Tag Archives: Hall-Brooke Hospital

The Little Red Gingerbread On Long Lots Road

It’s one of the most recognizable houses in Westport: the red “gingerbread” house at 55 Long Lots Road, just east of Hall-Brooke.

For the first time in 60 years, it’s on the market.

As befits a home built more than 150 years ago, it’s got a back story.

Plus a bit of mystery.

According to Tad Shull — a current co-owner and musician/writer in New York, who spent his childhood there — it was constructed as a caretaker’s cottage or gatehouse, elsewhere on Long Lots.

It was moved to its present site in the 1870s by William Burr, who inherited it from his father. Additions were built in the 1920s and ’60s. From the street, it still looks much like the original.

55 Long Lots Road. The entrance to Hall-Brooke is on the left.

It may (or may not) have served as a 1-room schoolhouse. But it has a definite connection to education: Burr Farms School opened in 1958 a few yards away. (It was demolished in the 1980s; all that remains are athletic fields.)

The most intriguing tale is this: Shull’s parents bought the house in 1957 from Elaine Barrie — the 4th (and last) wife of John Barrymore.

Shull had heard that the actor used the house as a “love nest.” It’s uncertain whether Barrymore lived there; Barrie bought it after he died in 1942.

Shull also heard rumors that Barrymore had an affair there with a married woman,  Blanche Oelrichs, who published poetry under the name Michael Strange. Shull found a book of her poems — with her handwritten annotations — on his mother’s bookshelf last fall.

More lore: Stevan Dohanos’ famous “Thanksgiving” painting may have used the red Long Lots house as its model/inspiration. (“06880” posted that possibility last year; click here, then scroll down for several comments confirming it.)

Stevan Dohanos’ “Thanksgiving” painting. Recognize this house?

And, Shull adds, he heard from Tony Slez — who once owned a gas station at the foot of Long Lots, where Westport Wash & Wax now stands — that his Polish relatives worked as onion pickers on the road.

Shull says that as a youngster he was teased for living “next door to a mental institution.”

But he calls his boyhood “a paradise. There were plenty of kids around. We had a pond with frogs. It was a great place.”

His family hopes that whoever buys the house will preserve it. And — even if only part of its history is true — the red gingerbread that everyone passes on Long Lots has quite a past.

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)