Category Archives: Street Spotlight

Street Spotlight: Vani Court

This is the 5th story in “06880”‘s series highlighting Westport’s roads.

In 1948 a small road was built as temporary veterans housing. Named Vani Court in honor of Michael Vani — killed in the line of duty during World War II — it was expected that when Westport’s housing supply caught up with postwar demand, the small homes would be torn down.

Though basically just shells — 2 bedrooms, kitchen, living room, with kerosene space heaters, supported by 6 concrete piers, and with topsoil provided in piles for anyone desiring a lawn — they proved popular.

An early renter, in front of a Vani Court home.

A couple of years later, Westport’s Housing Authority reversed course. They offered to sell the homes to tenants.

The 20 homes were quickly snapped up. Three more were soon built.

Vani Court, from 1,000 feet. The Compo Road South entrance is not shown; it would be on the left side. (Aerial photo/Carl Hamann)

The original owners’ names include a who’s who of Westport: Romano, Van Zandt, Benos, Feeney, Bowes, Dorta, Baker, Verina, Giunta.

Nine of the original World War II veterans who lived on Vani Court.

Seven decades later, Vani Court — nestled next to the railroad tracks off South Compo Road, on the right just past the bridge as you head to the beach — remains.

Nearly every home is an original. Only a couple have been torn down. (Longtime residents were nervous when that happened. But, one says, “the newcomers roll with Vani Court.”)

The road is one of Westport’s last old-fashioned true neighborhoods. It’s not just a place where kids ride bikes and play games up and down the cul-de-sac, and wander freely in and out of friends’ homes.

It’s a place where families stay, and put down roots. Children move into parents’ homes, and raise their own children there.

Many residents like their roads. Vani Court residents love theirs. And they are intensely proud of it.

Vani Court, via Google Earth View.

Elaine Daignault grew up in Greens Farms. She and her husband Jesse moved to Vani Court in 1997. Their children grew up there, and — like Elaine — graduated from Staples High School.

Jackson Daignault wrote his college application essay about Vani Court. He said that on the close-knit street he “learned how to comfortably interact with all kinds of people, to observe without judging, and to go with the flow in a community where so many strive to appear perfect.”

Playing basketball in the street, riding out a hurricane with several families in one house, and growing up knowing every neighbor’s name gave him “an understanding I never could have reached living in my own wing of a mansion.”

In fact, Jackson said, “the sound of the commuter train, just steps from my kitchen window, has been the soundtrack that shaped who I am today.”

Kids of all ages play together on Vani Court.

Elaine — who is Westport’s director of human services — appreciates from a mother’s perspective the comfort of knowing neighbors looked out for her kids, just as she did for theirs.

“Anyone who needs helps can knock on any door,” she says — and that goes for any age. “Literally, if someone needs a cup of milk, we’ll bring it over. And if someone takes a tree down, everyone comes over, chops wood and brings it home.”

Jonathan Greenfield lives near — but not on — Vani Court. When his dog Buddy was lost, neighbors rallied around to find him. Here they are together again, on the road.

Vani Court is located a few steps from one of Westport’s true hidden gems: the  Saugatuck River railroad bridge pedestrian walkway. Linking South Compo with the train station, it’s a great amenity for residents who commute — or want to walk to Saugatuck. (It’s also a wonderful place to watch the fireworks.)

Just as great, Elaine says, is that kids can ride their bikes from Vani Court to the beach without ever crossing South Compo.

She is amazed — but not surprised — that families raised several children in the small homes. On the street’s private Facebook group, she sees photos of kids waiting for school buses in the 1950s. The images are similar to those of her own kids — and now, the younger families moving in.

Easter on Vani Court. This photo could have been taken years ago — or this year.

Elaine mentions the Boone family. Jon Boone’s in-laws — the Kappuses — moved to Vani Court decades ago.

Jon — a noted youth coach — bought that house. After he died suddenly last year, neighbors rallied round. They celebrated his life together by erecting a large screen and sitting outside, in the rain, watching football.

Though most owners (and even renters) stay for years, their ties don’t break when they move. The other day, the entire street headed to Fairfield for the birthday party of a 10-year-old girl whose family has relocated.

Over the years, owners have remodeled, renovated — and enlarged — their homes. This one is at the end of the cul-de-sac.

A number of Vani Court residents worked, or still work, for the town. Rick Giunta — whose parents were original owners — is a longtime Parks and Recreation Department employee. His sons work there too.

For a while, 3 generations of Giuntas — Rick’s dad, he and his wife, and their boys — lived together on Vani Court. He calls it “a blessing” to have watched his kids go to the same schools he did, play the same kickball and whiffleball games on the street, and enjoy the comfort and security only an “extended family” like the road could provide.

“It’s the best place in the world,” Rick says.

Street Spotlight: Quintard Place

This is the third story in “06880”‘s series highlighting Westport’s roads.

Quintard Place is a small dead-end street, off South Maple Avenue not far from the Post Road. It’s near the northern edge of Greens Farms.

Quintard Place (red balloon) is a quiet street — but not far from the Post Road.

It’s easy to miss. That’s fine, according to the people who live there. Today — as in the 1950s and ’60s — kids of various ages play together. It’s a true neighborhood.

Melanie Heiser, her husband and young child moved there in 2014. Since then, they’ve added 3 more kids to the neighborhood.

“It’s an amazing street, with wonderful people,” she says. “We have block parties, as long as someone is willing to host.”

Quintard Place (Photo courtesy of Google Street View)

Two of Westport’s most beloved men were longtime Quintard Place residents.

Art Marciano taught elementary school for many years. He died 2 years ago this month. His wife Suse still lives in the house where they raised 2 boys.

George “Nooky” Powers lived there too. A star athlete at Staples in the 1930s, and a World War II veteran, he was a mail carrier whose route was nearby.

Those were the days when many more teachers and postal workers — and police officers, firefighters, Public Works employees and other men and women vital to our town — lived and raised families here. They were part of the fabric. They did not leave when their shift was done.

Nancy Powers with her dad, George.

Nooky’s daughter Nancy Powers Conklin remembers her childhood well. She writes:

When I grew up, there were just 8 homes on the street. Still, quite a few kids lived in those homes. Most of the time we all played together.

It was a private road, so there was very little traffic. We rode our bikes up and down, and cars knew to look out for us.

Nancy Powers learned to ride a 2-wheeler in the middle of Quintard Place. Some of the hedges still remain.

We played with twin boys –Brian and Kenny Grant — and their older brother Bobby. Whether it was baseball, football, running bases or Mother May I, we all had fun.  When there was no one around to play with, I climbed trees and played in the woods at the end of the street.

A circle at the end of the street had trees in it. Cars drove down the street and went around the circle when they realized there was no outlet. The “circle” became a meeting place to decide what we were going to do. Sometimes it became a make-believe cabin where we played house.

On the other side of the street, we played football and baseball in a big field.  I learned how to hit a baseball in my back yard with my father as my instructor.  Once I learned, the boys let me play with them.

Nancy Powers and her sister Diana in their front yard on Easter Sunday, 1957.

Neighborhood kids met in the Souppas’ yard to decide what game we would play. Giant Steps and Red Rovers were favorites. They were lots of fun.

Growing up on Quintard Place was great.  I have no complaints.  It was my childhood, and I was with my friends. What more could a kid want?

So where did Quintard Place get its name? The Quintard family made its mark in Stamford. There are streets named for them there, and in Norwalk, Old Greenwich and Rye. If you know of the  Quintards’ Westport connections, click “Comments” below. 

If you’d like your street featured on “06880,” email dwoog@optonline.net,

Isaac Quintard was born in Stamford in 1781.

Street Spotlight: Keene Road

This is the second in “06880”‘s series highlighting Westport’s roads.

John W. and Katherine Keene were longtime Westporters. In 1953 he bought a tract of land off North Morningside Drive, just south of Long Lots Road.

A house on the property had been built in the 1920s. It faced Morningside.

Keene built 9 more homes. He kept one for himself, and sold the rest.

Keene Estates — now called Keene Road — is convenient to education, recreation and retail. Google Maps misspells it as “Keenes Road.”

The first house he built — typical of the new development, called Keene’s Estates — had 7 rooms and 2 bathrooms, plus a 1-car attached garage. It sold for $20,000.

Keene was active in the VFW. After retiring, he joined the Westport Fire Department. Katherine died in 1968, He died the following year.

Dale Lamberty bought the Keenes’ house. She worked with her friend Martha Stewart in the fledgling “Market Basket” business selling baked goods. She also baked with Sarah Gross, and founded Great Cakes.

Lamberty died 4 years ago. Her house now has only its 3rd owner in 6 decades.

That’s typical of Keene Road (the name was changed from Keene Estates). It’s a quiet, friendly, private and tight-knit community.

Five of the original homes remain. Four replaced teardown. Residents include a mix of old-timers, and families with young kids. Everyone knows their neighbors, a homeowner says.

The entrance to Keene Road, off North Morningside Avenue.

A stream runs underneath the road, near Morningside. Children gather there to catch frogs. Deer and foxes are frequent visitors.

Yet Keene Road is prized for its proximity to plenty: Staples High School, Bedford Middle School, the Burr Farms athletic fields, and the Post Road.

It’s a true blend of old Westport and new. John Keene would be pleased that his “estates” have stood the test of time.

(If you’d like your street featured on “06880,” email dwoog@optonline.net)

 

Street Spotlight: High Point Road

Today, “06880” introduces a new feature. “Street Spotlight” does just that: It shines a light on a Westport road, from a resident’s point of view.

What makes your street special? Do you have unique traditions? Does one particular person, family or physical feature bring people together? Has everyone gone through an experience that bonded residents tightly?

“Street Spotlight” will run irregularly — whenever we get an interesting submission. Here’s your chance to show off your road, lane, drive, circle or court to the entire “06880” community. Send info and photos to dwoog@optonline.net. Happy trails!

High Point Road has a couple of claims to fame.

It’s supposedly the longest private dead-end street in town. Rod Serling once lived (and wrote “Twilight Zone” episodes) there.

High Point Road (red balloon) runs parallel to — and between — North Avenue and Bayberry Lane. Unlike those streets, it’s a dead end. The only way in or out is Long Lots Road.

But at its heart, mile-long, winding, hilly 70-home High Point is a true community.

In past years, there was a formal association. Members paid dues, elected officers, even produced newsletters and lists of every family (with kids and phone numbers).

A few years ago, someone made a map of all the homes — and listed every family that ever lived in them. This is a partial view of that map.

The association no longer exists. But there are still annual street gatherings for kids and adults. It’s a great trick-or-treating street. Every Thanksgiving, residents walk together.

High Point has an interesting history. It was developed out of woods and fields in the mid-1950s — around the same time Staples High School was being built, just behind its western hill. Most early homeowners did not yet have kids in high school. But as they grew up, the athletic fields behind the fence became a huge draw.

On the other (eastern) side, Muddy Brook flows through High Pointers’ back yards.

Ann Gill was among the first residents. Her death in December marked the end of the original homeowners. Until a couple of years ago, several families remained from those 1950s days.

Some of their houses still stand. The architecture was an eclectic mix: Cape Cods, colonials, modern, and some custom homes.

High Point Road homes are built in a variety of styles. This view looks west. Staples High School’s field hockey field is just beyond the homes on the right.

Most have been renovated. About 1/3 of the houses are large replacements of teardowns.

I grew up on High Point. It was a wonderful road — filled with boys and girls my age. We rode our bikes all the way to the cul-de-sac at the end, where we played all the games kids played back then.

The cul-de-sac. We called it “the turnaround,” and played there often.

We had block parties at Staples and on then-vacant lots, and carol sings. Our fathers rented a bus for a trip to Yankee Stadium; our mothers had their own garden club.

In this 1965 aerial view, Staples High School is on the left. An arrow points to High Point Road — and the house I grew up in.

A lot has changed. Kids no longer walk from High Point to nearby schools: Burr Farms Elementary School (it no longer exists), Long Lots (it was a junior high back in the day) or Staples. Then again, they no longer walk to school anywhere in Westport.

Families with pools no longer open them up to every kid on the road one day a week. (There are more pools — and much more liability).

But the neighborly vibe of High Point Road continues. The holiday traditions remain.

And it’s still — I think — the longest private dead-end road in Westport.

(Hat tip: Amy Saperstein. To nominate your road for a “Street Spotlight,” send info and photos to dwoog@optonline.net)

Former and present High Point Road residents reunite on their street. (From left): Ursula Malizia grew up on High Point, lives there now and teaches at Kings Highway Elementary; Anne Delorier, Aimee Latzman, Carlotta McClaran Simunovic, Amy Saperstein, Shikha Sharma, Anna Inglese and Jen Gorin.