Tag Archives: Church Lane


Yesterday, “06880” posted Jennifer Johnson’s gorgeous photo of Bedford Square.

Sitting outside SoNo bakery, an alert “06880” reader noticed how lovely Seabury Center — across from the new construction — looked in the afternoon light.

She snapped this photo:


Gazing down Church Lane toward Christ & Holy Trinity Church, she shot another:


But as she peered closer, she saw what she believes is a new utility pole.

Suddenly, she wondered: Will this lovely scene soon become a jumble of overhead power and cable lines?

She looked back toward Elm Street, and saw this cluttered mess:


Last summer, she thought that all the work on Church Lane meant that utility wires would be buried underground.

Now she’s unsure.

And very, very worried.

Tyrannosaurus Crane

As Westport’s downtown is being transformed by the construction of Bedford Square, its skyline has suddenly been filled with what one alert “06880” reader calls “Tyrannosaurus Crane.”

Crane over downtown - Bedford Square

The reader wonders: Why have other buildings in Westport — taller than this one’s 39 feet — been constructed without a massive crane?

The reader sent along a news story. Yesterday a huge construction crane crashed into Mecca’s Grand Mosque, killing at least 107 people.

The reader hopes there is “a hell of a bond” in place on Church Lane.

All The Westport News, Back When You Really Could Read All About It

In 2014, the hand-wringing goes, no one has any privacy. Between social media, computer cookies and people’s voracious appetite to tell (and hear) all, everyone knows what everyone else is up to. Ah, for the good ol’ days.

Presumably, those days were not 1935.

Back then, people really knew each other’s business. And that business — who applied for a marriage license or mortgage, who visited whose home or went where, who inherited money (and how much) — has been preserved for nearly a century.

An old-fashioned technology — newspaper — has given us an up-close-and-very personal look into the Westport of 8 decades ago. The population was just over 6,000 — it’s 4 times larger today — but the Westporter-Herald published twice a week.

Page 1 on Friday, November 8, 1935. Don't worry if you can't read all 37 stories; I've picked out my favorites below.

Page 1 on Friday, November 8, 1935. Don’t worry if you can’t read all 37 stories; I’ve picked out my favorites below.

Every Tuesday and Friday, on enormous pages and in very small type, it described the (relatively) big stories of the day. Two days before Friday, November 8 for example, the Town Plan commission discussed widening Church Lane, “now a very narrow and dangerous thoroughfare for traffic in both directions.”

They also “approved the location for the new high school,” though no further mention was made of that momentous decision. (It turned out to be the location of the current Saugatuck Elementary School on Riverside Avenue. The “modern” school complemented a nearby 1884 building, which stood for another 32 years.)

But it’s the smaller stories — there were an amazing 37 of them on Page 1 alone — that truly tell the tale of a supposedly sleepy small town in which a lot went on.

John Gault — secretary of L.H. Gault and Son, former 2nd selectman and Board of Finance member — died at home. The death of his wife several years earlier “rested heavily on the deceased and friends say it was a blow from which he never recovered.”

Another death — that of Broadway actor Moffat Johnston — was honored with a funeral at Christ Episcopal Church. Among the attendees: Lillian and Dorothy Gish.

A close-up of the top half of Page 1.

A close-up of the top half of Page 1.

Rev. H. H. Mower, pastor of the Westport M.E. Church, escaped serious injury Wednesday afternoon in “an unusual automobile accident.” Turning onto Elm Street from Main Street, he struck the embankment on property owned by Miss Jennie Thorpe, crashed through a wooden fence and “dropped down ten feet to land on the top of a roadster owned by Joseph Picard, employed at the A.P.”

Westporters drove at least as poorly then as they do know. Police reported 125 arrests in October, mostly for automobile violations. There were 26 arrests for speeding, 31 for passing red lights, and 29 for violating “the town parking ordinance.”

(Perhaps one of those parking violations came at the corner of the Boston Post Road and Cedar Street, where Anthony Ralph Migliarese had just applied for a liquor permit. That tavern stood for many years. Today it’s our parking-impaired Starbucks.)

A judge upheld a $3,000 award given to Viola I. Plant of Richmondville Avenue. Her husband, the late James G. Plant, was a “gateman and watchman” at Longshore who drowned when “an automobile he was operating for one of the club members went over the wall into the yacht basin.”

Armistice Day was going to be observed “quite extensively” on Monday. Most offices would be closed, but stores would be open for “business as usual.” There would be “no work on relief projects.”

Speaking of relief efforts: The Relief Office was moving to new quarters. You'd think that would be bigger news.

Speaking of relief efforts: The Relief Office was moving to new quarters. You’d think that would be bigger news.

Readers learned too that Captain and Mrs. Increase A. Parsell had “closed their home in Greens Farms and have left for DeLand, Florida where they will spend the winter at their home, in the sunny south.”

Miss Betty Meszaros was operated on at Norwalk Hospital for appendicitis, by Dr. H.S. Phillips.

Mrs. Julia Kish, Turkey Hill road, broke several ribs “in a fall down the cellar stairs yesterday morning.” She was now resting comfortably at Bridgeport hospital.

Mr. and Mrs. Fred Fable were guests of Mrs. Fable’s father in Willington, Connecticut the day before. Mrs. George R. Miller and Mrs. R.D. Murphy spent Tuesday in New York city as the guest of Mrs. Cara Maisch. Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Lexen spent the night before in New York city, where they attended the automobile show at Grand Central Palace and took in Hollywood Restaurant review.

More news from Page 1, on November 8, 1935.

More news from Page 1, on November 8, 1935.

That’s just a small part of Page 1. The other 13 pages are filled with other news — social, sports, and everything else you’d want to know about everyone else in town.

Including the fact that Mrs. Mary Ann Dingee Bedford — widow of the late Edward T. Bedford — left an estate totaling $580,779. Her 4 children (all named) inherited $102,359 each.

At that time, the Westporter-Herald cost 5 cents. Ads touted steaks for 39 cents a pound, fur coats for $44, and a new Chevrolet (with “shockproof steering”) for $495.

Mrs. Bedford had some serious money. And — along with Rev. Mower’s accident, Betty Meszaros’ appendix, and everything else that had happened during the previous 3 days — every person in Westport knew all about it.

(Hat tip to Sarah Hickson, for providing copies of the 1935 Westporter-Herald. Workers renovating her house found them, stuffed as insulation between walls.)


Java Truly “Open” For Business

Earlier this week, Java — the popular new downtown coffee shop — added a few tables and chairs to its Church Lane patio.

This morning it threw its front windows — who knew they were actually doors? — wide open.

Java doors

Spring arrives in Westport in many ways.

Today it came in a warm Bowl of Soul.


Java Jolts Downtown

If you thought Bartaco opened with a bang last spring — just wait for the Java buzz.

Actually, it’s already begun.

The 1st out-of-state outpost of the Idaho-based coffee-and-all-day-breakfast shop opens officially on Monday.

But curious Westporters trickled — then flooded — into the Church Lane store yesterday.

Java could give downtown Westport the jolt it’s needed for years.

The new Java fits in handsomely on historic Church Lane.

The new Java fits in handsomely on historic Church Lane.

Owner Todd Rippo already runs 5 Javas: 2 in Boise, 1 each in Ketchum, Hailey and Twin Falls. Westporter Brad Berk discovered them while skiing at Sun Valley. He pestered Todd to consider a cross-country trip (as in scouting a new location here — not skiing).

A year ago, Todd came east. He loved the town, and realized the opportunity. Todd and Brad partnered with David Waldman, who was already redeveloping the rest of the road, from the very popular Spotted Horse to the soon-to-be vacant Y.

When the Wild Pear building — before that, it was Chef’s Table — became available, Java was juiced.

Todd Rippo can't wait for his Westport adventure to begin.

Todd Rippo can’t wait for his Westport adventure to begin.

Westport is “an adventure,” says Todd. He’s brought his Boise manager here, to train the staff. They’re young, hip, and they love the Java vibe.

In Idaho, Todd says, the most popular item is the Dirty Hippie Breakfast Burrito (2 steam scrambled eggs and cheese, black beans, green chilies, chopped tomato, green onion, housemade verde crème fraiche). There is plenty of fruit, plus “clean, hearty, homemade” oatmeal.

Lunch features soups (Todd loves the homemade tortilla), sandwiches, quesadillas, salads — and hummus.

Everything — including baked goods like muffins (raspberry/chocolate chip low-fat sour cream!), scones (orange/honey walnut!), cookies and breads — is made daily from scratch . “With ingredients our mothers would be proud of,” he notes.

A small sampling of Java's breakfast and lunch menu.

A small sampling of Java’s breakfast and lunch menu.

The favorite drink, Todd says, is Bowl of Soul: direct trade espresso, imported Mexican chocolate (ground in-house), homemade whipped cream, and brown cinammon.

Take that, Starbucks!

Todd sounds pretty caffeinated, as he talks about Westport. Though there’s a lot more traffic here than in Idaho, the clientele is “similar to Sun Valley.”

Sophia McConnell, Elizabeth Colwell and Meghan Lonergan get a jump on Java's opening.

Sophia McConnell, Elizabeth Colwell and Meghan Lonergan get a jump on Java’s opening.

He is “ready for an adventure,” he says. “And I’m getting it.”

So will Westport. Our java choices just got much more interesting.

(Java will be open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends. For more information, click here.)

Bedford Square: A Downtown Game Changer

Paul Schott of the Westport News called the 60,000-square foot mixed-use complex planned for the site of the current Westport Y “arguably the most far-reaching commercial real estate project planned during the last generation in downtown Westport.”

It isn’t.

There’s no “arguably” about it. This is The Big One. A true downtown game changer.

The proposed Bedford Square plan, looking northwest. The new buildings (shown) would replace the current YMCA Weeks Pavilion, and 35 Church Lane.

The development — announced Tuesday — would keep the original Bedford Y. The old Tudor building at the corner of the Post Road and Main Street has, since 1923, defined downtown.

But the Weeks Pavilion — the hideous 1978 addition that, in part because of its unwieldiness, has driven the Y to Mahackeno — would be torn down.

So would 35 Church Lane, an 1890 Queen Anne-style house. That will arouse a lot more sentiment than the lumpy, leaky Weeks Y.

The block — extending out to Elm Street — will be the site of a new “Bedford Square.” Retail, residential, restaurant and office space would ring a large public plaza. Public walkways will tie the entire area in with adjacent downtown areas.

The 30 residential units include 550-square foot studio apartments, on up to 1,800-square foot 2-bedroom homes.

Also planned: a 100-car underground parking garage.

A view of Church Lane, looking east. The current firehouse portion of the Y is at left; Patagonia is on the right.

Construction could start in the fall of 2014 — assuming (a big “if”) the new Y is ready then, and the lengthy town board review process goes smoothly.

Construction is expected to take 18 to 24 months. That would be a chaotic time downtown.

But — judging from the initial rendering — Bedford Square could be a handsome, well-planned, creative and unifying addition to downtown.

Coming as it does while Lou Gagliano’s 2020 Committee is also working to make downtown more pedestrian friendly, the timing seems right.

We’ve seen what the addition of one restaurant (the Spotted Horse) and one retailer (Urban Outfitters) can do to Church Lane. Imagine what an integrated, block-long plan could accomplish.

The Bedford Square plan is definitely — not arguably — “the most far-reaching commercial real estate project planned during the last generation in downtown Westport.”

Let’s hope it works out better than a previous, similarly touted project 60 years ago: Parker Harding Plaza.

Then again, it can’t turn out worse.

Part of the courtyard that would be ringed by new buildings on Church Lane and Elm Street.

Drill, Baby, Drill!

I’m not sure what was going on at 35 Church Lane this afternoon.

Drilling for oil?

Preparing for an expansion of The Spotted Horse, the wildly popular restaurant across the street?

Test borings to see if the Y really can expand into the space next door?

Whatever the answer, it’s clear there’s more action on Church Lane now than there has been in years decades ever.

Something Old, Something New, Something Newer

Church Lane is a-changin.’

The 1802 Federal-style Sherwood House has been renovated, moved closer to the street, and opens next week as the Spotted Horse tavern.

The old Metro Swim shop — and before that, a typewriter repair place — has been reworked into a modern Urban Outfitters store.

Today — in brilliant spring weather — one new-old building was reflected in another.

Causing Westporters to reflect on our old-new downtown.

Federal Style Meets Urban

You can’t tell from this photo, but the gas lamps flickered today outside the Spotted Horse, the almost-ready-to-open restaurant in the Federal-style Sherwood House on Church Lane. The lamps lend a great touch to a loving restoration of the 1802 building in the heart of downtown.

Meanwhile, Urban Outfitters plans to open Thursday. One entrance is on the Post Road, next to Patagonia. A 2nd entrance is on Church Lane — next to the Spotted Horse.

Being able to walk through the store — as well as the new configuration of the parking lot and parking garage separating it from the new restaurant — will add a different dynamic to downtown. The sum of this redevelopment may be greater than its parts.


An alert “06880” reader — a man who works in downtown Westport, and has a keen sense of the area’s past, present and future — wandered down Church Lane.  He gazed at the Federal-style Sherwood House across from the Y — now being renovated into a restaurant — and sent this along:

I’ve been wondering about the worth of totally gutting a “historic” building in the name of preservation, when the fact of the matter is there’s hardly anything original about the building once the renovation is complete.

The future home of the Grey Goose restaurant is a case in point. There’s more daylight in this old building than wood.

As I was snapping this photo and thinking “what’s the point?” the builder came across the street and asked what I was doing.  He seems like a nice guy.

When I mentioned to him that it seemed a costly sham to just leave a few timbers up, he said there was actually a lot of original timber left in the building — and a lot more of it just lying around.

He said there are some cool pieces, including mantels, that he doesn’t know what to do with.  I’ve seen some of it — hand-hewn beams with ax marks plainly visible.  The wood’s got to be 200 years old.

I told him I’d mention it to you in case you wanted to ask your readers how best to recycle these vintage — and historic — pieces of Westport’s past.

Okay, “06880” readers:  Game on!

You’re a creative bunch.  You respect yesterday, while looking forward to tomorrow.  Click “Comments” to let the Grey Goose builder know exactly what he can do with his timber.