For an out-of-the-way, neglected property, plenty of people know Golden Shadows.*
The former home of Baron Walter Langer von Langendorff and his wife — sometimes described as a “mansion” or “estate” — sits high on a hill, in the middle of the 22-acre property between Compo Road South and Imperial Avenue, known as “Baron’s South.”
(The baron — who may or may not have been actual royalty — also owned 32 across the Post Road; it’s now known as Winslow Park, in honor of a previous owner.)
The town has owned Baron’s South for over 20 years, but has yet to decide what to do with it. Hiking trails are overgrown; invasive species have invaded, and the baron’s home suffers from water leaks, foundation cracks and general neglect.
The house may not be at the top of the town’s plans. But it’s well known to the 17 “06880” readers who correctly identified Molly Alger’s image as last week’s Photo Challenge. (Click here to see.)
Congratulations to Michael Calise, Gloria Gouveia, John Karrel, Seth Schachter, Jerry Kuyper, Dave Eason, Fred Cantor, Martha Witte, Dan Vener, Andrew Colabella, Richard Stein, Mary Ann Batsell, Dick Lowenstein, Tara Curruto, Seth Braunstein, Bruce Salvo and Linda Amos. You win a weekend retreat for 2 at the mansion.
This week’s Photo Challenge is not neglected at all. If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.
*Not “Golden Showers.” Please — this is a family-friendly blog.
(“06880” has covered Baron’s South news since our founding, in 2009. As always, we rely on reader contributions to keep us going. Please click here to contribute.)
Republican Primary and Democratic Primary scheduled for Tuesday, August 9.
Polls are open between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. Click here to find your polling place.
Absentee ballot applications are available through the Town Clerk’s office. The drop box at the rear of Town Hall is ready to receive applications and absentee ballots. Click here for information on absentee ballots.
Connecticut has a closed primary system. Only enrolled Democrats may vote in the Democratic primary, and only enrolled Republicans may vote in the Republican primary. The deadline for changing parties has already passed.
However, an unaffiliated voter may select a party up to noon the day before the primary, changing to one of the major parties. Click here to verify your party status.
If you are not yet a registered voter, applications must be postmarked by August 4. In-person registration is available until noon on August 8.
The Remarkable Theater schedule includes these shows, at the Imperial Avenue drive-in:
“Dirty Dancing” (Monday, July 18; gate opens 7:15 p.m., movie at 8:15 p.m.): Spending the summer at a Catskills resort with her family, Frances “Baby” Houseman falls in love with the camp’s dance instructor, Johnny Castle. Rated PG-13.
“Scream” (Wednesday, July 20; gate opens at 7:30 p.m.; movie at 8:30 p.m.): A year after the murder of her mother, a teenage girl is terrorized by a new killer, who targets the girl and her friends by using horror films as part of a deadly game. Rated R.
Next Saturday, there’s a double treat for fans of Staples Players alumni.
2013 graduate Michelle Pauker returns to Westport for a star turn in “Broadway Through the Ages.” The MoCA show (July 23, 7 p.m., 19 Newtown Turnpike) is an evening of memorable tunes, from Golden Age to contemporary.
Music direction is by acclaimed Juilliard & Oxford Academy composer Jake Landau — a 2013 classmate of Michelle’s.
Entry to the museum’s “Women Pulling at the Threads of Social Discourse” exhibit is included in the admission. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.
CORRECTION: An incorrect date was given yesterday for the Westport Astronomical Society’s “Cal & Friends Meteorite Show & Tell Party.” The correct date is this coming Tuesday (July 19, 8 p.m.), at the observatory on Bayberry Lane.
Staples High School Class of 2006 graduate Joanne Smith died last Sunday.
The Chicago native moved to Brazil for 8 months after graduation, before beginning work in the hospitality industry. She had a passion for fitness, nutrition and exercise, and enjoyed being outdoors.
She was an animal lover, an avid reader (particularly Harry Potter), and a movie buff. She particularly enjoyed the beach and dog, Romie.
She is survived by her mother, Katherine Gordon Smith of Stratford; father Gregory and stepmother Donna of Fairfield; brother Matthew of Norwalk; sister Jennifer (Rodolfo Antorocha) of Washington, DC, and maternal grandmother Sally Grabot.
Her family says, “Joey was a fun, kind, loving, intelligent light in the family and to all who knew her. She took on the annual role of Christmas Elf to hand out presents.Joey was well loved by family, friends and co-workers.”
The family will greet relatives and friends on Monday (July 18, 11 a.m. to noon, Abriola Parkview Funeral Home, 419 White Plains Road, Trumbull), followed by a Mass of Christian Burial (12:30 p.m., Our Lady of the Assumption Church, 545 Stratfield Road, Fairfield).
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the ASPCA. To leave online condolences, click here.
It’s been 10 years since Mark Krosse sent me this broadside, and I wrote this story.
But with July 4th approaching — and last night’s fireworks already a memory — it’s time to celebrate a long-ago Westport Independence Day tale again.
The broadside Mark found (above) invites Westporters to an “Exhibition of Fireworks!” — on the “Evening of the 4th of July, 1860.”
The site was “Compo House,” and the “programme” was extensive.
Signal Rockets will be fired from sun-down to 9 o’clock, when a brilliant display will commence with the splendid GREEK BENGOLA LIGHTS, illuming the whole entire area of the Fireworks Ground. This brilliant reflecting light was invented by the celebrated Indian Chieftain, TIPPOO SAIB, and is the most powerful known to the present age, eclipsing the Drummond Light for its brilliancy, &c. After which the following beautiful pieces will be fired in the order of the Programme.
Reading habits 2022-style not being what they were in 1860, I’ll note a few highlights:
Splendid Vertical Wheel
Chaplet of Flora
Glories of Mexico
Casting aside the question of why we were celebrating the “Glories of Mexico,” I’ll close with this description of the final Bomb Shells:
Commencing with a splendid wheel of Chinese, Egyptian and radiant fires, forming all the variegated and beautiful mutations of the Kaleidoscope, changing to the American Coat of Arms, displaying the shield with the Stars and Stripes on each side in the appropriate colors, Red, White and Blue.
A rare old photo of the July 4th, 1860 fireworks. Or not.
On an arc above will appear the motto, UNION.
The whole mutating to a grand Mosaic Battery, composed of Greek and Roman Candles, filling the air for several hundred feet with all the beautiful colors known in Pyrotechny.
Sounds like Fun!
In fact, the descriptions are so vivid I can just imagine the scene. Colors fill the air. The crowd applauds. Finally everyone heads home, creating a massive horse-and-carriage jam on the roads from Compo House.
So what was “Compo House”? That’s worth a story in itself.
Also known as the Winslow Mansion, it stood where Winslow Park is today: the corner of Post Road East and Compo Road North.
Between 1855 and 1860, alert “06880” reader and super historian Wendy Crowther notes, “Henry Richard Winslow and his 2nd wife, Mary Fitch Winslow, invited everyone in town to their extensive and lavish property to enjoy July 4th fireworks. Henry died in February 1861, so the 1860 fireworks extravaganza advertised in the poster (above) was his last.”
How extensive and lavish was his house?
A lot more than you may imagine.
Unbelievably alert “06880” reader Paul Greenberg found 2 prints at the George Glazer Gallery website. Here’s the back story to what they show.
Winslow — a state representative and senator — built Compo House in 1853. Six years later, former president Millard Fillmore was a guest. The property also included guest houses, servants’ and gardeners’ quarters, and gorgeous gardens.
The mansion no longer exists. It was torn down in the 1970s, after serving for many years as a sanitarium (and, in its final incarnation, a vacant party house for Westport teenagers). The outbuildings were demolished too.
The iron gate — alongside unpaved North Compo — still stands.
The Winslows also owned the land across Post Road East (then called State Street) from the park. Both properties were bought in the 1950s by Baron Walter von Langendorff, an Austrian-born chemist who founded Evyan Perfumes.
The town now owns the 2 parcels: Winslow Park and Baron’s South.
And how they have remained undeveloped is a tale for a non-holiday weekend.
Every few years, the First Selectman’s Maintenance Study Committee issues a report on the condition of Baron’s South.
The latest draft — delivered recently, following similar reports in 2014, 2018 and 2019 — was based on an inspection of Golden Shadows, former home of Baron Walter Langer von Langendorff. It was conducted by committee members 2nd Selectwoman Andrea Moore, committee chair Joseph Fuller, John Broadbin and Jack Klinge.
Golden Shadows: in 2015. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)
The report called for more frequent reviews of the building. Now used by the town for “light storage of first aid and critical response items,” it is one of several buildings in the 22-acre park between Compo Road South and Imperial Avenue. The rest is open space.
The report noted that apart from minor maintenance and renovations, Golden Shadows has not received any attention since the town took possession more than 20 years ago. The town spends approximately $50,000 a year on maintenance, the report said.
Since then, “major cracks” have appeared and grown. In addition, the report said:
Bricks are deteriorating
Front steps are spalling
The front stone patio is leaking, and has become a liability issue.
Golden Shadow patio and front steps.
The site and grounds remain “somewhat overgrown.”
Chimney repainting is warranted.
Caulking is peeling.
The heating system is functioning.
Most of the walls are in satisfactory condition, though some sills are rotting.
Peeling wallpaper, inside.
Woodwork appears satisfactory, though ceiling paint is peeling.
Floors need cleaning.
Roof slates appear to be in good shape, though gutter work should be done.
A drone photo in the draft report shows where gutter work is needed.
The committee recommends consideration of exterior improvements “almost immediately.” The same recommendation was made in 3 previous reports.
Interior work is needed too, “if the building is to be kept.” Costs are mounting: “A simple residential renovation” today would be over $1 million.
The report also recommended site work, including driveway repairs, grass cutting, and removal of one large tree.
Finally, the report noted that a restored building “could be rented like 3 other adjacent residential buildings on the property.”
1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker is reviewing the report.
Westporters toured Golden Shadows years ago, after the town bought the property.
In 1997, Jack Klinge was a newly retired commuter. Looking for local activities, he discovered the Representative Town Meeting (RTM).
Elected that fall, he has not lost since. Now in his 25th year on Westport’s non-partisan legislative body, the former marketing executive is its longest-serving member.
Of all time.
The first RTM — a change from Westport’s previous “town meeting” government, which was great in theory but unwieldy in a rapidly growing suburb — was elected in 1949. Over 200 candidates vied for 26 seats.
Nearly 3/4 of a century later, competition is less keen. But the RTM — which, among other duties, approves town and education budgets, and any appropriation over $20,000; enacts ordinances, and reviews certain changes to zoning and recreation regulations — remains one of Westport’s most important bodies.
And Klinge is one of its biggest boosters.
A young Jack Klinge
His route to the RTM is as typical as anyone’s. He and his wife Jeanne bought a 1780 Cape on Partrick Road when he began working for General Foods in White Plains. In 1974 they moved with their 3 young kids across town, to Sturges Highway. They’ve been there ever since.
The usual amenities — the schools, beaches, Longshore, sports — kept them here. Jeanne got involved in a variety of civic affairs, including the original Levitt Pavilion.
But Jack — who invented stovetop stuffing mix at General Foods, then helped Arm & Hammer’s marketing team put baking soda in every refrigerator, and made his final name as a Topps sports cards marketing director — was less active in town.
He coached Little League baseball and rec basketball. But beyond fighting proposed developments on the Partrick wetlands and what later became Winslow Park, he was “an apolitical commuting father and husband.”
In 1997, his business — Major League Marketing, headquartered on Richmondville Avenue — was bought out. The new owners moved it to Texas. Klinge retired.
Human Services director Barbara Butler suggested he join Westport’s mentor program. A quarter century later, he still helps his first mentee — and his family.
Having taught night classes at Sacred Heart University for 7 years, Klinge joined the Westport Public Schools’ substitute list. He still subs.
But a chance comment from a friend about the RTM piqued his interest in town government. When he heard what it did — and that candidates ran without party affiliation — he was in.
He got a petition signed by 25 District 7 electors (including, he laughs, “5 Klinges”).
Klinge had no time for door-to-door campaigning. But he did fill out a comprehensive questionnaire, for the League of Women Voters guide.
Besides, there were only 4 candidates, for 4 seats. He couldn’t lose.
Moderator Gordon Joseloff assigned Klinge to 3 committees: Education, Finance, and Parks & Recreation. He’s still on them — and others — today.
Klinge has run unopposed, and against a larger field. By now he’s well known. But he takes no chances. He prints flyers, and gains endorsements.
And — always — he listens to constituents. They send emails. They stop him and Jeanne on their walks through the neighborhood. They ask questions (and offer opinions) on the golf course.
Jack and Jeanne Klinge.
Some know a lot about town government. Others are clueless. But an RTM member’s job is to serve them all.
“I love this job,” Klinge says. “The other night, we met until midnight about the Burying Hill groin. I wanted to use ARPA funds. I said, ‘We need to do this now.'” The vote passed.
Klinge enjoys “every meeting and committee session” — some more than others, of course.
Decisions are not made lightly. Proposals like dogs on the beach and tasers for police consume months of committee and full meeting debates. Westport “never lacks for good issues,” the legislator notes.
He is proud of most decisions. Years later though, Klinge regrets that the RTM failed — by 2 votes — to overturn a Planning & Zoning Commission decision regarding senior housing on Baron’s South.
“That shut off all discussion,” he says. “We need housing for older people in Westport, and having it right next to the Senior Center would have been great.
“Now we worry about finding spots for housing all over town. That vote still hurts.”
When Jack Klinge speaks, people listen.
Now, as head of the RTM Long Range Planning Committee, Klinge is trying to tie ARPA funding in to the 5-year capital forecast. “We need better, quicker decision-making,” he says. “These are the things that keep me up at night.”
They don’t keep every Westporter up, that’s for sure. Many residents — especially newcomers — know very little about the RTM, Klinge says.
Or any other facet of town government.
“Realtors don’t provide ‘RTM 101,'” he says. “I’d have kids learn about how the town works in school. Then they could teach their parents.”
As Westport changes throughout the years, so has the RTM. Fewer seats are contested, and the old civility — “convivial, congenial, lots of laughs” — has eroded somewhat.
The move to virtual meetings has not helped. Klinge misses the days when everyone sat together, in Town Hall.
Still, he says, the RTM remains “non-political. There are liberals and conservatives. But debate is still open to all points of view.”
Jack and Jeanne Klinge with their children, in-laws and grandchildren.
Klinge notes one other change. Though some newcomers know little about town government, others have stepped up to run for RTM seats.
“It used to be an old boys’ club, with a few women. Now probably half the members are under 50, and we’re about half male, half female.”
He hopes the new members will keep it apolitical, while making sure the body is proactive in confronting important town issues.
And, he insists, “always putting Westport first.”
At 83, Klinge says he still has a great deal to contribute to the RTM. He’ll keep running. “I love serving,” he says. “And I hate losing.”
So far, he is 12 for 12. The end is nowhere in sight.
(Hat tips: Matthew Mandell, Eileen Lavigne Flug, Jeff Dunkerton)
Two important parts of Westport — downtown and Baron’s South — are on the Planning & Zoning Commission’s agenda next week.
The virtual meeting on Monday (February 7, 7 p.m.) includes text amendments to eliminate the prohibition on retail above the 1st floor on Main Street and environs; another to remove the prohibition limiting tenant size to 10,000 square feet in the same area, and an amendment to permit certain non-team activities in the open space nearby.
Proponents say removing the ban on 2nd floor retail would attract mom-and-pop-type shops, thanks to lower rents. A change allowing larger stores would eliminate the current practice of some tenants having separate entrances and branding for what are essentially the same stores.
The Architectural Review Board and Historic District Commission would retain oversight over the looks of downtown properties.
Retail is not permitted above the first floor on Main Street — though certain properties (like the Gap) are grandfathered in.
The Baron’s South proposal addresses current regulations, which prohibit organized non-team activities like guided walks, hikes and yoga classes in the meadow outside the Senior Center. Both the Senior Center and Parks & Recreation have indicated support for the text amendment, which would still prohibit organized team sports.
A prohibition against new structures — for example, pickleball courts — would also remain.
Guided hikes are currently prohibited on Baron’s South. (Photo/Judy James)
At the meeting, the P& will also consider proposals to opt out of 2 state provisions. One would enable the town of Westport to maintain its own requirements for accessory dwelling units. The other would allow the town to retain current regulations for the number of parking units required for multi-family dwellings.
If the P&Z chooses to opt out of those less strict state requirements, the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) must also agree by a super-majority vote.
Eagle-eyed viewers may have recognized a Westport connection during a segment on yesterday’s ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown sow. The fictitious exhibition — “Tim Brady vs. The New York Jets,” showcasing the quarterback’s Tom record — was filmed at MoCA Westport.
ESPN rented the space last week. They wanted a realistic museum setting for their tribute to Brady.
The “exhibition” features masterpieces like The Hit (2001), Brady The Starter (2001), The Monday Massacre (2010), Backing Up The Talk (2011), and a “poetic piece” entitled The Departure (2020).
Don Memo customers, staff — and many strangers — are pulling together for Kelli Pulkkinen.
The popular manager and server at the downtown restaurant has been diagnosed with a rare type of leukemia. She is just 31 years old.
Don Memo owner Bill Taibe quickly added a new cocktail. The “Universal Donor” helps raise money for Kelli. It costs $14, and includes Casco Viejo tequila, aperol, sparkling rosé, lemon and rose syrup. Rosé and tequila are 2 of her favorite drinks.
Taibe told the Westport News she is “a rock star” and “a fireball”: vibrant, funny and full of energy.
“She’s just a fireball,” he said. “Kali is the kind of person that just gives it her all.”
He added, “It’s hard enough battling cancer. If we can make sure that she doesn’t have to worry about her paychecks and bills and stuff for the time being that’s one less thing, and she can focus her energy.”
Click here for the full Westport News story. (Hat tip: Matthew Mandell)
If you’ve always wanted to know about the “Physical Properties and History of the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds”: Here’s your chance!
Clare Burhenne — a Westport Astronomical Society member, and Ph.D. student at Rutgers University — will lecture on that very topic. The free event is set for January 18; click here for the Zoom link; click here for the YouTube livestream.
Who hires the town attorney, and how much is he or she paid? (David Meth)
According to town attorney Ira Bloom, the First Selectman (or woman) appoints the town attorney. The budget for the position has various components: retainer amounts for the town attorney and assistant town attorney; a component for labor and employment, and the contract services — the largest piece — which covers litigation and longer-term projects.
Neither Bloom nor the assistant town attorney, Eileen Lavigne Flug, are town employees, so they do not receive a “salary” per se from the town.
Also from Whitney Raith: Why are there so many dead-end private streets? Does this lessen the town’s road upkeep?
Now that’s something that I — as a native Westporter — never thought about.
My guess is it’s a function of how the town grew. As farmland was sold to developers, they built homes off the main roads. If the houses were behind each other, they needed a way to get to the main road. Because there was still undeveloped land behind, the new roads did not connect to others, so they became dead-ends (more delicately, cul-de-sacs [or “culs-de-sac”?]).
I’m sure the nature of people moving to town — seeking privacy, which “private” roads provide — had something to do with it too.
I don’t think it was a way for the town to avoid upkeep. But if my theory is wrong — or you’ve got other ideas — click “Comments” below.
In this 1965 aerial view, Staples High School is on the left. An arrow points to High Point Road. Located off Long Lots Road, and the longest cul-de-sac in Westport, it was developed in the 1950s.
Was there a mini-golf course where Lansdowne is now located? I was also told that it previously was the dump. (Antonia Zegras)
Fore! The 33-acre Lansdowne condos — located on Post Road East, just west of Stop & Shop — were once the site of mini-golf, and a driving range. For a while, a Bedford Junior High phys. ed. teacher had a trampoline business — “Ed Hall’s Jumpin’ Gyminy,” or something like that — out in front too.
Plus a skating rink, which eventually morphed into the short-lived Nines Club discotheque, courtesy of orchestra leader Lester Lanin. (You can’t make this stuff up.)
That rink/disco lives on, as the Westport Tennis Club.
As for a dump: I recall stuff being dumped in the back of the driving range after the mini-golf complex closed, but I can’t swear to it. Readers: If you remember: Click “Comments” below.
Once a mini-golf course and driving range; now well-established condos.
Winslow Park — formerly, “the Baron’s property” — gets all the love.
Every day from dawn to dusk, dogs, dog owners, walkers and joggers enjoy the 32 spectacular acres of rolling hills, meadows and woods just steps from downtown, between the Post Road and North Compo.
Baron’s South — the much hillier and more rugged 22 acres on the other side of the Post Road, between South Compo and Imperial Avenue — gets less attention.
But it too is a remarkable Westport park.
And it’s not as if no one hikes its paths, encountering deer rather than dogs.
Nearly a dozen “06880” readers quickly identified Baron’s South as the site of last week’s Photo Challenge. It showed an old fountain, behind what was once Baron Walter Langer van Langendorff’s “Golden Shadows” home.
(“The baron” was a fascinating 20th-century Westporter. He founded Evyan Perfumes, among many other accomplishments. Click here for his back story. Click here to see last week’s photo.)
Fred Cantor, Tom Erickson, Amy Schneider, Wendy Crowther, Chip Stephens, John F. Suggs, Lynn Untermeyer Miller, Dick Lowenstein, Alec Stevens and Morley Boyd all knew that the fountain lies, hidden in plain sight, near the baron’s once elegant, now-crumbling “mansion.”
As usual, Morley has the last word. His comment:
It’s the neglected fountain behind the neglected Golden Shadows mansion which is situated within the neglected town-owned open space parcel once considered a public park but now largely clear-cut, overrun by invasives and utilized for government- sanctioned illegal dumping of contaminated fill. Cheers!
This week’s Photo Challenge is less controversial, and more timely. If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.
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