Tag Archives: Nick Thiemann

Cockenoe Fukushima?

Now that Hurricane Sandy is a fading memory, alert “06880” reader Nick Thiemann wonders what might have been.

Not “what if the storm was even more powerful?” Rather, “what if things turned out differently back in the 1960s?”

That’s the year United Illuminating proposed building a 14-story nuclear power plant on Cockenoe Island. Which they’d bought, for that very reason.

Plenty of people were aghast.

And plenty thought it was a great idea.

Cockenoe Island.

Proponents were clear. Nuclear power was seen as a clean, inexpensive source of power — the fuel of the future.

The arguments against were twofold. Some believed nuclear power was dangerous. Others simply wanted to maintain the island for camping, clamming, and picnicking. (Teenagers would add “partying” to the list.)

The Westport News — a feisty upstart, just beginning to challenge the established Town Crier — took up the cause. For 2 years, editor Jo Brosious crusaded against the nuclear power plant — and for the right of Connecticut towns having the right of eminent domain over all utilities.

The Town Crier argued that the facility would reduce local taxes.

In 1969 — helped by a New York Times editorial strongly supporting Westport’s wish to preserve Cockenoe (and, Nick Thiemann says, a casual conversation in Hartford between Governor John Dempsey and Westport State Reprsentative Ed Green) — a deal was struck. UI would sell the island to the town for $200,000, if  Westport dropped its proposed eminent domain legislation. State and federal funds covered 75 percent of the purchase price.

The RTM voted unanimously to buy the land.

In 1970, Life magazine cited the deal as a resounding conservation victory. A photo showed Jo Brosious at Compo Beach, with Cockenoe Island — pristine, not nuclear power plant-ed — in the background.

Which is how Cockenoe remains, 42 years later.

It’s still a place for camping, clamming, picnicking (and partying) (and rats).

But imagine for a moment — as Nick Thiemann does — what might have happened to a nuclear power plant during last month’s hurricane.

Can you say “Cockenoe Fukushima”?

REO’s 157 Riverside Avenue

Westport’s Historic District Commission reviews the proposed teardown of any home over 50 years old.

Sometimes they’re lovely, architecturally significant treasures.  Usually they’re outdated, 51-year-old split levels.  Almost always, the commission says “yes.”

But what will they say when REO Speedwagon fans learn that 157 Riverside Avenue is may be bulldozed into oblivion?

The ’70s rock band — best known for “Keep On Loving You” and “Take It on the Run” — released their 1st album in 1971. The most popular track was “157 Riverside Avenue.

Yes, that’s our 157 Riverside Avenue.  REO Speedwagon stayed there — directly across from Bedford Junior High School (now Saugatuck El) while recording in Bridgeport.  According to Wikipedia, that song “remains an in-concert favorite.”

(They’re still touring.  On September 15, you can catch them at the Kansas State Fair.  Little River Band too!)

But back to 157 Riverside.  Nick Thiemann — an attorney who lives next door — recently wrote to the Historic District Commission.

He does not object to the demolition.  However, he said:

While it would not appear that Washington slept there, it does seem as though someone did.  Whether this historical significance is relevant to your deliberations is a question you must determine.

Over the years that I have lived here (since 1968), I have been asked periodically if this is “really the REO Speedwagon 157 Riverside Avenue.”  Not often to be sure, but probably more often than neighbors of many the other houses you have designated as historically significant.

Okay.  It isn’t Big Pink.

But its ours.

And REO Speedwagon’s.

“06880” readers?

157 Riverside Avenue -- hidden by trees, like a true celebrity house.

We flew into town on Sunday, had to find a place by Monday
Tried Bridgeport and Westport, ’til we found a place that we thought would do
157 Riverside Avenue.

Saugatuck River’s flowin’, mother nature’s colors were showin’
So cold, so rainy, we couldn’t help feelin’ blue
Not enough time, too many things to do.

We met a young girl on Main Street, wanted to just pass her by
She was homely, so lonely, she said, “can I make love to you?”
We shouted 157 Riverside Avenue.

It’s over, Miss Lena, we’re leaving, such a pleasant stay, I must say.
So nice, so easy, we hate to say goodbye to you
At 157 Riverside Avenue.