Most Photo Challenges show just a snippet of a building or other Westport scene. Readers figure out the big picture, from a very small one.
Last week’s challenge showed a very big picture” Michael Tomashefsky’s gorgeous fall image of woods, a river, and a picture-perfect bridge. (Click here to see.)
Normally, a photo like this would be easy to identify. But this was — as one reader called it — “the hidden bridge.” Another described it as “the bridge to nowhere.”
At one point, it probably led somewhere. But now it’s in the woods. It crosses the Aspetuck River near Lyons Plains Road, near the Coleytown Road fork.
Congrats to the “06880” readers who recognized it: Andrew Colabella, Rich Stein, Iain Bruce, Karen Como, Bill Coley, Bobbie Herman, Cheryl Mayer and Bill Shaner.
Bill Coley — yes, one of those Coleys — wrote:
I think it resulted from a repositioning of Lyons Plains Road to its current position. At the time it was probably decided that it was too expensive to tear down the old bridge.
I wonder how long ago the road was moved to its current location. It had to be well before the 1950’s. I remember going by it frequently in the late ’50s. The area was very overgrown even then. Possibly a WPA project during the Depression?
This week’s Photo Challenge may be less fair than usual. But in the words of Bill Gates: “Life is not fair. Get used to it.”
Drivers, joggers, nearby residents — many of you knew that last week’s photo challenge showed the bridge on Lyons Plains Road near the Coleytown Road fork.
And beyond it, a smaller “bridge to nowhere” that we asked for the back story of. Turns out it used to be on the main drag, before the road was relocated.
Congratulations to Stacy Prince, Bill Coley (a legit Coley family member?!), Christopher Lewis, Sally Korsh, Barbara Greenspan, Cristina Negrin, Jacques Voris, Noel Castiglia (of the Lyons Plains Castiglias) and Jalna Jaeger, for correctly identifying the bridges, and providing plenty of interesting info on them. (To see last week’s photo challenge, and all the comments, click here.)
Which brings us to this week’s challenge, courtesy of Peter Barlow:
It’s a tough one. But you guys are good.
Click “Comments” below. And, as always, add any details you know!
This week, we’re awash in the 100th anniversary of the sinking of Titanic.
Less noticed — not at all, in fact — is that 2012 marks the centennial of the purchase of 24 acres of land at the intersection of Lyons Plains and Coleytown Roads.
Newly arrived in America. Domenico Castiglia is seated at left.
The buyer was Domenico Castiglia. Part of the wave of Italian immigration in the first 15 years of the 20th century, he came to Westport because all along Lyons Plains lived people from his village in Calabria. By 1912 he had enough money to buy a parcel from the Coley family. He paid $2,000.
Domenico designed a house, and 2 years later it was built. Jeff Wilkins –Domenico’s grandson — remembers a fortress-like structure made of stone from the nearby river.
Six generations of Castiglias lived in “The Big House.” They ranged from Domenico’s mother-in-law to his great-great-granddaughter.
"The Big House," as it faced Lyons Plains Road.
Gradually, the property was subdivided. Three of Domenico’s 4 children built on it; half remained open fields. There was room in the homes for renters. Teachers were favored tenants, as the Castiglia family valued education. (Most of Domenico’s descendants went to Staples.)
“My grandfather’s vision was an escape from the city,” Jeff remembers. “He entertained busloads of people who slept on the floor.”
Frank Costello (right) and Lucky Luciano, pretending to spar at The Big House.
Frank Costello — who changed his last name from Castiglia, and was Domenico’s first cousin — was a frequent visitor (until Domenico told him to stay away). He’s the same Frank Costello was headed one of New York’s “5 Families.” He made his money bootlegging with Joe Kennedy during Prohibition, and it was his voice Marlon Brando imitated in “The Godfather.”
“It was almost like a 19th-century farm,” Jeff says of the property. “They had cows, so they must have sold milk. And they had 100 chickens, for eggs.”
“At that time, people ‘did for themselves,'” Jeff notes. Jeff’s mother helped build her own house. Family members contributed carpentry, electrical work, plumbing and heating.
All around there was haying, log cutting, deer and partridge hunting, apple picking, grape harvesting and wine making.
Jeff Wilkins' Aunt Laurie, celebrating the end of World War I.
The Castiglias fed themselves plentifully, and well. Fresh mozzarella, homemade sausage, sopressata, bread, butter, ice cream, milk, veal, chicken, eggs, applejack, wine, grape juice, root beer, turtle soup, and all the vegetables they could preserve — all were part of life at what was called Sundial Farm.
“They lived in a sort of communal arrangement that, through the lens of memory, seems idyllic,” says Jeff. “They were not wealthy, so they made their own entertainment.” Evenings were spent playing cards, or singing around the piano.
Not all the Castiglias stayed on the farm. Jeff’s Uncle Louie owned a tailor shop on Main Street.
Over the years, Jeff says, it became harder and harder to hold on to the land. Sentiment was not reason enough to keep it — particularly as real estate values rose. There were more subdivisions over the years.
Domenico Castiglia, behind The Big House with his dog.
Eventually, the Big House piece was divided. Finally, it too was sold. In the early 2000s it was dismantled. A new house took its place.
Today only a handful of Westporters recall the stone house, farm and open fields that lined Lyons Plains, near Coleytown, starting 100 years ago.
Jeff Wilkins is not yet 60 years old. But he remembers well.
Say what you will about “modern” Westport. We’re not very far removed from our past.
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