Tag Archives: Compo House

Robert Augustyn Maps Westport

Many Westporters have seen the H. Bailey map of Westport.

Drawn in 1878, it’s an “aerial” view of the town. Every house, shop and church is shown, precisely where it was. It’s a fascinating view of a thriving village. Every time I see it, I learn something new — about the Westport of nearly 150 years ago, and how we got where we are today.

The 1878 map.

Robert Augustyn is an antique map dealer. He’s spent most of his professional life examining maps like these.

He’d planned to spend his life teaching English. But in the late 1970s, a job with a New York dealer he thought would be temporary turned into his passion.

Eventually he owned Martayan Lan, a New York City hub for collectors of maps, atlases, rare books and manuscripts from the 16th to 19th centuries.

But the market softened. When the lease ended last summer, Augustyn closed the gallery.

Robert Augustyn

He and his wife Katie have lived here for 25 years. She’s a very involved civic volunteer.

Now he had time to join the Y’s Men, mentor young people, and teach tennis through Bridgeport’s First Serve program.

Slowly too he developed his own antique map and fine prints business here. He built up inventory, created a website, and began selling online.

But it’s hardly impersonal. Just as he did in New York, Augustyn enjoys showing maps to clients, taking them through the many stories of each particular item.

After decades in the business, he still finds maps he never thought he’d see. One of his favorites — an early 18th century plan of New York City — is the first to show a synagogue. Only 3 such maps exist.

Fifteen years ago, Augustyn found an 1837 map. Drawn just 2 years after the official founding of our town, he believes it’s the first to show our “new” borders. It hangs in his study (and is available for purchase).

The 1837 map. Note the spelling of Cockenoe Island.

He’s also got the first printed map of Connecticut. It dates to 1758, when it appeared in an English magazine.

Among Augustyn’s prints: an engraving of Henry Richard Winslow’s “Compo House.” It was Westport’s first mansion (on the site of the park that now bears the owner’s name).

Richard Winslow’s Compo House.

He’s always on the lookout for “good Westport material.” It’s not easy to come by, he says.

His job is not easy, either. Which is why he’s a “rare” map and print dealer indeed.

Friday Flashback #24

“06880” readers like our Friday Flashbacks. This one they’ll love.

Actually, it’s a two-fer. Back in the day, Westport was home to not 1, but 2, sanitariums. (Sanitaria? Whatever. If you’ve forgotten your medical history, a sanitarium was a hospital for the treatment of chronic diseases, often tuberculosis or mental disorders.)

The best known and most visible was originally the former mansion of Henry Richard and Mary Fitch Winslow. Built in 1853 and named Compo House, the palatial home was surrounded by guest houses, servants’ and gardeners’ quarters, and gorgeous gardens. Former president Millard Fillmore was a visitor, and extravagant fireworks were shot off there every July 4th.

By 1907, it had become the Westport Sanitarium. Here’s how it looked then:

westport-sanitarium-1907-now-winslow-park

The building was torn down in the 1970s. It had long earlier fallen into disuse, becoming an attractive nuisance to teenagers, drug users and other random folks.

No wonder. It was just a few steps away from downtown, on land bordered by the Post Road and North Compo.

Today, it’s the site of a dog park. Its name is Winslow, in honor of the original owners. The sanitarium is the reason for all those asphalt paths, in places you’d never expect them.

Our 2nd sanitarium — named for its owner, Dr. McFarland — was on Long Lots Road. In later years it became a full-fledged psychiatric hospital, called Hall-Brooke. A building visible from Long Lots was renamed McFarland Hall.

This is what Dr. McFarland’s Sanitarium looked like in the early 1900s:

dr-mcfarlands-sanitarium-hall-brooke

The photo above is of the main building. The other building was visible for many years from Long Lots.

If you’ve got memories of either sanitarium, click “Comments” below.

(Photos courtesy of Seth Schachter)

Compo House: The Amazing Back Story

On Monday I posted an old broadside advertising Westport’s fireworks, 1860-style.

They took place at Compo House, which I’d never heard of. Alert “06880” reader Wendy Crowther quickly pointed out that it was also known as the Winslow Mansion. It stood where Winslow Park is today, on the corner of Post Road East and Compo Road North.

Between 1855 and 1860, Wendy added, “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 was his last.

How extensive and lavish was his house?

A lot more than you probably 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 two parcels. We call the 2nd one “Baron’s South.”

Take That, Grucci!

Spectacularly alert “06880” reader Mark Krosse sent this along:

It’s from CtHistoryOnline, and is a broadside inviting 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 2012-style not being what they were in 1860, I’ll give just a few highlights:

  • Splendid Vertical Wheel
  • Rockets
  • Chaplet of Flora
  • Torbillions
  • Fairies’ Frolic
  • 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.