Category Archives: Saugatuck

Pic Of The Day #485

Night work on the William F. Cribari Bridge (Photo/Ward French)

Pic Of The Day #477

A drone’s-eye view of Saugatuck: the neighborhood, and the river (Photo/David Curtis, HDFAPhotography.com)

Friday Flashback #101

The other day, I mentioned how few photos I’ve seen of Saugatuck before I-95 was built. I’ve always had a tough time visualizing what that neighborhood looked like before bulldozers, concrete and pillars.

Alert — and historic-minded — “06880” reader Neil Brickley rode to the rescue. He’s a Staples High School classmate of mine, with an equal fascination for the Westport a few years before our parents arrived.

The photo Neil sent is fascinating. It’s a stupendous aerial view of Saugatuck from 1951 — about 4 years before construction began.

I noticed a few things.

The Arrow Restaurant (most recently Blu Parrot) was not yet built on Charles Street.

Greens Farms Road met South Compo quite a bit further south than it does today.

Most significantly, the area west of Saugatuck Avenue — where land was taken to build the Exit 17 interchange — was much more wooded than I imagined.

Click on or hover over the image above. Explore. Then click “Comments,” to share what you see.

Neil also sent this bonus aerial view: The same area, taken in 1965.

A lot changed in just 14 years.

Which makes me wonder what the Saugatuck of today will look like in 2032.

When The Cribari Bridge Closes …

Starting Monday, contractors will make emergency nighttime repairs to the William F. Cribari Bridge over the Saugatuck River.

That means closures and detours, from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays. The tentative schedule calls for 6 weeks of work — weather permitting.

That’s bad news for commuters. And for businesses that depend on bridge traffic for customers: restaurants, bars and Saugatuck Sweets, for example.

So the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce is spreading the word: “The Bridge May be Closed, But Saugatuck is Open!” Miggs Burroughs has donated artwork to help folks realize that despite detours, you can still eat, drink and enjoy all the places that make Saugatuck fun.

Speaking of Saugatuck and the Chamber: The next “Tuesday @ the Train” event is this coming week (August 6, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.). Luciano Park is the spot for music, food, beer, wine and games. All commuters, their families, even the many Westporters who work at home and need a break are welcome!

And speaking of construction that impacts local businesses: I haven’t heard a peep of protest from the shops in Sconset Square. But they must be impacted hugely by the long-running Aquarion project that’s tearing up — and often closing — Myrtle Avenue.

So here’s another reminder: Sconset Square is not closed. Just park on the Post Road, Church Lane, or anywhere else downtown, and walk over for Le Penguin, Bungalow, Bespoke Designs, and all the other places at this popular, but now hard-to-park-at, shopping center.

There’s more than one way to get to Sconset Square. This view is from Church Lane.

Traffic Tales: Back In The Day

The ongoing intense, important and interesting discussion about the future of the William F. Cribari Bridge — including effects on spillover traffic from I-95, particularly with tractor-trailers and other large vehicles — got me thinking.

The highway — then called the Connecticut Turnpike — sliced through Saugatuck in the 1950s, devastating that tight-knit, largely Italian neighborhood. Homes and businesses were demolished. Families were uprooted. Entire roads disappeared.

But for the rest of Westport, “the thruway” was a godsend. Post Road traffic had become almost unbearable. Trucks rumbled through day and night. Route 1 was the main — and really the only — direct route between New York and Boston.

Post Road, near the Riverside Avenue/Wilton Road intersection, a few years before I-95 was built. Fairfield Furniture is now National Hall.

I know this only because I have heard stories from people who lived here then. When my parents moved to Westport, the Turnpike was open. It was fresh, modern and new — a symbol of postwar modernity, heralding a very promising future.

What I do not know — and what many “06880” readers would like to hear — is what the Post Road was really like, in the years before I-95.

How bad was it? Did it affect parking, businesses, homes? How did people cope?

If you lived in Westport in the pre-thruway days, let us know. Click “Comments” below. Tell us what you remember. If you’ve got photos, send them along.

And if you’ve got any advice for the town and state, as we grapple once again with the future of Saugatuck, we’d love to hear it.

Friday Flashback #100

This is the month of year when — for a quarter century — Westporters flocked to Festival Italiano at Luciano Park.

We were joined by thousands of others — plenty of actual Italians, and many more wannabes — from as far away as Brooklyn.

The Italian Festival is gone. So are the days when Saugatuck was a true Italian neighborhood, filled with extended families, shops and restaurants handed down through generations, and a special atmosphere remembered lovingly by the ever-dwindling number of people fortunate enough to grow up there.

Sam Febbraio did. The other day, while going through his mother’s papers, Tony Giunta found a list Sam made.

Tony thinks Sam typed it up in the mid-1960s. It’s filled with his best recollection of the names of people and places in Saugatuck in the 1930s and ’40s.

If you are a native Westporter — particularly from Saugatuck — you’ll remember many of these names.

If you don’t: You missed some of the best times — and people — our town has ever seen.

I’m sure “06880” readers will have comments about some of them. We should all read them.

It’s a way of celebrating our own Festival Italiano.

Larry Weisman: State Can Prohibit Trucks From Cribari Bridge

Larry Weisman has followed the recent controversy over the William F. Cribari Bridge with interest.

The longtime Westporter reads “068880” comments too. One in particular drew his attention.

A preservation-minded reader referred to ‘’the statute’’ that controls the authority of the Connecticut Department of Transportation to prohibit truck traffic on a state highway.

Without quoting the statute, the commenter implied that it supports his argument for preservation as the only (or best) way to limit truck traffic on the bridge.

Weisman — an attorney — went to work. He found what he believes is the law: Section 14-298 of the Connecticut GeneraI Statutes.

Based on his reading — and in part on a successful campaign in Darien to ban trucks near I-95 — Weisman believes that the statute clearly allows the DOT to prohibit truck traffic under the same circumstances prevailing at the Cribari Bridge: “for the protection and safety of the public” whenever the route is “geographically located so that it could be utilized as a through truck route.”

Weisman found that among the physical characteristics to be assessed in determining whether the protection and safety of the public is at risk are: “road width and configuration, sight line restrictions, roadside character and development, number and character of intersecting streets and highways, traffic control devices, volume and character of traffic, and established speed limits.’’

I-95 is just out of this aerial view. According to Larry Weisman, Connecticut Department of Transportation regulations can prohibit through truck traffic on even a newly remodeled Cribari Bridge.

“Not only is there nothing here that would prevent prohibition of trucks on that portion of Route 136 which utilizes the bridge,” Weisman says, “but the bridge meets almost every criterion for such a prohibition and the statute effectively counters the argument that retaining our substandard bridge is the best (or only) way to address the issue.”

Click here for Connecticut DOT’s “Through Truck Prohibitions” page.

Pic Of The Day #463

Saugatuck River, as seen from the bridge. (Photo/Serkan Elden)

Photo Challenge #186

Last Sunday — when many folks were either at the downtown Fine Arts Festival, Library Book Sale, beach, or otherwise enjoying the delights of a Westport summer — a dozen quickly responded to our “06880” photo challenge.

They knew that Bob Weingarten’s image showed another local gem.

Well, sort of.

His shot of a small white lighthouse-type structure is visible to anyone who looks east over the Saugatuck River, from Riverside Avenue. (Click here for the photo, and all guesses.)

In fact, it was described variously as across from Rive Bistro restaurant, the VFW, a medical office complex and the Saugatuck Rowing Club. Lots of people see it, from lots of different places.

Only Valerie Port, though, described it by where it is, not what it’s across from. She said it’s at “the end of Oak Ridge Park” — a private road off Imperial Avenue.

Kudos to Valerie, plus Jana Moorman, Bobbie Herman, Diane Silfen, Ralph Balducci, Jay Tormey, Sylvia Robinson Corrigan, Mary Ann Batsell, Jonathan McClure, Seth Braunstein, Amy Schneider and Peter Tulupman, for answering correctly.

And thanks for taking time out of such a beautiful day to do so.

Meanwhile, on another gorgeous day, Jeff Manchester and his son were out on a bike ride. They came upon this plaque:

(Photo/Jeff Manchester)

It probably was a momentous occasion, in 1932. In the intervening 86 years though, most Westporters have forgotten it exists.

If you know where you’d find this, click “Comments” below.

 

Friday Flashback #99

The William F. Cribari bridge is all over the news. Plans are meandering and/or plowing ahead for reconstruction. Meanwhile, emergency repairs will begin soon.

And there’s a brouhaha over the recent spate of rush hour closings, in order to accommodate a boat moored just north of the swing span.

A discussion rages in the “06880” comments section: Is the 136-year-old bridge historic? Or just old?

You be the judge. This photo — sent by Carmine Picarello — comes from Eve Potts’ great book, “Westport…A Special Place.”

We’re not sure what the future holds. But whatever a renovated or new bridge looks like, one thing is sure.

It won’t have trolley tracks.