Tag Archives: Jacques Voris

Pizza Principles 101

For years, Westporters have watched Jacques Voris turn dough and tomato sauce into delicious pies at Westport Pizzeria. He figures he makes 25,000 a year.

Many are awed by his pizza-making skills. Others wonder: How hard could that be?

Everyone (age 13 and up) now has a chance to try. Voris and his restaurant are offering “Pizza Principles”: a (truly) hands-on class in pie-making.

There are sessions every Sunday this summer, from 10 a.m. to 11.

It’s a group activity (up to 3 people per group). Each makes its own pizza, from start to finish.

You won’t take your finished creation home, though.

You’ll eat it right there.

Jacques Voris, at work.


(The cost for each “Pizza Principles” group is $30 — and includes all ingredients. To register, click here.)

Friday Flashback #60

Alert reader — and 11th-generation Westporter Jacques Voris — sends along a fascinating photo:

He writes:

This photo of John Burr Mills was taken circa 1922. He was about 87, and is holding his great-grand-niece, Shirley Mills.

John Burr Mills — a relative of mine — was here for much of the early formation of Westport, and its transition from a farming community into the artist colony of the 1920s.

He was born on February 25, 1835 in Greens Farms — a few months before Westport was incorporated. He was the second of 3 sons of John Mills and Sarah Batterson. His father died when he was 20 years old. He and his older brother Charles struck out on their own.

John was primarily a mason. He built the State Street (now Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Post Road) bridge. He lived until 1934, and his direct descendant Wayne Mills still lives on West Parish Road.

What I really like about this photo are his hands, as he gently holds the child. Look at the size of them, and think about their obvious strength.

In addition to the photo, Jacques has a request:

I need “06880” readers’ help finding something. There was once a horse track in Greens Farms called the Dingee Racetrack. Other than a name, I don’t know a thing about it. Where exactly was it located? When?

Readers: If you have any information on the Dingee Racetrack, click “Comments” below. NOTE: The racetrack on the Bedford property — near, interestingly, West Parish — was called Wynfromere. It may be a different one.

The Mills Of Westport

Nearly a year ago, I wrote a story about the Mills family.

Their home at 54 North Avenue — just south of Staples High School — was slated for demolition. After more than 200 years, there would be no Millses living on the road.

The century-old Mills home at 54 North Avenue has been torn down.

The century-old Mills home at 54 North Avenue has been torn down.

Millses had been farmers and masons. One helped build the original Staples High School on Riverside Avenue. Yet the family seems to be forgotten. I ended the story:

Other long-lived Westport families have schools or parks named for them. The Mills family does not.

But they truly built this town. Their monuments are the countless stone walls, sea walls and foundations that exist to this day.

The piece sparked the curiosity of Mills descendant Jacques Voris. Eager to learn more of his family’s past, he visited the Westport Historical Society. They had almost nothing.

Voris began digging. He thought that Revolutionary War veteran John Mills (1760-1829) — who built #29 North Avenue, the small yellow saltbox that everyone still admires, as a blacksmith shop for his daughter and son-in-law –was the 1st family member in Westport.

29 North Avenue was built by Homer Mills.

29 North Avenue was built by John Mills.

Voris found, to his amazement, that Millses had lived in Westport for nearly a century before that.

Voris learned that his great-great-grandfather represented Westport in the state legislature, and the man’s son had been first selectman. Voris also discovered that a Mills was one of only 3 police officers killed in the line of duty here.

Now he wants to know even more.

For instance, what about the FL Mills Company? An automobile dealership started in Bridgeport in 1908 by Frederick LeClair Mills, it sold Studebakers for many years.

Bridgeport Post ad from August 11, 1959 mentioned a new location on the corner of Post Road and South Maple Avenue, selling Studebakers, Mercedes Benzes and a variety of used cars.

Voris never knew about the dealership. He hopes “06880” readers have details.

So: If anyone remembers the Mills car dealer — or has any other stories about this storied, but often forgotten Westport family — click “Comments” below.

The Mills family, in a horse and buggy.

Enjoying a horse-and-buggy ride: Ida Edith (Beyer) Mills; her son and daughter Ralph and Mildred, and her granddaughter Shirley Mills. This is from no later than 1928; Ralph died that year.


54 North Avenue: The End Of The Mills Family Legacy

Though they may not know it, Westporters are very familiar with 54 North Avenue.The brown wooden house stands a few feet from the southern entrance to Staples High School. It’s more than a century old.

54 North Avenue

54 North Avenue

But that’s not why 54 North Avenue rates an “06880” story. More significant is that later this month its owner, William B. Mills, will sell his home. And that will end more than 200 years in which the Mills family has lived on North Avenue.

The oldest house on North Avenue between Long Lots and Cross Highway is #29. Built by Revolutionary War veteran John Mills (1760-1829) for his daughter Charity and her new husband Hezekiah Mills (a cousin), it was constructed in the right of way — without title to land. In fact, John seemed to have no claim to the spot whatsoever. Nevertheless, John set up a blacksmith shop for his daughter and son-in-law.

29 North Avenue

The saltbox at 29 North Avenue.

19 North Avenue was built by John’s grandson Charles Mills (1833-1909). Longtime Westporters know the property as “Rippe’s Farm” — now Greystone Farm Lane — but the Rippes bought it later.

Charles was a master mason who built the foundation for the original Staples High School (1884) on Riverside Avenue. When it was torn down in 1967, Charles’ great-grandson recycled the bricks to build his chimney. Charles — who represented Westport in the state legislature (1885-86) — sold off most of the Mills’ farmland on North Avenue. Legend has it he got $50 an acre — a good sum in those days. But he gave each of his 4 sons 4 acres of property up the road from the house: #54, 58, 62 and 66.

54 North Avenue — the one being sold this month — was built by Charles Mills (1857-1945) on land he got from his father. Charles planted the beautiful red maple in front that is now a local landmark. Williams Mills — Charles’ grandson — is only the 2nd owner.

A red maple frames 54 North Avenue.

A red maple frames 54 North Avenue.

48 North Avenue — built by Homer Mills (1898-1981) — was built in 1943. The road was still rural; there were no side streets, and few houses. Homer attended Adams Academy on nearby Morningside North, but left school after 8th grade. He never got to Staples — which his father helped build. As did many Westport boys, he went to work on a farm. He later became a mason, like his father and grandfather.

Other long-lived Westport families have schools or parks named for them. The Mills family does not.

But they truly built this town. Their monuments are the countless stone walls, sea walls and foundations that exist to this day.

What will happen to 54 North Avenue after it passes from the Mills family? Well, a demolition sign hangs prominently near the front steps.

(Hat tip to Jacques Voris – William Mills’ nephew — for much of this fascinating historical information and insight.)