Tag Archives: A. E. Hotchner

Roundup: Teardowns, Trees, Tony La Russa, More


Yesterday’s Roundup noted the upcoming demolition of 14 Hillandale Road — writer A.E. Hotchner’s longtime home — as part of the construction of Authors Way, a new 4-house subdivision.

Developer Rick Benson says that while the Historic District Commission permit allows teardown any time after Monday (January 11), the final Planning & Zoning Commission hearing is next Thursday (January 14). It’s unlikely, he says, that demolition work will start for a few weeks.

He notes that the house lacks a satisfactory foundation; has no full cellar, first floor bathroom, insulation or central HV/AC system, and has rusted 1920 iron windows.

In addition, Benson says, it lands in the setbacks of the new lot layouts.

14 Hillandale Road


Also slated to be torn down: 27 Gorham Avenue. The home was built in 1933.

27 Gorham Avenue (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)


David Meth writes:

“On Wednesday night, to take a break from the dull routine of daily life and obscene anxiety of politics and pandemic, and actually run away from the assault of the news, a friend and I decided to go out for a delicious pizza at Ignazio’s next to the Sherwood Diner.

“It made the day, because it reminded us of the importance of a pizza and conversation, a glass of beer or wine, a burger at the diner, cup of coffee at the local café … just getting together and talking to one another without devices and electronic interruptions is so wonderfully refreshing and important—and how much we miss the tradition and sense of community of just being with friends, even strangers, to remember who we are as people.”

Remember normal life?


Residents of the Punch Bowl/Gault Park area have noticed a number of trees cut down recently — and others marked with the tape that means their end is near too.

Town tree warden Bruce Lindsay says it’s part of Eversource’s effort to target high-risk trees that could topple in a storm. Many are slender white pines.

The neighborhood bordered by Cross Highway and Weston Road suffered severe damage — including extended power outages — during August’s Tropical Storm Isaias.

Eversource analyzes circuit by circuit performance, then targets the circuits or portions with the most tree-related outages. They then identify trees needing trimming or removal.

Trees account for up to 90% of all outages in Eversource’s system.

(Photo/Joyce Backman)

Tony La Russa is coming to the Westport Library

Well, not really. It’s a livestream, and it’s not likely the Major League Baseball Hall of Famer will be talking from the Westport Library studio.

But he’ll be joined by a good friend — longtime Westporter Steve Parrish — and the Library is sponsoring the event. So — even thought fans can join from anywhere in the world — it does count as “ours.”

The event is set for Tuesday, January 26 (7 p.m.). La Russa will chat about his World Series victories, tell classic baseball stories, and describe his role as new manager of the Chicago White Sox.

Click here to register for the free program.

Tony La Russa


And finally … the War of 1812 roared back in the news this week. That’s the last time — until Wednesday — that the US Capitol suffered a significant breach from opponents of democracy.

On this day in 1815, the last major engagement of that war ended. American forces defeated the British in the bloody Battle of New Orleans.

Andrew Jackson and a ragtag group of frontiersmen, slaves, Indians and pirates held off, then inflicted tremendous damage on a much larger and better trained British force intent on capturing the important port.

In just over 30 minutes, the Americans suffered 60 casualties — and killed 2,000 British.

Jackson became a national hero, and set out on a path to the presidency. However, the battle was for naught. The Treaty of Ghent, ending the war, had been signed 18 days earlier. Word had not yet reached the US from Europe.

Roundup: Community Gathering, Authors Way, Car Heist, More


In response to yesterday’s assault on the US Capitol by a mob, Temple Israel Senior Rabbi Michael Friedman writes:

“Where the rule of law reigns, Jews have flourished. Where lawlessness spreads, we have suffered.

“Similarly, the ancient sage Rabbi Joshua ben Levi taught: ‘Great is peace… if the Holy One had not given peace to the world, sword and beast would devour up the whole world.’

“The Jewish community of Fairfield County will gather tonight (Thursday, January 7, 7 to 7:30 p.m.) online to find comfort in the strength of our community, and to offer prayers for our nation and prayers for peace.”

Click here to register for the webinar.


“Authors Way” is the name of a new subdivision of 4 homes, planned at #14 Hillandale Road.

That’s a nod to Westport’s many famous writers — including A.E. Hotchner. The novelist/playwright/biographer — known for his books about friends like Ernest Hemingway and Paul Newman (with whom he founded the Newman’s Own philanthropy) — died last February. He was 102, and had lived more than half his life — 67 years — here.

His property included a large house. Built in 1928, it was originally part of a 40-acre estate, including a long allée.

Plans call for the homes to be built on 1-acre plots, between Wakeman Road and Ellery Lane. Hotchner’s home — with high ceilings and large rooms — may be torn down as early as Monday (January 11). An application for demolition was made before the Historic District Commission on July 15. They upheld a 180-day delay.

14 Hillandale Road


Police report that at 9:04 a.m. yesterday, the driver of a BMW was pumping gas at the Post Road Exxon station by South Maple Avenue.

A male jumped in and drove off, at a high rate of speed.

GPS tracked the vehicle. West Haven officers tried to pull the driver over. After striking several vehicles in heavy traffic, he finally stopped.

As one of the 2 occupants was taken into custody, the other entered a patrol car. He slammed it into reverse, striking several officer.

The cruiser became disabled after being driven through a nearby cemetery. The second suspect — like the first, a juvenile — was apprehended without further incident.

Westport police remind all motorists to secure their vehicles, even when stepping out for a moment.

For a video of the apprehension of the suspects, click here.


Congressman Jim Himes says:

As part of the recent COVID relief package, qualifying individuals will receive an Economic Impact Payment of up to $600, and up to $600 per dependent child under the age of 17. You can check the status of your EIP by clicking here.

Individuals who make an annual income of $75,000 for an individual and $150,000 for a household will receive the full $600. EIPs will be reduced by $5 for every $100 of annual income above $75,000 for individual and $150,000 for household. To receive an EIP, you must have a work-eligible Social Security Number. Click here for additional information, including information on new provisions on eligibility for U.S. citizens who file their taxes jointly with a non-citizen.

Some eligible individuals and families did not receive their initial Economic Impact Payment. The IRS is instructing these Americans to claim their payment when they file their 2020 taxes in 2021. Eligible individuals can claim the so-called “Recovery Rebate Credit” on their 2020 Form 1040 or 1040-SR.

Many people, including recent college graduates, may be eligible to do so. Taxpayers whose incomes fell in 2020 from 2019 can also claim a credit on their 2020 federal income tax return for the difference between the amount they are entitled to under the law and the amount they received as an advanced payment.

For more information, click here.


Beginning Monday (January 11), the yard waste site at 180 Bayberry Lane will begin reduced winter hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon.

Regular hours resume March 8.

Christmas trees will continue to be accepted from Westport residents during winter hours.

Yard waste at 180 Bayberry Lane.

The Parks & Recreation Department has introduced a “Winter Wonderland Walking Challenge.”

Residents are invited to walk, jog or run a distance of their choice, and track their progress.

It runs now through March 31. To register, click here.

Go for it! (Photo/Rowene Weems)


And finally … on this day of outrage, mourning and reflection, we can also be uplifted by Phil Ochs’ stirring anthem.

Here is a land full of power and glory
Beauty that words cannot recall
Oh her power shall rest on the strength of her freedom
Her glory shall rest on us all (on us all).

A.E. Hotchner: Westport Till The Cows Come Home

A.E. Hotchner — the author and philanthropist who died on Saturday at 102 — was a true Westporter. He moved here in 1953, and — with fellow resident Paul Newman — helped create both Newman’s Own foundation and the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. Many Westporters knew him through his other passion: tennis. 

In 1986, he wrote a piece about our town for the New York Times. “06880” reader Dick Seclow received it from a friend, and sent it along. Thirty-three years ago, Hotchner said:

WHEN I first came to Westport in the 50’s, it was referred to as ”going to the country.” I rented a primitive little cabin for $300 for the summer, and as far as I was concerned, confined as I had been for most of my young life to the unforgiving streets of St. Louis and New York, Westport was indeed ”country.”

There were shops run by stonemasons and welders and old-fashioned hardware stores with bins of nails that were sold by the scoopful. Greenberg’s on Main Street sold ”notions” (a wonderful word that has gone the way of the pterodactyl), and on Main Street, too, there was a butcher shop where sides of beef hung on hooks and the butcher wore a straw boater, and a fish store that sold fish that had been unloaded from fishing boats that very morning. There was even a blacksmith who would make a grate for you in his forge that would precisely fit your fireplace.

Main Street in 1962 — nearly a decade after A.E. Hotchner moved to Westport.

On the Post Road was Rippe’s vegetable stand, bins heaped with vegetables grown on farmland behind the stand, and crisp apples picked from Rippe’s own orchards. In fact, Rippe operated an old-fashioned cider mill in full view, and the foamy, amber juice that spilled down the trough was sold to the customers right on the spot. I once bought a wooden barrel full of Rippe’s cider, deceived by the barrel’s compact shape into severely underestimating the quantity of its contents. As Thanksgiving gave way to the wintry gusts of December, the spigot of the barrel unceasingly yielded its golden contents that imperceptibly matured, climaxing in a drunken Christmas revel.

After a few years, I forsook my cabin (with some regret) for a grand, Normandy house that I couldn’t afford and still can’t afford. It was straddled by a wheat field on one side and a meadow on the other that yielded fraises de bois if you were willing to crawl along the ground, searching for the tiny, red fruit hidden under the leaves of the plant. I did, on the conviction that whatever you had to do to obtain a bowl of freshly picked fraises de bois was well worth the crawling.

But of all the country pleasures of Westport, none for me was greater than watching the vast herd of black and white Guernsey cows grazing on the emerald pastures of the Nyala Farm, which was located in the Greens Farms section of town, adjacent to the turnpike exit, so that as I arrived on Friday, the woes of the past New York week clinging to me, the first thing I saw as I hit Westport was this Turner landscape filled with magnificent Guernsey cattle.

Nyala Farm (Robert Vickrey painting, courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

The farmhouse, constructed of old New England stone, strongly evoked an English countryside in the cows’ native Guernsey. And every morning, Mike Ferris of the Ferris Dairy delivered a couple of quarts of Guernsey milk, a thick layer of cream extending all the way down the neck and into the shoulder of the bottle. No milk ever tasted like that before or since.

I can’t tell you precisely when the country started to go out of Westport. It didn’t happen just like that, but one after the other, Greenberg’s notions, the authentic hardware stores, the shop of the stonemason, the smithy, the butcher shop and the fishmonger were replaced by Ann Taylor, Laura Ashley, Aca Joe and the Banana Republic. Rippe’s vegetable stand and the fertile, verdant fields that had grown the cauliflower, tomatoes, corn and strawberries, became a packed enclave of condominiums.

But the day I knew the country had irrevocably gone out of Westport was when I made that turn off the turnpike from New York, expecting as always to be solaced by the balming sight of that lovely Guernsey herd, but the herd had vanished – not a single Guernsey cow, a herd that had been grazing that lush, hilly meadow only a week before. Nyala Farms had been bought out by the Stouffer [sic — Stauffer] Chemical Company, and the building where once the Guernseys had been quartered and milked and calved was now occupied by people engaged in the business of dispensing chemicals, many of them, I was sure, antipathetic to the very meadows where the Guernseys once roamed. And, of course, Mike Ferris never came to our door again.

The Nyala Farm office complex. Its 2020 tenants include the Bridgewater hedge fund.

In what I can only think of now as a gesture of angry defiance, I plowed under my wheat field and built a tennis court on the meadow that had nurtured the shy fraises de bois. It was all over, wasn’t it, so why not the coup de grace? The hell with it. Westport had become an extension of New York. Main Street was riddled with Madison Avenue shops. Burger King, Beefsteak Charlie’s, Shoe Town, Waldenbooks, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Hallmark Cards, Sam Goody – name it, it was here or on the way. Real-estate developers outnumbered the gypsy moths.

I never again referred to Westport as ”going to the country.”

Never, that is, until Murray McMurray came into my life. I don’t know who suggested that he get in touch with me, but I am forever indebted to my anonymous benefactor. Murray McMurray sent me a letter and a brochure from his hatchery in Webster City, Iowa. On the cover of the brochure were two of the most exotic chickens I had ever laid eyes on, identified as Dark Brahmas, and on the inside cover was a picture of Murray himself, with a Black Giant hen sitting on his shoulder.

Until that moment, apart from a restaurant menu, I had never thought much about chickens, one way or another. But as I marveled over the grace and beauty of what Murray called his Rarest of Rare Breeds -huge, plump Cochins with thick feathers all the way down their legs and feet to the ground, Crevecoeurs native to Normandy, Silver Gray Dorkings bred by the Romans and brought by them to Britain, Phoenix and Yokohamas, ancient breeds that roam Japan’s Imperial Gardens, graceful, long-tailed Sumatras indigenous to the island of Sumatra, cinnamon-colored Cubalayas from Cuba, a very rare breed, La Fleche, from France, Chanteclers, natives of Quebec – page after page of beauties that I’m sure Frank Perdue wouldn’t recognize.

A Westport chicken coop — though not A.E. Hotchner’s.

A local carpenter built a little henhouse for me and I sent away for the Sears Farm Catalogue, from which I ordered a cluster of nest units in which my rarest of rare could lay their eggs, a feeder, a waterer, buckets, scoops and all the other wonderful paraphernalia that a chicken fancier needs. I sent my order to Murray McMurray and awaited the arrival of my day-old chicks.

Murray McMurray has indeed put the country back into Westport for me. Those baby chicks have grown into the most wondrous creatures you can imagine. What do I care if Roy Rogers is building a wretched, fast-food outlet on the nearby Post Road, when I can go out in the henhouse in the morning and take a couple of warm eggs from under an obliging Lakenvelder or Dominique for my breakfast? Last Easter, my son didn’t have to dye any eggs because the Araucanas lay turquoise, blue and green eggs. And for the information of misguided jokers, the Polish hens are not dumb clucks but very austere ladies who wear large round bonnets of feathers.

I wake in the morning now to the muted sound of a Cochin rooster’s strutful cry. I know I’m in the country. No mistaking it.

(Click here for the link to the story in the Times‘ archives.)

Remembering A.E. Hotchner

A. E. Hotchner — a writer who parlayed his friendship with fellow Westporter Paul Newman into a second career in philanthropy — died today at home. He was 102 years old, and lived more than half his life — 67 years — here.

The New York Times obituary described the longtime Hillandale Road resident as a “novelist, playwright, biographer, literary bon vivant and philanthropist whose life was shaped and colored by close friendships with two extraordinarily gifted and well-known men, Ernest Hemingway and Paul Newman.”

A.E. Hotchner and Ernest Hemingway.

Hotchner “was not to the manner born, nor was he a celebrity. But he was nonetheless at home among the glitterati, one of those not-so-famous people whom famous people, for whatever reason, take to,” the Times said. At Washington University, he was a classmate of Tennessee Williams.

He wrote books about his friends, including Clark Gable, Barbara Hutton, Marlene Dietrich, Coco Chanel, Doris Day and Sophia Loren.

But he included honest details about Hemingway’s suicide in “Papa Hemingway: A Personal Memoir,” whose publication the author’s widow tried to halt.

Hotchner wrote 2 other books about Hemingway, and one about the Rolling Stones, among others.

Yet it was his friendship with Newman that most distinguished the latter part of Hotchner’s life. According to the Times:

“We owned a series of dilapidated boats we’d take out on the water to go fishing and drink beer and have all sorts of adventures,” Mr. Hotchner told the London newspaper The Daily Mirror after Newman’s death in September 2008. “We drank a lot of beer and so never actually caught many fish.”

Mr. Newman had made it a holiday ritual to make batches of homemade salad dressing in his barn, pour it into wine bottles and drive around his neighborhood giving them away as Christmas gifts. Just before Christmas 1980, Mr. Newman was stirring up an enormous batch, with a canoe paddle, when he invited Mr. Hotchner to join him. Out of their small adventure came the idea for Newman’s Own.

Founded in 1982, the company has given away hundreds of millions of dollars through its charitable arms….

In 1988, Mr. Hotchner and Mr. Newman furthered their charitable work by founding the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in northeastern Connecticut for children with life-threatening diseases.

(Click here for the full New York Times obituary.)

A. E. Hotchner: Hemingway’s Muse Still At Home Here

A. E. Hotchner has just published a new book. Hemingway in Love: His Own Story is an intimate portrait of the troubled writer, by a man who knew him well.

Hemingway committed suicide in 1961. Hotchner — a longtime Westport resident — is still going strong in his 90s.

A. E. Hotchner, with his latest book. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

A. E. Hotchner, with his latest book. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

Earlier this week, “06880” reader Fred Cantor chatted with Hotchner about his life and times in our town. Here is his report.

———————————————————–

A. E. Hotchner, the well-known writer and philanthropist, moved to Westport from New York City in 1953 — but not for all the reasons commonly associated with such a move.

“Somebody said to me: ‘Go to Westport. It’s an inexpensive place,'” Hotchner recalls.

A real estate broker showed him a 1920s home, on 5 acres, that had been empty for 2 years. “A real white elephant,” Hotchner remembers it. “Nobody wanted it, it was so big.”

But he and his wife, with 2 young children, liked the possibilities. They made an offer that was accepted.

A. E. Hotchner and Ernest Hemingway, in an undated photograph.

A. E. Hotchner and Ernest Hemingway, in an undated photograph.

The Hillandale Road home and surrounding acreage have provided Hotchner plenty of solitude to write the nearly 20 books he has published over the years, including his latest.

Like his previous works, Hotchner composed an initial draft of Hemingway in Love by longhand, on an old roll-top desk in his 3rd floor study in the finished attic that was already in place when he moved in.

What motivated him to write a new part of the Hemingway story almost 50 years after his acclaimed biography, Papa Hemingway?

The publisher’s lawyers edited out controversial parts of the 1966 manuscript that dealt with people who were alive then. Finally, Hotchner feels he is able to tell “a great tragic love story” that had such an impact on Hemingway’s life, and was perhaps even “more dramatic than what Hemingway was writing about” at the time.

“He was under siege,” Hotchner explains.

Hotchner was not only close friends with one of the 20th century’s most iconic authors. He was also close to one of its most celebrated movie stars: Paul Newman. That friendship led to their co-founding the Newman’s Own charitable endeavor.

 A. E. Hotchner has lived on Hillandale Road -- and been part of Westport -- for more than 60 years. (Photo/Fred Cantor

A. E. Hotchner has lived on Hillandale Road — and been part of Westport — for more than 60 years. (Photo/Fred Cantor

But long before that wonderful philanthropy, Hotchner was involved in a much smaller local charity event that was an integral part of small-town Westport life in the 1950s: the writers-vs.-artists basketball game in the Staples High School gym.

Hotchner played with illustrious teammates like Peter De Vries and Max Shulman. The event raised money for good causes — but there was pride involved too. Hotchner recalls De Vries being injured one game, lying on the bench unable to continue, encouraging his teammates to win.

Hotchner has other fond memories of his early years in Westport: a downtown butcher in a straw hat; a Main Street hardware store that sold nails by the pound; a farm just down the street from his home where cows grazed, and nearby homes dating back to the Revolutionary War.

Westport has changed considerably since 1953. Nevertheless, over 60 years later Hotchner very much enjoys his home. He considers his property “an oasis.” He calls the grounds “glorious.”

And — nearing the century mark — he likes being surrounded by “what’s familiar.”