The Main Street Christmas tree is starting to look a lot more Christmas-y.
Annette Norton — the owner of Savvy + Grace, whose front door is just steps away — is personalizing ornaments for the handsome tree. (Knowing Annette, I guarantee: They’re beautiful.)
But there’s more to this story than ornaments on a tree. Annette is working with the Ralphola Taylor Charity, a YMCA community center that serves low-income Bridgeport children. They earn points for good behavior during after-school activities — and then redeem those points at the center’s Holiday Store by buying presents for their families.
In return for purchasing a gift for the Ralphola Taylor Charity, Annette will personalize a white dove ornament with the donor’s name, and hang it on the tree.
Gifts can be bought 3 ways:
At Savvy + Grace (next to the former Tavern on Main restaurant)
Online (at checkout, just choose free delivery to the charity)
Purchase something from any other local store, then drop it off at Savvy + Grace. What a great way to support all Westport merchants, and kids in Bridgeport.
Donations are accepted now through December 7. Let’s fill that tree — and the Ralphola Taylor Charity Holiday Shop! shelves!
Main Street Christmas tree.
It’s a common — and natural — occurrence, though not often so late in the season.
When bunker form large schools they deprive themselves of oxygen, and suffocate.
Dozens of dead fish have been spotted recently, at Compo Beach and Grace Salmon Park. Here was the scene yesterday, at Parker Harding Plaza:
And finally … the Grand Ole Opry debuted on this date in 1925, as a “barn dance” broadcast on WSM. 95 years later, it’s the longest running radio broadcast in American history.
Uncle Jimmy Thompson was the first performer on that first show. He was 77 years old — so the recording below shows someone born 13 years before the Civil War began. Talk about American Roots music!
65 people commented. Thoughtfully, insightfully and civilly, they offered suggestions.
Your flood of reactions got me thinking.
As a native Westporter — someone who remembers the Remarkable Book Shop, Klein’s department store, the African Room, World Affairs Center, movie theaters, Mark’s Place music club, Oscar’s, Dorain’s Drug Store — I know the kind of life that can pulse on Main Street.
A classic 1960s Main Street photo.
But I also realize that we can’t simply wish for that kind of street again. The world is far different today.
For a long time, I thought a few tweaks would bring downtown back to life. I nodded as stakeholders assured me that once the flood-proofing and renovation projects were done, and empty storefronts filled up again, all would be well again.
After reading the comments, and talking to a broad array of sharp, committed Westporters, I no longer believe that’s true.
Main Street is no longer — and perhaps never again will be — our “main street.” It’s simply a short stretch off the Post Road near the Saugatuck River. It’s lined with commercial buildings, connecting one side of town with another.
To think of it as our “main street” is to live in the 20th century — or even the 19th.
Main Street — particularly the business district — is not very long. You can barely see it here, in Larry Untermeyer’s aerial shot.
But boy, does it have potential.
The problem is, “potential” implies re-imagining the future. And re-designing the present.
We can’t simply tweak the Post Road. We need to (almost) blow it up, and start again.
The possibilities are endless.
Main Street could be a car-less, pedestrian-friendly piazza/promenade lined with trees, tables and benches; upscale and family restaurants and cafes, including outside dining (with space heaters for winter); food carts and artists’ kiosks; independent businesses like a general store, bookstore and ice cream shop (joining the special Savvy + Grace-type places already there).
It could be filled with cultural and arts events; food festivals, and something at Christmas; music on weekends, plus waterfront access, with paddleboat and kayak rentals. In the winter, we could flood part of it for a skating rink.
And more: The Farmers’ Market could relocate there. We could add offices for non-profits, and co-working spaces. Apartments could be build on 2nd and 3rd floors.
This was Main Street, during the 2014 Art About Town festival.
Downtown is at an inflection point.
The decisions we make now are as important as the ones we made 70 years ago. That’s when town officials decided — and citizens agreed — to fill in the Saugatuck River, behind the stores on the west side of Main Street.
The result — a parking lot named for selectman Emerson Parker and Daybreak Nursery owner Evan Harding — may have been the right idea then.
But today we need a new downtown. And the change can’t be incremental. It must be big, bright and bold.
Bigger, brighter and bolder, even, than Parker Harding Plaza was then.
The time for consultants is past. They, and the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee, have generated some good ideas. Now we must seize the initiative.
Who is “we”?
All of us. Everyone in Westport. We all have a stake in a vibrant, exciting, innovative, walkable, livable, enjoyable downtown. A downtown that will draw us all in again — and many others, from around the area.
Our town already offers so much: excellent schools, the transformed library, beaches, Longshore, Levitt Pavilion, Senior Center, Playhouse, Wakeman Town Farm, YMCA, Earthplace and tons more.
We often take these jewels for granted. For too long, we’ve taken the idea that Main Street “must” be a shopping-only street for granted too.
Look at the river. Look at Church Lane. Look at Main Street. Imagine the possibilities. (Drone photo by John Videler/Videler Photography)
I said it before: Downtown is at an inflection point. We have the opportunity to create something truly dynamic and visionary.
How do we do it?
Let’s start with a town meeting (of course, in the Library Forum). Let’s talk about the most exciting new Main Street we can imagine. Then let’s figure out how to make it happen.
Emerson Parker and Evan Harding were great civic volunteers. But look at their sorry legacy.
This is our chance to leave a legacy, for at least the next 70 years.
I thought last week’s Photo Challenge might be too tough for any “06880” reader.
I did not reckon on Mary Papageorge and Lynn Untermeyer Miller.
Both knew that Amy Schneider’s image of a painted smiling face is located on the back side of the large star sculpture that Howard Munce created years ago. It sits on the bank of the Saugatuck River, in Parker Harding Plaza directly behind Rye Ridge Deli.
The fisherman — that’s what the face is — faces the river. It’s not easy to see — and not too many people actually stroll by there (though it is a nice, beautiful spot).
Mary no doubt knows it because the Papageorge family owned Oscar’s — the long-time, beloved predecessor to Rye Ridge.
Lynn knows it because — well, she sees and knows everything.
Can Mary, Lynn and/or you figure out this week’s Photo Challenge? If you think you know, click “Comments” below.
Flanking the east bank of the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge on the Post Road, next to the Saugatuck River, are 2 small, triangular, landscaped signs. One says the gardens were “Designed and Donated by The Laurelrock Company.”
These gardens also include granite pillars of varying heights. They do not have an explanatory plaque.
One of the small gardens by the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge …
These pillars seem to echo similar installations memorializing sad events.
Does anyone know their significance?
Whatever their meaning, it’s a pet peeve of mine that these gardens — and many other public Westport plots — are being overrun by lawn signs for various organizations and events,
Many are commendable. Some are even non-profit.
But must we now have lawn signs all over town year-round, rather than only during election season?
Click here to help support “06880” via credit card or PayPal. Any amount is welcome — and appreciated! Reader contributions keep this blog going. (Alternate methods: Please send a check to: Dan Woog, 301 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880. Or use Venmo: @DanWoog06880. Thanks!)