Tag Archives: Morley Boyd

Photo Challenge #119

Last week’s photo challenge was posted the day after April Fool’s.

It was a bit of a joke — a postcard image labeled “View along Main Street, Saugatuck.” (Click here to see.)

Of course, there’s no Main Street in our Saugatuck. But there is in Saugatuck, Michigan.

Fred Cantor, Bobbie Herman, Peter Hirst, Rod Hurtuk and Mary Palmieri Gai all knew that there’s more than one Saugatuck in the world.

But wait! Elaine Marino — who seems to be Westport (Connecticut)’s foremost expert on Saugatuck, Michigan — commented that the postcard was mislabeled. She said it was actually the corner of Butler and Mason Streets. She added a few more factoids, including that the Michigan town’s founder was originally from Hartford. Yes, the Connecticut one.

Then Morley Boyd pointed out that there actually was a Main Street in our Saugatuck. It’s the same one that’s downtown today. The address was once Main Street, Saugatuck, because Westport was not named (and incorporated) until 1835.

However, we still do not have a Butler or Mason Street.

On now to this week’s photo challenge. If you know where in Westport you’d see this strange sign, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Ed Simek)

15 Belden Place: Little Red House Saved!

In early December, “06880” broke the story about the proposed demolition of #7 and #15 Belden Place — the tiny, seldom-noticed piece of Main Street property just past Avery Place, opposite Veterans Green and Town Hall.

Not many people cared about the 1st building. But boy, did they howl about the 2nd.

#15 is listed in the Westport Historic District Commission inventory. It sits on the bank of the Saugatuck River (with quite a view!). Readers flooded the comments section of that story — and one with 3 other photos — decrying the proposal.

15 Belden Place (Westport Historic Resources Inventory, courtesy of Wendy Crowther)

15 Belden Place (Westport Historic Resources Inventory, courtesy of Wendy Crowther)

We haven’t heard much about Belden Place since then. But today alert “06880” reader — and preservation activist — Morley Boyd writes:

Here’s a testament to the 06880 community and its passion for all things Westport.

At a Historic District Commission hearing Tuesday night — just in time for Valentine’s Day — representatives for the new owner of the iconic red house by the Saugatuck River revealed plans to fully restore the beloved local landmark.

“06880” readers were quite vocal when plans to demolish the iconic early 20th century dwelling surfaced late last year. Westporter Peter Nisenson — the property’s contract purchaser, and principal of Westport-based PEN Building Company — took those concerns to heart. He said, “We heard the public and we took  its advice. In many ways this is now a much more interesting project.”

A 2000 view of 15 Belden Place, taken from Parker Harding Plaza. (Photo/Andrea Fine)

A 2000 view of 15 Belden Place, taken from Parker Harding Plaza. (Photo/Andrea Fine)

On the same property, as part of its plan for retail and residential development, PEN intends to also save the large antique building that fronts Main Street which once housed Nappa Sales.

PEN officials noted the uniquely picturesque setting of 15 Belden Place, a building they refer to even on their official site plan as “The Red House.” Provided they can secure the needed zoning variances, the modest structure will remain in its original setting — though slightly raised to prevent further flood damage.

PEN intends to then make repairs as needed to return the house to residential use — but with an eye to preserving its vintage appearance. While the windows will be replaced in kind, the location of the original openings will be kept as they were.

Although the structure will also receive new systems, one thing about Westport’s most famous little house that Pen representatives will  not change: the color.

Robert Storm, the project’s architect, stated: “We peeled off a chip of the red paint. We’re going to match it.”

15 Belden Place, as seen from the parking lot off Main Street.

15 Belden Place, as seen from the parking lot off Main Street.

[UPDATE] Bridge Street Bridge Project Drives Forward

Plans for renovation of the Bridge Street bridge are moving ahead, on at least 2 fronts.

But they may be on a collision course.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation is working with the selectman’s office on a public information meeting. Tentatively set for December 7 Set for Monday, November 23 (7:30 pm, Town Hall auditorium), it will be a forum to discuss the history of the 113-year-old bridge, its current deficiencies, and various rehabilitation options and calendars.

The historic and controversial Bridge Street (William F. Cribari) Bridge.

The historic and controversial Bridge Street (William F. Cribari) Bridge. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

Meanwhile, 4 prominent Westporters asking the state DOT to designate a 1.2-mile section of Route 136 — including the bridge — as a State Scenic Highway. It begins at the Post Road/Compo Road South intersection, and runs through the western end of the bridge, at Riverside Avenue.

Petitioners include 3rd Selectman Helen Garten, former Westport Historic District Commission chair Morley Boyd, RTM member John Suggs and preservationist Wendy Crowther.

The petitioners met yesterday at the Bridge Street Bridge. From Left: Morley Boyd, Helen Garten, John Suggs, Wendy Crowther. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

The petitioners met yesterday at the Bridge Street Bridge. From Left: Morley Boyd, Helen Garten, John Suggs, Wendy Crowther. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

If approved, this will be the first State Scenic Highway solely in Westport. All 37.5 miles of the Merritt Parkway — from Greenwich to Stratford — carry that designation too.

The petitioners note history (site of an armed conflict between British regulars and a handful of local militiamen in 1777); the many notable 18th and 19th century buildings lining the route, and the important views of the Saugatuck River shoreline.

Both the bridge itself, and the Gault barn complex at 124 Compo Road South, are listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places.

The group — along with 8 other RTM members has also requested that the RTM back the scenic highway proposal. Not all signees are from Saugatuck — where the structure (formally know as the William F. Cribari Bridge) is both a beloved icon and a major traffic thoroughfare.

They ask that their petition be discussed at the legislative body’s November 10 meeting.

Many old homes line South Compo Road and Bridge Street. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

Many old homes line South Compo Road and Bridge Street. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

“The designation will serve to both enhance and safeguard the scale, nature and character of one of Westport’s most attractive travel ways,” the agenda request says.

“The State Scenic Highway designation does not in any way impact adjoining private property,” Morley and Suggs say. “It is solely intended to preserve the character and nature of the state road — including the bridge.”

A historic plaque stands at the corner of the Post Road and South Compo -- the start of the proposed 1.2-mile Scenic Highway route. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

The Saugatuck River meets Bridge Street, near the western end of the proposed Scenic Highway. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

The fate of the bridge will be one of Westport’s major stories throughout the rest of this year — and next. To learn more about the State Scenic Highway program, including protections it provides, click here.

A historic plaque stands at the Post Road/South Compo intersection -- the start of the proposed 1.2-mile Scenic Highway. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

A historic plaque stands at the Post Road/South Compo intersection — the start of the proposed 1.2-mile Scenic Highway. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

Baron’s South: A New View

Many Westporters enjoyed yesterday’s spectacular weather the usual autumn way: Apple-picking. Leaf-peeping. Your kid’s sports-game-watching.

A few folks spent the day working. A small work crew assembled at Baron’s South, for a 3rd clean-up of that town-owned, heavily forested downtown property.

Organized by Wendy Crowther and Morley Boyd, they made a big dent removing invasive trees, overgrown underbrush and climbing vines. They also cleared a main pathway that descends from Golden Shadows — “the baron’s” old house — into the deeper woods.

Slowly, they opened up the viewsheds from the mansion. There’s much more to do, but already it’s become easier to imagine how magnificent the hills and dales of the wooded landscape once were.

Crowther says the clean-up work reveals a view of Golden Shadows not seen since the town purchased the property in 1999.

Golden Shadows - Wendy Crowther

The ultimate fate of Golden Shadows — and what to do with the entire 22-acre property — has not yet been decided.

But whatever happens, a small group of Friends is ensuring the place looks great.

 

Golden Shadows Gets Trimmed

Westporters continue to debate the best use for Golden Shadows.

But no one can argue that the area in Baron’s South — once the handsome home of Baron Walter von Langendorff and his wife — looks a lot better today than it did yesterday.

This morning, historic preservationists Morley Boyd and Wendy Crowther organized a work party. They and Planning & Zoning Commission members Al Gratrix and Chip Stephens were joined by Mike Bernie, one of the baron’s original landscapers.

Golden Shadows is hidden from view, in the middle of the property. (Of course, the town owns Baron’s South, and it’s open from sunrise to sunset.)

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take care of it. Nice to see some concerned Westporters lend a helping hand.

Golden Shadows cleanup 2

Morley Boyd and Wendy Crowther, hard at work.

Golden Shadows cleanup 1

Chip Stephens (left) and Al Gratrix get their hands dirty.

Golden Shadows cleanup 4

The still-impressive hillside near Golden Shadows, after trimming, raking and weeding.

Golden Shadows

Golden Shadows

 

This Old House #14

The main clue to last week’s mystery house was its former location: “on the present site of the Fine Arts Theater in State Street.” That identification, of course, dates from the 1930s, when WPA photographers took shots of a number of already-very-old Westport houses.

Dan Herman, Jill Turner Odice and Morley Boyd said that its current location is 23 Jesup Road. Westport Historical Society house historian Bob Weingarten confirms the site. (Click here to see a photo of the house, and read comments about it.)

It was not easy to do. Boyd says that a 2005 renovation — illegal, because the house sits in a historic district — “drained it of its historic integrity.”

Here is this week’s unidentified home:

This Old House - May 20, 2015

All we know is that it’s somewhere in Green’s Farms.

If you know its whereabouts, click “Comments” below. The WHS is seeking info on this and other “mystery houses,” in preparation for an upcoming exhibit on the changing face of Westport.

This Old House Is … Tavern On Main

On Wednesday, “06880” introduced a new feature: “This Old House.” Every Wednesday we’ll post a new photo of an old house. We hope to identify 12 of them prior to a Westport Historical Society exhibit on the preservation and change.

We started with a practice shot — one that exhibit curator Bob Weingarten had already identified:

Lost house 1 - March 4, 2015

“06880” readers placed it (literally) all over the map. Guesses included Kings Highway, Cross Highway, Long Lots Road, Baker Avenue, Hillspoint Road, South Compo Road, Avery Place, Canal Street, Riverside Avenue, Myrtle Avenue, Partrick Road, Woodside Avenue and Wilton Road.

All were wrong. As Morley Boyd, Maureen Aron, Wendy Crowther and Kevin Martin noted, it’s on Main Street. Today we know it as Tavern on Main.

Tavern on Main 2

According to the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism’s Historic Resources Inventory, the building was constructed in 1813 for grocer Levi  Downes. A former wing on the east elevation was occupied by the Downes School for Ladies, run by Levi’s daughter Esther.

The area lacks ownership documentation for the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, it is shown on a famous 1878 map of Westport this way: “River Side Institute for Ladies, Sophia V. Downes, Principal.” And the WPA archives identify the 1930s owner as “C. Van Wyck.”

Downs House - Tavern on Main

The Historic Resources Inventory says that by the early 1940s, the building contained several apartments. By 1948 they had been converted to offices. The 1954 town directory lists a gift shop, clothing store and 2 real estate offices at the address.

By 1965, part of the building became Chez Pierre. That famed restaurant remained in the space through the 1980s. Since 1996, it is the equally renowned Tavern on Main.

Morley Boyd adds this information: “In the 1920s and ’30s, buildings in the downtown area shuffled about with some regularity (Spotted Horse, Red Cross, Avery medical building, Christ & Holy Trinity parsonage [now up on Compo North, I think], the (lost) house on Gorham Island, the houses in back of Colonial Green, etc. What couldn’t be moved in whole was deconstructed and used in new construction (houses on Violet Lane).”

And, Dan Aron says, in the 1st half of the 20th century the building was the home of Robert and Marie Lawson. He was a noted author and illustrator of children’s classics like “Rabbit Hill” and “The Story of Ferdinand.”

There you have it: Everything you ever wanted to know about 146 Main Street.

Or whatever it was called then.

Saving Compo Acres’ Sycamore

Equity One has been pilloried for its excavation work behind Compo Acres Shopping Center. More trees than allowed by permit were demolished to create a level parking lot. The result: more asphalt, and less privacy for neighbors.

But around the corner, the owner is working to save one tree.

Equity One representative Michael Lai told “06880” reader and town activist Morley Boyd that the company considers a massive sycamore — located near the confusing entrances/exit on South Compo and the Post Road — to be a “defining aspect” of the property. Lai said that Equity One takes its stewardship seriously.

Wendy Crowther's before-and-after photos show the "mulch volcano" (left), and the mulch pulled back (right).

Wendy Crowther’s before-and-after photos show the “mulch volcano” (left), and a close-up of the mulch pulled back (right).

Boyd and others were concerned about  a “mulch volcano”: the tree-killing layer that was mounded against the trunk, above the natural flare at its base. It arose because untrained landscapers did not realize the tree could suffocate to death.

Equity One hired Bartlett Tree Experts to complete a thorough treatment protocol for the sycamore. It includes feeding, and careful removal of the mulch volcano. Work began over the holiday weekend.

So all is well — except for some bark damage:

Sycamore - tree damage

Turns out that Lai saw a woman install an advertising sign for a fitness center on the southern face of the tree. He asked her to leave. He did not know it, but damage had already been done.

A portion of bark spawled off. More came down over the next couple of days. Unfortunately, Lai did not get a look at the name of the business.

Fortunately, the bark should mend in time.

Now, if Equity One could only restore the iconic “paint palette” that stood for decades next to the sycamore. It’s been missing for more than a year.

The Compo Acres paint palette is gone.

The Compo Acres paint palette is gone.