Tag Archives: Lees Manufacturing Company

Question Box #4

Our Question Box is once again full.

Here are the latest answers — to the best of my ability, anyway. I’m stumped by many of these queries. So readers: Please chime in with any additional information. Click “Comments” below.

And if you’ve got a question for our box, just email dwoog@optonline.net.

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Is there a noise ordinance regarding parties in Westport? (Chris Grimm)

No. According to Police Chief Foti Koskinas, the only noise ordinance covers “reasonableness” and “time of day.”

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What is the history of the canal that runs under the Kings Highway Bridge, and empties into the Saugatuck River. Where does it begin? What is its purpose? (Nancy Beard) 

A very interesting question — and one I’ve never thought of.

It begins near Richmondville Avenue, not far upstream. It’s listed on maps as a branch of the Saugatuck River. It appears in its present form on an 1878 map of Westport, so perhaps it is natural.

Jeanne Reed grew up on Short Street, off Richmondville. She says they called it a “brook,” not a canal.

Wendy Crowther adds more. She writes:

“A few years ago, Morley Boyd and I did historical research on the mills that once existed along the Saugatuck River north of the Post Road.

“The most well known is Lees Manufacturing Company, located off Richmondville Avenue. Portions of this mill stand today (and are being converted into housing).

“Another mill, Phoenix Manufacturing, no longer exists. It was located on the land where the water company sits today, on Canal Street.

“Both mills used water power from the Saugatuck to manufacture their goods.  To do this, they dug canals off the Saugatuck to siphon water from the river and direct it toward their turbine blades. The canal that leads to the turbine is called the head race. The canal that leads water away from the turbine to return it to the river is called the tail race. Small signs of these original races still exist today (if you know where to look).

“During our research, Morley and I heard stories that the canal/tail race would often turn the colors of the rainbow during the day, when Lees Mfg. was dying their threads and yarns. According to a historic site plan of Lees mill, its dye house was located immediately beside the tail race. We theorize that the race was pressed into service as a convenient way to dispose of wastewater from the company’s dye operation.

“When the water company was established downriver from Lees Mfg. in the early 1900s, dyes were not a good thing to flow into the water supply from upriver.  Morley and I speculate that Lees’ original tail race was redirected and lengthened to parallel the Saugatuck River all the way down to the area just behind Coffee An’, where it was joined with Willow Brook. From there, the combined waters from the canal/tail race and Willow Brook emptied into the Saugatuck, downriver from the water company. This way, the dye bypassed the water company’s section of the Saugatuck.

“This is the canal that remains today. We believe that it served as a very long tail race for Lee’s Mfg. Co.

“We suspect Canal Street got its name not only from this canal, but also due to the two supply/tail races (canals) used by the  Phoenix Mill (where the water company stands today).”

“This was just a theory.  We paused our research then to focus on other projects.”

Traffic nears the Kings Highway North Bridge, near Canal Street — and the “canal.” (Photo courtesy of Google Street View)

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Nicki and I were walking in Winslow Park. Deep in a woodsy area we came upon what appeared to be an outdoor forest church, complete with pews and a dismantled podium (see below). What’s that about? (David Pogue)

According to Bob Mitchell, this is the Woodland Chapel of nearby Saugatuck Congregational Church. It was constructed by Tobey Patton (son of the church’s minister, Rev. Alison Buttrick Patton) as his Eagle Scout project.

Interestingly, that part of Winslow Park is not town property. It’s owned by the church.

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What is the back story of these oars on the building just over the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge on Post Road East? (Jilda Manikas)

I am not very helpful today. Beats me!

Readers: If by a “stroke” of luck you know, click “Comments” below.

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Why is this deactivated (?) squad car seemingly permanently parked in the Petco/Michael’s/Home Goods/Panera plaza? I don’t think it ever moves. Does it deter crime? (Chris Grimm)

No clue! But for a long time there was also one parked behind what used to be Blockbuster (!) at the Post Road/North Maple corner, across from the Exxon gas station.

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Are there any open water year-round swim groups here? And are there any mushroom foraging organizations? (Claudia Sherwood Servidio)

Finally! A two-fer I can (sort of) answer.

Burying Hill Beach’s High Tide Club is still active, as far as I know. They don’t swim all year, but they did go through October. Click here and also here for a pair of “06880” stories.

As for the ‘shrooms: Try Earthplace.

The High Tide Club’s recent late-summer picnic at Burying Hill Beach.

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Have a question for the Question Box? Email dwoog@optonline.net.

Photo Challenge #181

I thought I knew my “06880” readers.

But you know Westport better than I know you.

Five minutes after I posted last week’s photo challenge — one I thought was particularly tough — Andrew Colabella emailed with the correct answer.

David Sampson, Matt Murray, Morley Boyd, Rob Hauck and Arline Gertzoff soon followed.

Then came Michael Calise, Mary Cookman Schmerker, Seth Goltzer, Amelie  Babkie and Jaimie Dockray.

All knew that Susan Iseman’s shot showed the flower boxes outside the “Mill Building” on Richmondville Avenue. (Click here to see the photo.)

Built in 1814, the Richmondville Manufacturing Company was run by 4 generations of the Lees family. (That’s why it’s Lees Pond, Dam and Lane, not Lee’s.)

They manufactured tinsel ribbon cords, fringes, ribbons, boucle, seine and cotton twines, candlewick and cords. It was powered by a millrace diversion of the Saugatuck River.

Today the handsome brick building — similar to those in many New England towns — has been repurposed as offices.

Richmondville — off Main Street, just around the corner from the (sigh) former Crossroads Ace Hardware — may be a little out of sight.

Clearly though, it’s not out of Westporters’ minds.

This week’s photo challenge shows one of my favorite hidden gems of Westport. If you know where it is, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Ken Palumbo)