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DISCLAIMERThis blog is personal opinion, and is not representative of the views of the Westport School District or Board of Education.
Category Archives: Saugatuck
Early this morning, “06880” gave readers a special gift: a link to Staples High School’s magical Candlelight Concert.
(Okay, I know: The performance is the music department’s annual gift to the town. So technically, I’m re-gifting it.)
But you deserve more than one present. Here’s another.
Rhea Ruggiero moved from New York to Westport 15 years ago. She quickly fell in love with the town.
One of the best parts is the Cribari Bridge at Christmas.
When she comes home late at night and the lights are up, she is sometimes so overwhelmed she turns around and drives through a 2nd time.
The bridge is “an example of Westport is: a spirited community that celebrates life,” Rhea says.
To thank the volunteers from Al’s Angels — who put up and maintain the lights — as well as share the joy she gets from the Saugatuck River span, Rhea made a video.
It’s Westport at its best. And its her — and “06880”‘s — mid-morning gift to all.
The other day, a woman came into Ryan Meserole’s store.
He owns Quentin Row — formerly Suited.co, a men’s custom clothing shop on Railroad Place — so she wasn’t looking to buy.
In fact, she was crying.
Through her tears, she told Ryan that Sarah Kennedy had been her best friend.
Sarah was the owner of Cellar Workshop — a much-loved custom jewelry store that previously occupied the space opposite the train station.
The woman was upset that Ryan had changed the interior. It was all she had left to remember Sarah by.
Ryan chatted with her for an hour. As she got ready to leave, he said he had something that might cheer her up.
In the back of the building — where store owners and staff park — a sign said “Reserved for Sarah Kennedy.” Ryan got a screwdriver, took down the sign, and gave it to the woman.
Her tears turned from grief to joy.
Ryan says, “I realized then that I didn’t just lease any old space for a suit shop, in any old town. Westport is filled with legacies. Even though the signs on many buildings have changed, it’s up to local shopkeepers to share the stories of the past. I feel privileged to know and pass on the history of Railroad Place, and of Sara.”
So this week’s Unsung Hero is Ryan Meserole, and the many other local businesspeople like him — men and women who understand that being local storeowners means a lot more than just selling suits and jewelry.
It means you take something from this town. And then you give it back.
The William F. Cribari Bridge has been in the headlines lately.
For one thing, its future — replace? repair? rehabilitate? — is very much up for debate.
For another, it’s the holiday season — when Al’s Angels’ lovely lights bring smiles to everyone who crosses the span. Even if they’re stuck in traffic on it.
Color photography had not yet been invented in 1910 — the year this “colorized” photo may have been taken.
But the bridge was already more than 20 years old.
And William F. Cribari — the cop who spent years directing traffic at the west end of the bridge, and for whom it was named after his death in 2007, age 88 — had not yet been born.
NOTE: The postcard calls it a “draw bridge.” The Cribari Bridge is, of course, a swing bridge.
Mark Kramer spent 3 decades as a writer-in residence at Smith College, Boston University and Harvard’s Nieman Foundation. He also enjoyed a storied career as a book and magazine writer, editor, speaker and consultant.
Mark has not lived in Westport since graduating from Staples High School in 1961. But — as an alert “06880” reader — he notes from afar that “the Saugatuck (Cribari) Bridge is threatened by traffic and time.”
It meant a lot to his childhood — and the town. Mark also has an idea for the bridge’s future. He writes:
I fished from that bridge in the 1950s. I loved watching the crew of volunteers (including John Santella from his dad’s barber shop), Paul Nette from Bridge Garage, and a few firemen from the nearly adjacent firehouse answer the call to pivot it open.
They appeared with a giant wrench — a waist-high T of iron, shaped like 3-pins of the traditional lug wrench that came in auto tool kits.
They stuck the socket into an embedded peg in the center of the bridge, and leaned into the crosspieces of the wrench. Slowly the massive bridge swung parallel to the river, a sailboat or two passed under, they swung it closed again and walked back to work.
People crossed the walkway for the pleasure of the view from midstream. They probably still do.
There’s an example of bridge preservation, connecting the twin towns of Shelburne Falls and Buckland, Massachusetts — not far from Smith College — that might be a feasible way for Saugatuck to go.
The “Bridge of Flowers” has had a big part in invigorating the commercial life of the twin towns, which has seen craft workshops and good restaurants come, along with scads of tourists on weekends.
After the local trolley quit, its bridge was long neglected. Then a local committee, led by a visionary real estate woman, raised some minimal funds, turned out lots of volunteer help, and turned it into a 3-season amazement, a walkers’ bridge bulging with horticultural wonders.
Now active committees, and perhaps a paid employee or two, keep flowers planted and flowing. It is a community-binding wonder, defying time and making folks happy.
Meanwhile, a new bridge across the Deerfield serves traffic a few hundred yards upstream.
I lived a town away for years, and my perspective on the Bridge of Flowers shifted.
At first it was a great place to bring the in-laws. But then I aged enough so the neighborly generosity that made it happen came into view.
The visitors’ book at the Buckland end of the bridge fills daily with thanks from people who drive there, and walk the bridge. Many stop for lunch or supper, and browse the shops selling ice cream, used books, ceramics and paintings — a good sort of tourism to draw.
Mark hopes Westporters will look into the idea of a Bridge of Flowers — with a new bridge built nearby. Click here for the Bridge of Flowers website. For more information and personal insights, email Mark directly: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Westporters may be in the dark about the future of the William F. Cribari Bridge.
But during the holiday season, the historic span glows with festive lights. Driving across the Saugatuck River — surrounded by colors — is one of our town’s magical moments.
It doesn’t just happen, though. The lights need maintenance. In the past year, they suffered severe damage.
Thankfully, Al’s Angels — the volunteer organization that does so much for needy kids and families — is on the case.
This Saturday night (December 1), they’ll replace the lights. Work begins at 11 p.m.
They need 24 volunteers. They ask helpers to bring their own 10-foot ladder or bucket truck. And cutting pliers.
It’s a big job. The trees and walkway side of the bridge will be decorated first. At 2 a.m. Sunday they’ll work overhead, then finish on the other side.
Al’s Angels supplies all the lights and snap ties. They just need folks who want to keep Westport’s bridge tradition alive — and are willing to work.
If you’re in, email email@example.com.
And dress warmly!
The Connecticut Department of Transportation is currently examining options for the rehabilitation or replacement of the William F. Cribari Bridge, over the Saugatuck River in Westport.
If they are paying the same attention to detail there as when they proofread their road signs, we’re in big trouble.