Tag Archives: Myrtle Avenue

Woodmen Spared That Tree!

Over the years, “06880” has reported on too many tree removal stories.

This is not one of those.

Over the past months, there’s been an effort in town to improve the intersections and cross streets on Myrtle Avenue.

One victim of this modernization project was to be the island in front of Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, by Sconset Square. The plan was to remove everything, to form a “T” intersection.

The site is lovely. It’s also historic.

It’s where the Disbrow Tavern was located, back in the 1700s. George Washington is said to have had some ale there, and maybe even a room for the night.

The original Myrtle Avenue traffic island was much larger. (Photo courtesy of Morley Boyd)

A tree sat on the island for centuries, until the 1960s. It was removed in an earlier modernization project.

Church members took it upon themselves to inform the town of the site’s history and beauty, and the utility of the island and tree.

In the mid-’60s, parishioners planted what they called the new “Trinity tree.”

Fifty years later, that history has been forgotten by — or is unknown to — many Westporters. Construction has decreased the size of the island, and damaged the roots. All of that endangered the Trinity tree.

Some area residents and members of the Planning & Zoning Commission worked through a variety of town agencies to save the tree, and the island.

Over the last couple of weeks, a contractor hired by the town has loosened the soil, injected it with mulch and nutrients, trimmed the branches — and removed campaign signs.

The tree, after trimming last week. (Photo/Chip Stephens)

Thanks to tree warden Bruce Lindsay and others, the Trinity tree now has a good chance of adorning, and shading, the island for another 50 years.

That is, if people don’t tramp on the island and its roots, while putting up signs.

Lindsay placed 4 small signs on the island, asking people to stay off and give the tree a chance.

A campaign sign appeared this morning. Town officials say they’ll remove them, as long as the tree is convalescing.

This is not about politics. It’s just about common sense.

And the history and beauty of a downtown tree we all love, admire and respect.

Westport Forgets About Clinton

Alert “06880” reader Merri Mueller lives off Clinton Avenue. The area just got finished with major sewer work, so that’s good.

“All of the sides are repaved, and look beautiful,” she says.

But the main artery — Clinton — is a different story entirely.

It’s half paved.

One side of the paving was finished 2 weeks ago. Speed bumps were done last week. The center stripes went in yesterday. (See left side in the photo below.)

The other side is just as it was. It’s been that way for a while, Merri says.

Here’s a different view:

(Photos/Merri Mueller)

The good news — I guess — is that between the unfinished paving job and the speed bumps, there are not many speeders on that stretch of the road.

The bad news is that this is not the only half-assed paving job in town. Myrtle Avenue has been a mess ever since Eversource finished its project last year.

And that’s right in front — I would think, embarrassingly –of Town Hall.

Remembering Estelle Margolis

Estelle Margolis — an artist, political activist and longtime figure on the Post Road bridge, who was also energized by bringing her diverse Myrtle Avenue neighborhood together — died last week. She was 92.

In 2010, her then-17-year-old grandson Jonah Newman had an assignment for his American Protest Literature class in California: find people who had been politically active. He wrote about his grandmother Estelle, and her equally passionate husband Manny. He died in 2011, age 86. Here is part of what Jonah wrote:

As far back as I can remember, Emanuel and Estelle Margolis — my maternal grandparents — have been a part of my life. Every year my parents, my brothers and I join the rest of the Margolis clan at my grandparents’ home in Westport, Connecticut to celebrate Passover.

Emanuel Margolis and Estelle Thompson (“Papa” and “Buba” respectively) were both born in New York City in 1926. The house occupies a special place in my heart — like its own timeless world it remains the same every year, as comfortingly consistent as the presence of the two people who have lived there for five decades.

Perhaps it is because I have known my grandparents for my whole life that until recently, I had rarely thought about their rich backgrounds as political activists.  I discovered that my grandparents, who participated in many of the key social and political movements of the 20th and 21st centuries, are the very definition of living history.

Estelle Margolis was 87 during this 2014 protest on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge. (Photo/Robert Baldrich)

Buba was raised in an Orthodox Jewish home. Her family was hit hard by the Great Depression; her father often had trouble finding jobs and making ends meet. She was artistic, participating in arts, theater, and music programs at school.

She never went to college but was admitted to the graduate School of Architecture at Yale and graduated in 1955. Her drawing talent was strong, and as a young woman she made a living out of art and architecture. Her political activism began when she was an adolescent and continued throughout her life.

Her career as an activist began much earlier than Papa’s. At 12 she picketed outside Alexander’s Department Store in the Bronx in an attempt to get people to boycott Japanese silk after the Japanese invaded Manchuria. Throughout her life, Buba has employed several diverse methods — including picketing, art and hands-on involvement — and has drawn from her innate empathy to protest war, discrimination and economic inequality.

Over many years since then, the anti-war message has been consistently important. She says: “It overwhelms me with the thought of the devastating damage that has been done…What sense are we making out of the policy that keeps throwing young kids to their deaths?”

Buba’s sympathy may stem from her maternal instincts (she has 5 children and 10 grandchildren), and shows the simple human compassion that motivates her continued struggle against war. She was active in her criticism of the Vietnam War during the 1960’s and 70’s, and has protested the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the late 1980s, Sen. Jesse Helms attacked the National Endowment for the Arts. Estelle Margolis responded with this painting.

Since 2005, Buba has helped lead a weekly vigil on a Westport bridge to protest the war in Iraq. Her signs at these present-day rallies say what they have said for decades: “Support The Troops, Bring Them Home.”

One of Buba’s natural skills has proved to be a lifelong tool for her activism. “I’ve been very lucky all my life because I know how to draw,” she says. Lucky is an understatement; in the late 1940’s Buba worked as an assistant to legendary artist Ben Shahn. In 1946, Buba and Shahn worked on an enormous collection of political leaflets and posters to support Democratic candidates across the country. “We created a leaflet for every single candidate,” she recalls.

But there are risks to political activism. In 1947, when she taught union organizing to black and white students at the desegregated Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, angry vigilantes drove by, shouting and shooting at the building.

Even the government was an occasional threat. Buba says the FBI planted spies in the meetings of activist organizations at the school.

In 1970, Buba and a group of women protesting the Vietnam War by picketing in the middle of a busy street were almost run over by an angry truck driver. The women were arrested for obstructing traffic, but Papa used his legal skills to keep them out of prison.

Driven by her human empathy and making full use of her artistic talents, Buba continues to be a potent voice of protest. Although both she and Papa believe the world needs changing, they also believe that the world is inherently beautiful.

Papa and Buba fervently believe America and the world are fundamentally good.  We just need to fight to keep them that way.

(Click here to read Jonah’s full story — including much more about his grandfather, Manny. And click here to read an “06880” story from 2014, about how Estelle brought her Myrtle Avenue neighborhood together. A graveside service is set for today, Monday, March 4, 1 p.m. at Willowbrook Cemetery. Hat tip: Larry Weisman)

Estelle Margolis (center), surrounded by Myrtle Avenue neighbors. (Photo/Rondi Charleston)

Photo Challenge #204

I said that last week’s Photo Challenge was hidden in plain sight. Many Westporters pass it every day, without ever really seeing it.

So no, it was not the “Golden Shadows” mansion at Baron’s South.

The intricate design photographed by Mark Jacobs is part of old Bell Telephone brick building on Myrtle Avenue. When you turn on Myrtle from the Post Road, it’s the 2nd property on your right — directly opposite Sherwood Square.

The building was once a key operations center for the phone company. Now it’s just part of the scenery. (Click here for the photo.)

It’s still a good-looking building. Check it out the next time you’re stopped in traffic there — which I’m sure will be soon.

Robert Mitchell was the first “06880” reader to “call up” the correct answer. Bob Grant, Darcy Sledge and Mary Ann Batsell followed.

Mark Jacobs also contributes this week’s Photo Challenge. If you know where you’d see this beautiful scene, click “Comments” below. (Bonus points if you know the name of the waterway.)

(Photo/Mark Jacobs)

Water, Water, Everywhere

Yesterday’s flash floods — the result of 7 inches of rain in some parts of town — caused widespread disruption and damage.

Roads turned into swirling rivers. Lakes suddenly appeared from nowhere. Some drivers turned around. Some tried carefully to get through. Others plowed right in.

Iris Greenfield was not rash or hasty. Still, her car was completely submerged under the South Compo Road railroad bridge. She and 2 of her children were rescued through the window by Westport firefighters.

The scene on South Compo, even after the worst of the waters receded. (Photo/Iris Greenfield)

It was dramatic and heroic. When they finally reached solid ground, the firefighter who carried Iris out asked, “aren’t you the acupuncturist?”

Yep. He was a former patient. And her son recognized him by name.

Skye Greenfield wrote this letter of thanks to the Westport Fire Department:

As of 7 this morning, Compo Road South at the railroad overpass was still closed due to flooding. Roseville Road at Salem Road was also closed..

Meanwhile, Morley Boyd offers this report from Violet Lane, off Myrtle Avenue directly across from Sconset Square:

“One house lost its furnace, hot water heater, washing machine, dryer and I guess AC. Our driveway is gone — all down on Myrtle now. This was the worst flooding in downtown we’ve seen since 1968.”

Myrtle Avenue was completely submerged at the height of yesterday’s flood. (Photo/Joyce Joiner)

 

Happy Monday!

Residents of Violet Lane thought their part of the Myrtle Avenue water main renovation project was finished a couple of weeks ago.

This morning, workers once again tore up the road — and drivers scrambled to get their cars out while they could.

(Photo/Joyce Joiner)

Neighbors are not the only ones without much notice about what’s happening. Many Westporters have asked that better signage be placed on the Post Road and Main Street.

Wrong Way, Myrtle!

At first glance, there’s nothing wrong with this photo:

(Photo/JP Vellotti)

But look closely. The car is cruising the wrong way down the 1-way stretch of Myrtle Avenue, between Avery Place and Main Street.

After never in my life seeing that happen, I spotted it twice in 2 days recently. Alert “06880” reader/photographer JP Vellotti saw it too — a different time — and snapped this photo.

Then yesterday evening — while standing with 100 or so people outside the Westport Historical Society, at the opening of the (fantastic) new exhibit on our town’s African-American past — we all watched another car zip past Town Hall, headed the wrong way. (For good measure, it blew past the stop sign at Avery Place.)

I have no clue why there’s this sudden epidemic of driver cluelessness.

But it gives me a chance to ask a question I’ve thought about for years:

Why is Myrtle Avenue 1-way in front of Town Hall?

There’s no logical reason. The road is wide enough for 2-way traffic (if there’s no parking on the street next to the stone wall). It’s a waste of time — and a teeny bit of gas — to send people leaving Town Hall on a 180-degree loop from Main Street to Avery Place, just to go south on Myrtle toward the Post Road.

With 2 traffic lights on the way.

I know why Myrtle Avenue is one way at the Main Street/North Kings Highway light. There’s not a lot of room there, and traffic from Myrtle heads left, straight and right. All I’m talking about is 2-way traffic from the Town Hall exit, back toward Avery Place.

If someone has a good argument for keeping Myrtle Avenue 1-way, I’d love to hear it.

Otherwise, let’s make this little-but-big change now!

Traffic coming out of Town Hall should be able to turn left as well as right — right? (Photo/Alison Patton)

Lotsa Lights

As the holiday season winds down, twinkling lights are replaced by traffic ones.

The Post Road/Imperial Avenue/Myrtle Avenue intersection sports a ton of new signals (and new crosswalks). The just-installed lights are not yet activated.

Myrtle Avenue traffic lights

Continuing the Christmas theme though, they’re red and green.

Hey, Has Anyone Seen My Hula Hoop?

A few months ago, we learned — via an “06880” photo of shoes dangling mysteriously on telephone wires over Myrtle Avenue — that that signals drugs are available nearby. Who knew?!

So what are we to make of this latest scene, at a traffic light not far away? This was spotted — and photographed — by Bob Weingarten, at the Main Street/North Kings Highway/Myrtle Avenue intersection. (What is it with Myrtle Avenue, anyway?)

Traffic light

If you have any idea — or want to hazard a guess — click “Comments” below.

Hey, Has Anyone Seen My Shoes?!

An alert Westporter walking his dog this morning at the Haskins preserve looked up and discovered a new definition of “shoe tree”:

Shoes in Haskins Preserve

Meanwhile, for weeks another pair of shoes has dangled even more mysteriously above Myrtle Avenue:

Myrtle Avenue

Baby, it’s cold outside. This is no time to go barefoot!