Tag Archives: Robert Augustyn

[OPINION] Longshore-like Option Needed For Parker Harding

Robert Augustyn, his wife Katie and son Will moved to Westport in 1996. He has coached Little League, and volunteered with the Westport Library, Food Rescue US and Bridgeport First Serve.

Robert Augustyn

He has spent most of his professional career as a dealer of rare maps, books and prints. In 2019 he opened Robert Augustyn Rare Maps & Prints here, which has deepened his interest in Westport’s history. He has spoken widely on the subject of early maps to groups like the Rotary Clubs, and is the author of the award-winning Manhattan in Maps.

Robert writes:

In 1960, Westport did the unthinkable and purchased a failing private country club in a weak economy for just about $2 million — roughly $20 million today.  Sheer insanity!

Yet it happened. And today we enjoy as public amenities what private country club members pay many thousands of dollars to partake in.

The audacity of this acquisition drew national acclaim.  It’s a great story of a few visionaries, and a bipartisan effort leading to sudden and overwhelming enthusiasm in the town.

What magnificent courage! Without it our beloved Longshore would have become Longshore Estates or some such, and Westport would have been set on a path to become another sequestered haven only for the very rich, where most of the town’s most beautiful areas would be irrevocably privatized.

The town’s purchase of Longshore in 1960 prevented it from becoming an 180-home residential development.

We are, I believe, at another such point in our town’s history in facing the question of what to do with the Parker Harding parking lot, our Saugatuck River frontage, and in a larger sense, the character of our downtown.

In debating this, I believe we have left off the table the bold, brave, Longshore-like option.

There has been much well-meaning discussion in recent years regarding the need for greater community connection and public spaces that foster interpersonal interaction. Having a more pedestrian-friendly downtown that invites lingering, that is more pedestrian friendly, more village-like, has been offered as an answer to the above needs.

Parker Harding Plaza (Drone photo/John Videler for Videler Photography)

None of the recent plans for our downtown really address this generally felt desire for a downtown with a more community feel.

Also, there is nothing in these plans that would meaningfully enhance enjoyment of the river, especially as long as there is a clogged parking lot adjacent to it; nothing in them that would encourage anyone to linger longer in downtown for the sheer pleasure of the experience.

Most would agree the Parker Harding lot is unsightly and unpleasant to navigate to say the least, and that it all but obliterates enjoyment of our riverfront, which could and should be the true focus in the re-making our downtown.

The current plan with the added greenery and trees, I believe, would hardly change at all the felt, on-the-ground experience of being in our downtown.

What would? True transformation, I believe, could only be realized by completely eliminating the Parker Harding lot, and building out another layer of retail space from the existing retails spaces. The rest would be a spacious promenade all the way to the river.

A good portion of the new retail space would be occupied by restaurants that would extend seating into the promenade, as found in many European port or riverside cities. COVID taught us that restaurants can offer outdoor seating virtually year-round, as is now commonly seen in New York.

Riverfront in Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana.

I believe this configuration would also draw a much wider range of retailers than we currently have, and that the promenade can host kiosks for well-selected specialty retailers.

Also, there would be ample room for a bandshell or its modern equivalent, carefully curated food trucks, and whatever else might be added to a welcoming and fascinating space.

Overall, the goal of this approach is both modest and profound: to create a beautiful space where time can be spent pleasantly, where people would want to linger and slowing take in their surroundings. I believe much good can come of this simple end — both in terms of community connection and commercial vigor.

What about parking?

This would be the other audacious part. Build a parking garage in the conveniently located, very large Elm Street parking area. The first — of many I’m sure — objections would be that it would be an eyesore.

I answer that by saying I’m sure that Westport, with its devotion to the arts, can find a way to make this an appealing structure, by challenging local artists to help make it so.

Cost actually should not be a great obstacle. Searching online regarding the cost of such a structure, I came up with a back-of-an-envelope calculation of $10 million for 300 to 500 cars.

Another possibility resulting from the presence of of a parking garage would be the option to ban parking on Main Street and convert it to a 2-way road to compensate for the loss the Parker Harding cut-through.

It is often difficult to be aware of when a community is standing at a crossroads regarding its future. But as we contemplate the future of our downtown, let us at least be honest with ourselves.

Proposed project in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

There is a choice to be made here that will influence subsequent generations.  It is this: Do we want our downtown to remain a not particularly pleasant place to quickly shop, dine and leave?

And in the case of the Parker Harding lot and the cut-through road along the riverfront, a decidedly unpleasant experience to be gotten through with hardly a glance at river?

Again, we must be really honest here: the current proposals for the Parker Harding lot would not substantively change this.

Or do we want our riverfront to become a true destination for both our own community and those from outside of it, where one would actually want to leisurely congregate, de-compress, stroll and mingle, take in the lovely, tidal Saugatuck River, and provide for us and future generations a soul-nourishing experience?

To put it another way: Are we content to essentially leave things as they are regarding the Parking Harding lot and our downtown, which would be the case if some version of the current plan is adopted, or do we want to do the hard, brave thing that would truly transform our downtown?

As always, readers are invited to respond. Click “Comments” below.

(“06880” is your source for local news, comments and ideas. By supporting us, you support local journalism. Please click here — and thank you!)

Roundup: Alex Jones, Henry Kissinger, Kennedy’s Barber …

In the wake of yesterday’s jury determination that Infowars fabulist/Sandy Hook denier Alex Jones must pay nearly $1 billion to families of victims of that school massacre, “06880” reader Kristan Hamlin lauds the work of Westport attorney Josh Koskoff and his law firm, Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder.

She writes: “Congratulations to the lead counsel in the case, Christopher Mattei, a fine human being and an excellent lawyer — the best of our profession — and to the entire Koskoff law firm.

“As Robbie Parker (a parent of a slaughtered 6-year-old) so eloquently said, you gave back to these re-victimized victims their voices. I am so proud of all of them, and to the Connecticut jury and the Connecticut judge in this case.”

Josh Koskoff


October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

To make a real difference, Westport’s Department of Human Services and Domestic Violence Task Force are collecting used cell phones and iPads, to benefit the Domestic Violence Crisis Center of Norwalk and Stamford. Clients can use them to ensure their safety, and avoid tracking by their abuser.

The DVCC provides free, confidential services to victims of domestic violence and their children in Westport and surrounding towns.

Donation bins are located at Westport Town Hall and the Senior Center, and available weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Questions? Call 203-341-1050 or email humansrv@westportct.gov. For  information about the Domestic Violence Crisis Center, click here.


The list of Westport barbers has been shaved by one.

Kennedy’s All-American Barber emailed members yesterday: “Effective immediately, all memberships have been frozen. Due to company wide and market changes we are ceasing operations as it was and starting something new and special.

“We helped rejuvenate a dying industry of men’s grooming 13 years ago. Hundreds of shops opened as a direct result of our brining [sic] high end men’s grooming shops back to its former glory. We lead an industry wide movement to bring back high end men’s grooming.

“We are entering a new economic and business climate and healing from the two years of drastic sales decline due to covid. Men that go to the office instantly became a thing of the past. That was our typical client. So we are adapting once more. We are going mobile. Brining [sic] the barbershop to you. In a high end mobile showpiece packed with all the equipment and luxury you are used to, and many of the same staff you have grown to love.” (Hat tip: MaryLou Roels)

Kennedy’s in Playhouse Square.


Staples High School Class of 2015 graduate Rachel Doran was just 21 years old when she died. But her memory lives on strongly. And her relatives and friends use it to help other families facing critical illnesses, by providing lodging, food and transportation aid.

Rach’s Hope — the non-profit founded in her name — holds its 2nd annual Family Fun Walk this Sunday at Compo Beach (3 p.m.).

Need extra incentive? Rachel’s grandfather Michael Isenberg has pledged to walk 1,000 miles yearly for Rach’s Hope. All you need to do is walk 1 mile!

Participants will receive special prizes, hear live music, and enjoy gourmet pizza and drinks from Pizza Pie Wagon and Greens Farms Spirit Shop.

To purchase tickets, donate or learn more about Rach’s Hope, click here. You can follow Rach’s Hope on Facebook and Instagram: @rachs.hope.

Rachel Doran


Margot Liotta debuts tomorrow!

The Staples High School Class of 2019 graduate — now a student at Berklee College of Music — has been working on her EP for over a year. She started it in Westport, during the pandemic.

The producer is Staples classmate Zach Rogers. Her manager — fellow SHS ’19 alum Kevin Ludy — helped make the album cover. It includes a familiar Compo Beach cannon scene:

Click here for the pre-save link. Click here for Margot’s TikTok; click here for her Instagram.


Most Westport Rotary Club speakers talk about current issues.

Tuesday’s guest – Westport resident Robert Augustyn —  went back in time. The owner of Robert Augustyn Rare Maps & Prints discussed historical maps, including one from 1478 that represents a recovery of knowledge from the Roman Empire.

He also highlighted a 1507 map by Johannes Ruysch that was the one of the first to portray America; an 1878 bird’s-eye view of Westport, and a local business directory poster from 1854 that features the Metropolitan Oyster House restaurant and a “mechanical” dentist who made house calls. 

Robert Augustyn describes a Westport map at Tuesday’s Rotary Club meeting. (Photo and hat tip/Dave Matlow)


This Sunday’s “Andrew Wilk Presents…” features a special performance by American String Quartet violinist Peter Winograd, and celebrated pianist Rohan De Silva. Wilk himself — the noted executive producer of “Live at Lincoln Center” — will lead a Q-and-A with the artists.

The event is October 16 (2 p.m., Westport Library).

From left: Rohan De Silva, Andrew Wilk, Peter Winograd.


If you’re a psychic you know this already, but: “celebrity psychic medium” Karyn Reece will be in Westport for a “VIP event” November 12 (7:30 p.m., Amy Simon Fine Arts).

The event features (as you also already know) light bites, wine, and “audience-style readings and messages with Karyn.”

Karyn Reece


Henry Kissinger is still alive.

At 99 years old, he’s just published a new book: Leadership: Six Studies in World Strategy

On Friday, October 21 (1 p.m.), Staples High School 1972 graduate/lawyer/writer Talmage Boston interviews the former Secretary of State for his “Cross Examining History” podcast. Click here for he Zoom link.

Henry Kissinger


Purple is the color of epilepsy awareness.

On October 30, the Epilepsy Foundation of Connecticut hosts their annual Purple Pumpkin 5K at Sherwood Island State Park (8:45 p.m.).

While parents and teenagers run, youngsters can paint a pumpkin purple. All attendees are invited to wear something purple too.

Light refreshments are available after the race. The $35 registration fee includes a t-shirt. To register, click here.


The Fresh Market ospreys get most of Westport’s love. The Sherwood Mill Pond and Burying Hill ones get the rest.

But what about the Nash’s Pond osprey? Tricia Freeman offers this raptor, for today’s “Westport … Naturally” feature:

(Photo/Tricia Freeman)


And finally … Anita Kerr died Monday in Switzerland. She was 94.

The session singer and arranger had a long career in both country and pop music. Click here for a full obituary.

Among her accomplishments: singing backup on Roy Orbison’s memorable song:

(The Roundup is a daily “06880” feature. Please click here to support your hyper-local blog.)


Robert Augustyn Maps Westport

Many Westporters have seen the H. Bailey map of Westport.

Drawn in 1878, it’s an “aerial” view of the town. Every house, shop and church is shown, precisely where it was. It’s a fascinating view of a thriving village. Every time I see it, I learn something new — about the Westport of nearly 150 years ago, and how we got where we are today.

The 1878 map.

Robert Augustyn is an antique map dealer. He’s spent most of his professional life examining maps like these.

He’d planned to spend his life teaching English. But in the late 1970s, a job with a New York dealer he thought would be temporary turned into his passion.

Eventually he owned Martayan Lan, a New York City hub for collectors of maps, atlases, rare books and manuscripts from the 16th to 19th centuries.

But the market softened. When the lease ended last summer, Augustyn closed the gallery.

Robert Augustyn

He and his wife Katie have lived here for 25 years. She’s a very involved civic volunteer.

Now he had time to join the Y’s Men, mentor young people, and teach tennis through Bridgeport’s First Serve program.

Slowly too he developed his own antique map and fine prints business here. He built up inventory, created a website, and began selling online.

But it’s hardly impersonal. Just as he did in New York, Augustyn enjoys showing maps to clients, taking them through the many stories of each particular item.

After decades in the business, he still finds maps he never thought he’d see. One of his favorites — an early 18th century plan of New York City — is the first to show a synagogue. Only 3 such maps exist.

Fifteen years ago, Augustyn found an 1837 map. Drawn just 2 years after the official founding of our town, he believes it’s the first to show our “new” borders. It hangs in his study (and is available for purchase).

The 1837 map. Note the spelling of Cockenoe Island.

He’s also got the first printed map of Connecticut. It dates to 1758, when it appeared in an English magazine.

Among Augustyn’s prints: an engraving of Henry Richard Winslow’s “Compo House.” It was Westport’s first mansion (on the site of the park that now bears the owner’s name).

Richard Winslow’s Compo House.

He’s always on the lookout for “good Westport material.” It’s not easy to come by, he says.

His job is not easy, either. Which is why he’s a “rare” map and print dealer indeed.

Robert Augustyn, Henry Hudson, And America’s First Synagogue

Today’s New York Times reports on a fascinating 1740 map. It’s the first to honor Henry Hudson for navigating “his” river — and also the first to show the first synagogue consecrated in North America, on Manhattan’s Mill Street.

The rare map is on display in New York for the first time. And — equally fascinating for Westporters — one of our neighbors played a key role in its acquisition.

Robert Augustyn

Robert Augustyn is a dealer in fine antique maps. He owns Martayan Lan Fine Antiques Maps, Atlases and Globes, the wonderfully named Manhattan firm that’s offering one of only 3 engravings of the John Carwitham map known to exist. It was discovered recently in a private collection in Italy.

In Manhattan in Maps 1527-2014, Augustyn explains that before 1740, calling the waterway “Hudson’s River” would have lent support to Dutch territorial claims. Hudson was English by birth, but had been hired by Netherlands businessmen.

Augustyn — who has lived here with his wife Katie since 1996 — has lent his map expertise to the Westport Historical Society, most notably in a 2011 exhibition. He’s involved in more contemporary activities too, including the library, Little League and A Better Chance of Westport.

The “Carwitham Plan” map can be seen through Sunday, at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair (Park Avenue Armory). If you’d like it for your wall, the minimum price is $125,000.

(Click here for the full New York Times story.)

Details from the 1740 Carwitham Plan map. “Hudson’s (or North) River” can be seen on the left. Click on or hover over to enlarge.