Tag Archives: High Point Road

Street Spotlight: High Point Road

Today, “06880” introduces a new feature. “Street Spotlight” does just that: It shines a light on a Westport road, from a resident’s point of view.

What makes your street special? Do you have unique traditions? Does one particular person, family or physical feature bring people together? Has everyone gone through an experience that bonded residents tightly?

“Street Spotlight” will run irregularly — whenever we get an interesting submission. Here’s your chance to show off your road, lane, drive, circle or court to the entire “06880” community. Send info and photos to dwoog@optonline.net. Happy trails!

High Point Road has a couple of claims to fame.

It’s supposedly the longest private dead-end street in town. Rod Serling once lived (and wrote “Twilight Zone” episodes) there.

High Point Road (red balloon) runs parallel to — and between — North Avenue and Bayberry Lane. Unlike those streets, it’s a dead end. The only way in or out is Long Lots Road.

But at its heart, mile-long, winding, hilly 70-home High Point is a true community.

In past years, there was a formal association. Members paid dues, elected officers, even produced newsletters and lists of every family (with kids and phone numbers).

A few years ago, someone made a map of all the homes — and listed every family that ever lived in them. This is a partial view of that map.

The association no longer exists. But there are still annual street gatherings for kids and adults. It’s a great trick-or-treating street. Every Thanksgiving, residents walk together.

High Point has an interesting history. It was developed out of woods and fields in the mid-1950s — around the same time Staples High School was being built, just behind its western hill. Most early homeowners did not yet have kids in high school. But as they grew up, the athletic fields behind the fence became a huge draw.

On the other (eastern) side, Muddy Brook flows through High Pointers’ back yards.

Ann Gill was among the first residents. Her death in December marked the end of the original homeowners. Until a couple of years ago, several families remained from those 1950s days.

Some of their houses still stand. The architecture was an eclectic mix: Cape Cods, colonials, modern, and some custom homes.

High Point Road homes are built in a variety of styles. This view looks west. Staples High School’s field hockey field is just beyond the homes on the right.

Most have been renovated. About 1/3 of the houses are large replacements of teardowns.

I grew up on High Point. It was a wonderful road — filled with boys and girls my age. We rode our bikes all the way to the cul-de-sac at the end, where we played all the games kids played back then.

The cul-de-sac. We called it “the turnaround,” and played there often.

We had block parties at Staples and on then-vacant lots, and carol sings. Our fathers rented a bus for a trip to Yankee Stadium; our mothers had their own garden club.

In this 1965 aerial view, Staples High School is on the left. An arrow points to High Point Road — and the house I grew up in.

A lot has changed. Kids no longer walk from High Point to nearby schools: Burr Farms Elementary School (it no longer exists), Long Lots (it was a junior high back in the day) or Staples. Then again, they no longer walk to school anywhere in Westport.

Families with pools no longer open them up to every kid on the road one day a week. (There are more pools — and much more liability).

But the neighborly vibe of High Point Road continues. The holiday traditions remain.

And it’s still — I think — the longest private dead-end road in Westport.

(Hat tip: Amy Saperstein. To nominate your road for a “Street Spotlight,” send info and photos to dwoog@optonline.net)

Former and present High Point Road residents reunite on their street. (From left): Ursula Malizia grew up on High Point, lives there now and teaches at Kings Highway Elementary; Anne Delorier, Aimee Latzman, Carlotta McClaran Simunovic, Amy Saperstein, Shikha Sharma, Anna Inglese and Jen Gorin.

Friday Flashback #43

A few weeks ago in my ode to High Point Road, I tossed in a memory of Ray the Good Humor Man.

Every Saturday, he jingle-jangled his way up the street. Kids dropped their BB guns, hula hoops or the younger sibling they were dangling upside down by the ankles, and raced to his truck.

At some houses, Ray sold 1 or 2 toasted almonds. Others stocked up on ice cream for the week: a dozen or so popsicles, ice cream sandwiches and whatnot crammed into a cardboard box.

Several commenters claimed Ray as their own Good Humor Man too, on other streets in town. One recalled his magic tricks, like pulling a quarter out of someone’s ear.

Ray was also a fixture at Burying Hill beach. With a lot more sand than there is today, that was a great hangout for us Long Lots kids. There was no concession stand, so when we heard Ray cruising in — and we heard him well before we saw him — we knew we would not starve.

Jean Whitehead not only remembered Ray from those Burying Hill days — she had a photo.

Here — looking like it belongs in Life magazine — are Ray, Jean and her sisters (plus some random boy).

I have no idea what year this was taken.

That’s fine. The scene is timeless.

High Point Road, One Brick At A Time

My parents moved to Westport in March of 1956. A blizzard prevented the truck from going up the driveway. The movers hauled just one bed inside, so my parents spent their first night in a barren bedroom.

My mother died in that same room almost a year ago.

This winter, my sisters and I sold her house. That ended 60 years of the Woog family on High Point Road.

It was quite a run.

I guess that qualified me for an email the other day from current High Point residents. The Westport Historical Society is building a Brickwalk, and my old street is going all in.

A special stone will say “High Point — The Best Road in Town,” with residents adding their own bricks engraved with the year they moved in.

I was honored to be asked. When she died, my mother had lived on High Point longer than anyone else.

The Woog brick will say “1956-2016.” But there’s no way that small rectangle can encompass 6 decades of life there.

High Point is the longest cul-de-sac road in town. Call me biased, but it’s also the best.

I was so fortunate to have grown up where and when I did. My parents — both in their early 30s — had no idea what High Point would become when they moved out of my grandparents’ house in New Rochelle, and up to this much smaller town.

Rod Serling and his family celebrating Christmas, at their High Point Road home.

They had a few friends here — including my father’s Antioch College pal, an already famous writer named Rod Serling. He and his wife Carol had just moved to High Point. There were plenty of building lots available, so my parents bought one.

The price — for an acre of land, and a new house — was $27,000.

As I grew up, so did High Point. My parents were among the first dozen or so families. Today there are 70.

I watched woods and fields turn into homes. Nearly each was unique, with its own design.

And nearly each had a kid my age.

My childhood — at least, my memory of it — was filled with endless days of bike riding, “hacking around,” and kickball at the cul-de-sac (we called it “the turnaround”).

At dinnertime in spring and summer, we’d wander into someone’s house. Someone’s mother would feed us. Then it was back outside, for more games.

When my parents chose High Point, they were only vaguely aware that the new high school being built on North Avenue was, basically, in the back yard of our neighbors across the street.

Having Staples so near was a formative experience. My friends and I played baseball, touch football and other sports on the high school fields. We watched as many football, basketball and baseball games as we could, in awe of the guys just a few years older. Once, we snuck into a dance in the cafeteria. (We did not last long.)

This aerial view from 1965 shows the separate buildings of Staples High School. Behind the athletic fields is High Point Road. My parents’ house is shown with an arrow.

There were enough kids on High Point to have an entire bus to ourselves (with, it should be noted, only 3 or 4 bus stops on the entire road).

But by 5th grade, my friends and I were independent enough to walk through Staples, across North Avenue and past Rippe’s farm, on our way to Burr Farms Elementary School.

We talked about nothing, and everything, on our way there and back. It was a suburban version of “Stand By Me,” and to this day I cherish those times.

The young families on our street grew up together. There were block parties every fall, carol sings at Christmas.

Every summer Saturday, Ray the Good Humor man made his rounds. High Point Road probably put his kids through college.

Spring and summer were also when — every Monday — one family opened their pool to the entire street. With 40 boys cannonballing, racing around the slippery deck and throwing balls at 40 girls’ heads, I’m amazed we all lived to tell the tale. I can’t imagine any family doing that today.

From the front, it was an average home on a wonderful road …

But that was High Point Road, back in the day. It was not all perfect, of course. Some of the older kids were a bit “Lord of the Flies”-ish (and the amount of misinformation they taught us about sex was staggering).

Behind closed doors, there was the same bad stuff that goes on anywhere (and everywhere).

But I would not have traded growing up on High Point Road for any place. As much as any street could, it formed me and made me who I am today.

… but the back yard was beautiful.

High Point Road has changed, of course. Many original houses are gone, replaced by much larger ones that could be on any Westport street. There are plenty of kids there now, but each has his or her personal bus stop. And I don’t think I’ve seen any gang of kids riding bikes since, well, we did it.

Still, it’s a wonderful road. The “new” residents have kept that neighborhood feel. There are social events. And they always welcomed — and looked out for — my mother.

Of course, you can’t put any of that on a brick.

So ours will just proudly say: “The Woog Family. Jim, Jo, Dan, Sue, Laurie. 1956-2016.”

And that says it all.

(Westport Historical Society bricks are available in sizes 4×8 and 8×8. They can include a custom logo, with a family row of 5 bricks for the price of 4. For more information, click here.)

Winter Wonderland

Yesterday’s snow was ill-timed.

It put the kibosh on nearly every activity in town — including the Candlelight Concert, and a candlelight vigil for Sandy Hook Elementary School. It devastated merchants, on one of the most important selling days before Christmas.

But this morning, conditions were perfect for soothing scenes like this one, on High Point Road:

High Point Road

I took that shot a couple of hours ago. Now, the ice has already started to melt. The snow is turning to slush.

But for a brief moment in time, Westport looked for real the way it always does in our dreams.

How Green Is My Westport

Fish, it is said, don’t know that they’re surrounded by water.

(They also don’t know other important things, like not to bite bait.)

Westporters can be pretty fishy too.

We’re surrounded — from May through September, anyway — by spectacular greenery.  An amazing canopy of trees creates a beautiful, lush landscape that we hardly seem to notice.

Just another summer day on High Point Road.

We’re all over the fall foliage.  But our awesome verdant summers — meh.

I was reminded of this last weekend.  Friends from Virginia were here; later that same day I chatted with a few former Stapleites back for their reunion, now living far from their hometown.

All commented on the greenery that surrounded — and awed — them.

The same scene many of us take for granted every day.

Google Maps Goes Retro

Who hasn’t used Google Maps to get a bird’s-eye view of his house?

But who knew the bird flew in 1934 too?

Alert “06880” reader Dick Lowenstein sent a link to an amazing website.  Part of the University of Connecticut Map and Geographic Information Center, it features a box to type in any Connecticut address.  (It says “locate an address in the Hartford area,” but that just proves how capital-centric they are upstate.)

Hit “enter” and 2 maps appear, side by side.  One shows the current, familiar Google Maps view of today.  The other shows the same view — from 1934.

I grew up on High Point Road, literally in the shadow of the Staples athletic fields.  Eighty years ago, my street didn’t exist — nor did Staples.  It was fields and forests — truly the outskirts of town.

And check out this view of the beach:

The Bradley Street neighborhood was already developed, and Old Mill too — but look at Bluewater Hill and Compo Hill.  There was nothing there — just open land.  Quick, let’s travel back in time and buy up some property!

The images are much sharper on the actual website than reproduced above.  Of course, the 1934 aerial photos are not Google-quality — and they’re black and white, not color.  Then again, nothing from 1934 is in color.  It was a very gray year.

But in their own way, the older maps are even more remarkable than their spy-satellite, 21st-century counterparts.

We know what we’re looking at today.  Now we can also see those same — yet very — different scenes from another, fast-receding century.

(Click here for the UConn Google Maps website.)

Endangered Streetscapes

A man’s house is his castle.

Fair enough.

But what about our roads — our streetscapes?  Do they belong to all of us?

A recent — and accelerating trend — is to erect ever-higher faux stone walls outside Westport castles houses.

The example above is from High Point Road.  On a street of 70 homes, it is the only one without an open, inviting lawn.  It’s jarring to drive by — and not the least bit friendly.

At least High Point is a cul de sac.  Here’s 1 view of Morningside Drive South:

And another, just a few yards away:

I know, I know what the response will be from “06880” libertarian commenters:  It’s their houses, and they can do whatever they want.

Of course they can.  But that doesn’t mean they should.

These stone walls are not for protection.  They’re for privacy — for walling ourselves off from each other.  For keeping to ourselves.  For saying:  “I don’t want to see you, and I don’t want you to see me.”

But what about our streets — part of the broader picture than just 1 house?

Isn’t it so much nicer to drive down the road and enjoy the type of view below?

And where is this photo — including the human-sized stone wall on the right — from?

Morningside Drive South.

When Cool Was Hot — And Not

High Point Road — where I grew up — was a street of 70 nice homes.  Colonials, Capes, split-levels, custom-designed houses — all melded together in a handsome streetscape.

Unfortunately, there were 71 houses on the road.

The 71st — even more unfortunately, it was #6, meaning everyone drove past it every day — was hideous.

Imagine my surprise to see it featured in the Westport Historical Society’s Little Gallery, as part of the current exhibit “Westport Modern:  When Cool Was Hot!

The show pays homage to mid-20th century modern architecture.  There are photos galore, of Westport and Weston homes designed by Mies van der Rohe and Paul Rudolph, and local architects like Larry Michaels and Joseph Salerno, along with tons of informative text.

Opening day last Sunday was packed.  Perhaps it was the novelty of a historical society shining a light on Modernist architecture — or maybe Westporters wanted to show their enthusiasm for a piece of town that is fast disappearing.

The Modernist movement’s record is mixed.  It gave us beautiful buildings like Victor Lundy’s Unitarian Church (below), which stood the test of time

Westport's Unitarian Church (Photo by Nancy Burton)

and his less-than-celebrated Hillspoint Elementary School, which — with its decibel-producing gym in the center of the building, and windows that fell into classrooms soon after it opened — did not.

The Historical Society exhibit is comprehensive, educational and fascinating — all that something like this should be.  It even includes original examples of mid-20th century furniture, which made me think I’d wandered onto the set of “Mad Men.”

But back to that Victor Civkin house on High Point.

A Russian refugee, he designed 900 projects independently — residences, stores, theaters, synagogues, office buildings, restaurants, community centers — and hundreds more for GE, including the 1939 World’s Fair GE Pavilions, FDR’s White House kitchens, and futuristic model homes.

The guy was no slouch.

But that house on High Point was not one of his high points.  I know a family that rented there for a year and — I am not kidding — said they were so embarrassed by it, they never wanted anyone to visit.

Anyone who reads “06880” knows I deplore the Westport hobby of knocking down normal-sized homes, to build houses on steroids.

Yet no one cheered louder than I when the house at #6 High Point went to that great dumpster in the sky.

Until this week I had no idea the architect was so revered, he’d have his own Little Gallery at the Historical Society show.

As the great mid-20th century modernist Lawrence Welk  might have said, “There’s no accounting for taste.”

A surprisingly flattering photo of the Civkin house on High Point Road. Trust me -- 10 minutes after this shot was taken, the house looked gruesome. It did not wear well.