Tag Archives: Green’s Farms

“06880” Podcast: Art Schoeller, Greens Farms Association President

Greens Farms is where Westport began, over 300 years ago.

It’s changed a lot since then. But Greens Farms is still a neighborhood of open spaces, water and woods.

That it’s remained that way — despite the addition of a railroad station, private school, and the town’s first large complex — is due in large part to the vigilance of the Greens Farms Association.

The other day, I chatted at the Westport Library with its president, Art Schoeller, about his role, his neighborhood, and his town. He offered an inside look into what it takes for a community to retain its character. Click below to watch:

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Painting The Town Yellow

Debra Kandrak’s one-woman crusade to paint the town yellow is paying off beautifully.

Every autumn for 4 years, she has used a wide variety of outlets — social media, emails, and of course “06880” — to encourage Westporters to plant daffodils.

She brings her message to friends, strangers, town organizations and committees and businesses.

Her ask is simple: “Paint the Town Yellow.”

Every spring around this time, we are blessed with the results of her — and their — work.

This year, the gorgeous yellow flowers are everywhere.

From neighborhoods like Greens Farms to the Westport Library, around mailboxes and street signs, by the Cribari Bridge, in traffic islands and at the entrances to Staples High and Bedford Middle Schools, Debra’s yeowoman efforts pay off for all of us.

As perennials, each year brings more and more explosions of color. Here are just a few examples of Debra’s efforts:

Near the police station.

Jesup Road

Imperial Avenue.

Compo Beach.

Sherwood Island Connector.

Weston Road, near Cross Highway.

Nevada Hitchcock Garden, Weston Road and Cross Highway.

Debra Kandrak’s adopt-a-spot, on Prospect Road and Greens Farms Road.

Debra Kandrak’s own Greens Farms barn …

… and her garden.

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Friday Flashback #343

Last week’s Friday Flashback showed Ken Montgomery’s Old Mill store — one of several predecessors of the current Old Mill Grocery & Deli.

It had been his mother’s market. He joined her, after his original place — on the corner of Bridge Street and Compo Road South — was demolished, to make way for the new Connecticut Turnpike (now called I-95).

I’d never seen a photo of it. Then, just days after that Friday Flashback, Pamela Docters posted an old Westport Town Crier newspaper clipping on Facebook:

As the caption notes, Ken wanted to move the “retail landmark” to property he owned opposite the old Saugatuck Elementary School (now The Saugatuck co-op housing complex). His request was denied.

The caption also says that he hoped to return with a new store once the highway was finished.

That never happened. But the Old Mill store was good to him.

And Ken was good to his town. When he died, he left a $500,000 gift to the Westport YMCA.

Pamela posted a couple of other fascinating doomed-by-the-thruway photos.

This one, from June 7, 1956, shows houses moved to Dr. Gillette Circle.

Dr. Gillette Circle is off Davenport Avenue, which itself is accessed by Ferry Lane West off Saugatuck Avenue — adjacent to I-95 Exit 17.

Indian Hill Road — also part of the neighborhood — is now sliced in two by the highway. It once connected, all the way north to Treadwell Avenue.

Dr. Gillette Circle is once again buffeted by change. The 157-unit Summit Saugatuck development is a few yards away, on Hiawatha Lane Extension.

As for I-95, recent state Department of Transportation work has radically altered the landscape first created when the turnpike was built. It took 70 years for trees and vegetation to grow. Now it’s all gone.

Of course, as thruway construction took place Saugatuck was not the only neighborhood affected. Another photo posted by Pam shows a Greens Farms home — already 125 years old — being moved 700 feet away from the new route’s right-of-way, to Turkey Hill South.

The Connecticut Turnpike cut a wide swath through Westport. It changed Saugatuck forever, and made an enormous impact everywhere else.

Three-quarters of a century later, most of us cannot imagine life here without it.

But there are still Westporters, and former residents, alive who do.

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Unearthing History

Who is buried at Burying Hill Beach?

Local lore says it’s Native Americans.

Dr. Robert Liftig isn’t so sure.

A writer and teacher who has lived in Westport for almost 50 years, he recently retired after 4 decades as a Fairfield University professor. His courses focused on local Colonial history.

He’s done quite a bit of, um, digging, The small Greens Farms beach is beloved by many. Like others throughout town, they’ve often wondered about its name.

Burying Hill (top-center), and beach of the same name. (Drone photos/Brandon Malin)

First, some background.

In 1637, a band of Pequots — burned out of their Groton home — were chased by English settlers to a swamp between what is now the Southport Dunkin Donuts and Equinox. (A small memorial commemorates the Great Swamp Fight, the last battle of the Pequot War.)

They were burned and hacked to pieces in what Liftig calls the continent’s “first intentional genocide.” (A leader, John Underhill, is the man for whom Underhill Parkway is named.)

With the area safe for colonists, Thomas Newton, John Green and Henry Gray obtained a land grant to settle the area in 1648. Daniel Frost and Francis Andrews joined them soon. Andrews came from upstate; he, with Thomas Hooker and others, had founded Hartford in 1635.

The group were known as the Bankside Farmers (for Bankside, England, where some of the 5 came from). The area was later named for one of those 5: Greens Farms.*

An early map of Green’s Farms. The Bankside Farmers’ lands ae shown on Long Island Sound, next to “Burial Hill.”

Andrews hired a servant: 12-year-old Simon Couch. A few years later the boy married Andrews’ daughter Mary. He worked as a tailor, ran a horse saloon, and bought Andrews’ widow’s farm. At his death in 1688, age 53, Simon Couch was a wealthy man.

He also bought Forest Point, a “beautiful hill overlooking the sea.” It became a cemetery — perhaps for Andrews, along with Couch himself, his family, and some of their slaves. (It is unclear whether those slaves were Blacks or indigenous people.)

Liftig cites an excerpt from the book “History of Fairfield.” Simon Couch was

buried in land belonging to him at Forest Point, looking out upon the Sound, which he had set apart as a family burial place and which was long known as the Couch Burial Hill.

This spot could be pointed out until within the last few years [date of publication unknown], but now almost every trace of the tombs & graves have been obliterated.

Liftig believes Andrews — one of the founders of Hartford — is also there: buried below where the beach toilets are now located.

Bathrooms and lifeguard offices, at the top of Burying Hill. (Photos/David Squires)

Simon Couch, meanwhile, is listed on Find A Grave as occupying “Plot #1.”

When Green’s Farms Congregational Church established its first cemetery (at the current corner of Greens Farms Road and the Sherwood Island Connector) in the early 1700s, subsequent Couches were buried there. (One stone honors “Thomas Couch lost at sea, taken by French or pirates.”)

The family grew quite wealthy, from the triangle trade. One branch moved to North Carolina. Another Captain Thomas Couch married into the Boone family, and moved to Kentucky.

Liftig has found that the Couches — and Daniel Boone — are related to his daughters Anya and Dorothy.

Liftig himself grew up in Avon, Connecticut. He joined the Peace Corps, met a “pretty Kentucky girl,” and married her. They moved to Westport.

Delving into the history of his town, he was stunned to find that his wife’s ancestors lived here.

He was even more surprised to learn of the Couch connection to Burying Hill Beach. His daughter Dorothy had a summer Parks & Recreation job, working at the front gate.

The entrance to Burying Hill now floods often. (Photo/Sally Fisk)

Parks & Rec administers the beach because in 1893, the town of Westport purchased the property for a picnic area. Ten years later, they added the swale nearby (called “Ye Olde Battleground”) — between the “burial hill” and what later became the Bedford (and later Harvey Weinstein) homes.

The Couches later married into the Bedford and Jesup families, Liftig says.

But when he inquired about the possibility of a plaque memorializing the bodies buried in the hill — including, possibly, a founder of Hartford — he was told there is no proof.

Cars should not drive on Burying Hill. It is a historic burial ground. (Photo/Rusty Ford)

Yet an old Westport Historical Society publication, “Buried in Our Past,” says:

We can surmise that the Couches shared the hill with some of the early settlers — the Greens, Andrews [sic], Frosts and Grays.

In his book “Greens Farms,” George Penfield Jennings, states he remembers seeing many gravestones on the hill, but by the time the State Legislature established the area as a town park in 1893, only one broken marker remained.

Now that marker is gone. Burying Hill has the distinction of being the first park on the Connecticut shoreline recognized by the State.

Neither Parks & Rec, the Westport Historical Commission nor the Westport Museum for History & Culture confirms Liftig’s findings.

But he is convinced: The burials in Burying Hill Beach are real.

And historic.

(Dr. Robert Liftig can be contacted directly: boblif@aol.com)

*Should there an apostrophe, making it Green’s Farms? That’s been a question ever since. 

(There’s plenty of history in Westport’s hills and beaches. “06880” unearths it all. Please click here to support our work. Thank you!)

There Goes The Neighborhood

Sure, you live in Westport.

But you also live in Greens Farms. Maybe Coleytown. Or Saugatuck.

Those are a few of the neighborhoods that make up our town. Some are long established, predating our founding in 1835. Some are newer, the result of growth or realtors’ whims.

All are part of ‘06880.”

Karen Scott knows Westport neighborhoods as well as anyone. A co-founder of KMS Partners @ Compass, the other day she took me on a (phone) tour of town.

The Mid-Fairfield County Board of Realtors defines 13 distinct Westport neighborhoods. Besides the 3 mentioned above, there are a few everyone recognizes: Old Hill and Compo Beach, for example. Some are less well known, like Red Coat in the far northwest, Long Lots, Roseville/North Avenue and Compo South (see map below).

(Map courtesy of Mid-Fairfield County Board of Realtors)

A couple are new. Hunt Club (from the Fairfield border and Cross Highway west to Bayberry and south to the Post Road) and Compo Commons (the smallest of all, more commonly known as Gault).

But 2 caught my eye. One is In-Town. The area between the Merritt Parkway, Saugatuck River, Post Road and Roseville Road — with, among others, North Compo and all its side streets — has, with the influx of families from Manhattan and Brooklyn, suddenly become very desirable.

They like the proximity to downtown — they can walk there in theory, if not practice. Until recently though, no one lived “In-Town.” They just lived “close to town.”

Washington Avenue, an “In-Town” neighborhood. (Photo/Google Street View)

The other relatively new name is “Saugatuck Island.” When I was a kid, there was just “Saugatuck Shores.” (And houses there were among the cheapest in Westport. Some were not winterized. Who wanted to live way out there, anyway?!)

But a while ago — no one is sure when — some residents living beyond the wooden bridge decided to become even more exclusive than what had then become the already prestigious Saugatuck Shores.

Hence “Saugatuck Island.” One long-time and embarrassed resident cringes every time she hears it. But there it is, complete with a large sign at the entrance. (Fun fact: No other Westport neighborhood has an actual “entrance.”)

(Photo/Gene Borio)

Karen Scott says that neighborhoods are a good way to describe Westport. “Everyone has preferences,” she notes. “Some people want land, not neighbors. Others don’t want a lot of land. Some prefer near the beach, or close to town. Some want to be close to amenities. Some want to be close to the train station, I-95 or the Merritt” — though with COVID, commuting convenience is less of a concern these days.

The hot real estate market has cooled the “neighborhood” concept a bit, she says. “When there aren’t a lot of homes for sale, some people say, ‘I don’t care. I just want to be in Westport.'”

The neighborhood concept itself has evolved (and become more formalized). At one time, Karen says, areas of town were designated by school districts. (That was probably easier when there were 3 junior highs — Bedford [now Saugatuck Elementary School], Coleytown and Long Lots — rather than just 2 middle schools, located a mile from each other.)

The Long Lots neighborhood has been “sub-divided.” It now includes the Hunt Club area.

As a realtor, Karen Scott is used to describing Westport’s 13 “official” neighborhoods, then squiring clients around to those that sound interesting.

Some buy in neighborhoods they took a quick liking to. Others end up in ones they did not originally consider.

But for all its different neighborhoods, Westport is really one big small town. And most people, Karen says, find “joy and happiness” all over, once they’re here.

Wherever that is.

Friday Flashback #237

As the real estate market continues to sizzle, Seth Schachter sends a couple of reminders that Westport has long been a favored destination.

And that realtors have long used lots of prose to sell homes.

The September 1925 edition of “Country Life” noted that “Amid century old trees … there is an old Colonial home available to him who seeks the peace and seclusion of the old order, together with the improvements of the present day.”

The 9-room, 2-bath (!) house featured old-fashioned fireplaces. However, it was also “equipped with electricity.”

The property included a large barn, old smokehouse and trout stream. Plus, of course, 49 acres of woodland and open fields.

All yours, for just $27,500.

Much has changed in the past 96 years. For example, Westport is now further from Grand Central than 75 minutes.

A second ad, also from “Country Life,” highlighted a “Charming Island Estate in the exclusive residence colony at Green’s Farms, Connecticut.”

The 35-acre waterfront property boasted 2 houses, “large stone garage with housekeeping apartments for chauffeur and gardener,” a stable, large poultry plant, piggery, well-stocked aviary, greenhouse and boathouse; beautiful sunken garden, extensive vegetable garden, and broad, sweeping lawns, meadows and wooded land.

The main house, with 6 mater bedrooms, had 4 servants’ rooms (in a separate wing). The smaller included 3 master sleeping rooms, plus double maids’ rooms.

The clincher: “Owner wiling to divide if required.’

Pics Of The Day #1183

A collage of Greens Farms traffic islands (Photo/Bob Weingarten)

These Questions Have Absolutely Nothing To Do With The Coronavirus …

… nor are they particularly important.

But — with time on our hands during the pandemic — why not ponder them?

Alert “06880” reader/longtime Westporter/concerned citizen Arlene Yolles took these 2 photos the other day:

So, she wonders: Which is it? South Compo Road, or Compo Road South?

To which I add, what about Morningside Drive (North and South), (North and South) Turkey Hill Road, Maple Avenue (North and South), and probably others as well?

Damned if I know.

But that brings up a related question: Why is one of these streets a “drive,” another a “road,” and a third an “avenue”?

What’s the difference? They all look alike to me.

And don’t get me started on the proper use of Greens Farms and/or Green’s Farms. Even the post office can’t decide:

(Photo/Nico Eisenberger)

What I do know for sure is, this is definitely wrong:

Feel free to weigh in below. If you’re on one of the drives, roads or avenues mentioned, we’re especially interested in where you think you live.

And why.

Photo Challenge #218

If Westport has too much of anything — besides people who don’t think the rules of the road apply to them — it’s rules of the road.

Like stop signs.

Every few feet, we (are supposed to) stop. It’s the law.

But, as alert “06880” reader and longtime Greens Farms resident Mary Ann Meyer noticed, there’s at least one place in Westport where only one set of drivers stops. Cross traffic breezes by.

Her photo (click here to see) was last week’s Photo Challenge. It shows the Hillandale/West Parish Road intersection, just west of Greens Farms Congregational Church.

Beth Handa, Mary Maynard, Tom Lowrie, Eve Potts and Lawrence Zlatkin all nailed it.

But there were plenty of other guesses. The spectacularly confusing Weston Road/North Main Street/Weston Road/Easton Road intersection; Clinton Avenue (near Ford Road); Roseville Road (at both Whitney Road and Cross Highway), and Newtown Turnpike/Woodcock Lane were all possible candidates.

Be careful out there.

This week’s Photo Challenge was taken a couple of weeks ago. It may be hard to remember, but it did snow once or twice this winter. Westport was — briefly — a wonderland.

If you know where you would have seen this scene, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Michael Tomashefsky)

Green’s Farms United: Neighbors Band Together

Greens Farms means many things, to many people.

It’s filled with rolling hills, old homes, a small beach, a friendly train station and post office, and a stately elementary school.

That school sits on the northern edge of the neighborhood. It’s an area that residents feel is under siege.

Just across the Post Road, a 94-unit apartment building is quickly filling up. Twelve apartments have been constructed on the site of the former Geiger’s property, with 32 assisted living apartments being built next door.

The bank/office complex at the Post Road/North Morningside corner has just been sold. That too may be converted into apartments.

Now 19 townhouses have been proposed for 20-26 South Morningside — the Historic District directly opposite Greens Farms Elementary School.

Green’s Farms United created this map to show recent and planned housing developments near Greens Farms School.

A group called Green’s Farms United has had enough.

Energized families created a website and GoFundMe page. They’re on Facebook and Instagram. They organized an email list, alerting Westporters about upcoming hearings.

They hired an environmental engineer. And a lawyer.

They’re mad as hell, and they’re not going to take it anymore.

They want everyone to know what’s coming up — and what’s come before.

They’ve seen the effects after the Morningside South developer removed trees near Muddy Brook in 2017: soil erosion and flooding increased.

But something else happened.

“We started as a group of Greens Farms families, concerned about the 20-26 Morningside Drive South future,” says one of the organizers, Aurea de Souza.

“We are now a group of friends and neighbors fighting for a cause, while enjoying and appreciating meeting so many incredible people on the way.”

They take heart from neighbors on the other side of town, who are battling the proposed 6-story, 81-unit apartment complex between Lincoln and Cross Streets, off Post Road West.

They are Green’s Farms United.

That’s more than just their name.

It’s their neighborhood.

And their lives.

The current view of 20-26 Morningside Drive South (left), directly opposite Greens Farms Elementary School, and an overlay of where the proposed 19 townhouses would be built.