillacs, home in the country, etc. With me, its typewriter ribbons” “Another forty hours and I’ll probably be done. I doubt if I have the whole things ready by Saturday, though. There’s no special hurry, actually, but I’m forever imposing mysterious little deadlines on myself” “My mind’s hopelessly single tracked, and I’m quite a little bore when I’m working on a script” “… I can finish typing up the book at my parents’ apartment gracefully enough” JD continues to write a jubilant, playful and suggestive letter to Joyce Miller who was on the staff of “The New Yorker” in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, when J. D. Salinger was publishing stories in the magazine and working on his novel, “The Catcher in the Rye”.

In the spring of 1950, when Salinger was living in Westport, Connecticut, and Miller in White Plains, the two developed a close relationship whose clarity is not completely understood. These were complex years for Salinger, post the trauma of World War II, in the throes of writing his infamous novel “Catcher In The Rye”, while serial dating extremely young women. Salinger’s MO would often find him platonically romancing woman for years but upon the introduction of physical intimacy, would become disinterested and end the relationship. It was during this period, circa 1949, that at least one of this known relationships later came to light, that of Jean Miller, age 14 in 1949 whom he had a 5 year platonic relationship up until the very end which resulted both in intimacy and the end of the relationship. We know through a recent series of letters that this may have been the case with yet another, including that of Joyce Miller.

His letter to Miller dated within a year of the publication of “Catcher In The Rye”: “I finished your book before I went to bed last night. I’ve been training Benny to tear people apart ever since. I keep giving him a secret word, but it doesn’t sink in. The word’s “forsythia”, if you are interested … Don’t forget our 11:30 lunch date at the Biltmore Thursday. I’ll be sitting in the lobby. I’ll flirt with you, over my fan” Whether it was Jean Miller in 1949, Joyce Miller in the 1940s and early 50s or later in Salinger’s life, Maynard in 1972, it is believed that Salinger “was having these women replicate a pre-war innocence for him, and used very young girls as time travel machines back to before various wounds. So there’s something immensely heartbreaking about this rather problematic pursuit.” That pursuit, admitted Miller, “raises havoc in the muse’s life … That short story ‘The Girl With No Waist at All’ really represents [Salinger’s interest in] the moment before a girl becomes a woman.”


The mystery of where J. D. Salinger lived in Westport while he put his finishing touches on “The Catcher in the Rye” in 1949 is now closer to being solved, thanks to the release of the first new biography of the celebrated writer in a decade. We now know that Salinger rented a home on Old Road, off the Post Road. “Westport, CT is the birthplace of The Catcher in the Rye”. And the paper and ink, but more important the sentiment, return to Westport until it finds a new home. An incredibly important letter from 1950 pulling together a confluence of relevant points. On this one single page, written just months before “Catcher In The Rye” was published, Salinger’s TLS pulls together life themes from the birthplace of his famed novel. Those of his pursuit of innocence, complexities of his relationships with the opposite sex, while in the background woven through the body of the letter (which interestingly mirrors the writing style of “Catcher”), Salinger demonstrates the dry humor and sense of distaste and boredom of the norm as his protagonist “Holden Caulfield”.

Salinger writes: “Dinner with the Devries last night, over at some Japanese restaurant near the beach. A very nice dinner, but too much shop talk afterwards. Writers, writers, writers. If only we could do our work and then shut up when we’re finished. We talk so goddam much, and we’re such hopeless megalomaniacs. The wives aren’t much help. In fact, they’re worse than the writers. More dogmatic in their opinions. We should all just stay away from each other.” While reading the TLS, one cannot be sure whether “Catcher’s” protagonist Holden Caulfield, or J.D. Salinger himself, wrote this letter.

Bidding begins at $3,500. To join the action — or just see the listing — click here.

See The Solar Eclipse With Westport “Stars”

Though the full total solar eclipse next Monday (August 21) is visible along a narrow path from Oregon to South Carolina, Westporters can enjoy 70% of the event.

The Westport Astronomical Society is opening the Rolnick Observatory (182 Bayberry Lane) to anyone who wants to watch. They’ll provide solar telescopes and safety glasses. Experts will be on hand to provide commentary and insights.

The eclipse runs from 1:24 p.m. to 4 p.m. The maximum eclipse is at 2:45 p.m.

The Astronomical Society is not responsible for clouds.

 

 

Heather Hightower: The Charlottesville I Know

Heather Hightower graduated from Staples High School in 1999, and the University of Virginia 4 years later. She’s still in Charlottesville, where she’s the founder and owner of The Center for Vocal Study (and choir director at Field School).

In the aftermath of that city’s domestic terrorism incident — as the world tries to figure out what to make of her adopted hometown — she emailed “06880.” Heather says:

The Charlottesville I know is full of caring, good, hardworking people who actively seek to improve the lives of others.

The Charlottesville I know cares about its children, its small business owners, its food sources, its historical mark on this nation.

The Charlottesville I know is full of people who take the time to read about the issues and who then give careful consideration to how to best support the highest good.

The Charlottesville I know had people attending lectures on historical roots of racism, prayer vigils and other peaceful forms of activism the nights and weeks leading into this past weekend’s events.

Heather Hightower

The Charlottesville I know is committed to the values our nation holds dear, including diversity and freedom of speech.

The Charlottesville I know has the strength and presence of mind in its residents and leaders to tackle major issues and work towards resolution. We have faced some difficult issues in the past few years that have sparked national conversation. The events of this weekend, amplified by participants from out of town, do not represent the heart of Charlottesville. This city is strong, thoughtful, kind and cares about its neighbors and where we are going as a community.

The Charlottesville that will prevail is one powered by good. We have a marvelous opportunity to demonstrate how to lead in a time of crisis. It begins with how we conduct these conversations and how we rise to keep working towards change that builds community. Our community is listening, it is acting, and our artists are shining brightly.