A recent blaze in a Roosevelt Road home, and an earlier one on Saugatuck Shores, reinforces just how fantastic our Fire Department is.
Last week’s Compo Beach blaze. (Photo/Larry Hoy)
They are quick. They are professional. They have so much territory to cover — not only thousands of homes and businesses all around town, but anything that happens on I-95 and the Merritt Parkway (plus the railroads and even, sometimes, on the water).
It’s easy to forget all that they do, and how well they do it.
But “06880” reader Deb Green reminds us:
The other day, our 300-gallon oil tank was filled. It began to leak around 6:30 in the morning.
The Saugatuck firefighters were on the scene in a matter of minutes. They stopped the leak, and remained on the scene until the tank removal company arrived.
They spoke directly to the tank remediation company, explaining exactly what the situation was. They also spoke with the EPA to report the spill.
It’s hard to imagine the damage 300 gallons of oil could have done inside our house!
Those actions may or may not be in their precise job description. But whatever it says, the Westport Fire Department — paid firefighters and volunteers, front line personnel and support staff — goes well above, and far beyond, every time they get the call.
In 1953, Ed Vebell was starting to make a name as an artist. He’d spent World War II as an illustrator/reporter for Stars and Stripes. He stayed in Europe a while, covering the Nuremberg trials and drawing 18-year-old Grace Kelly.
Now he, his wife Elsa Cerra and their 3-year-old daughter Vicki lived in New York. He hung out at the Society of Illustrators, eating and schmoozing with well-known artists.
One day, he spotted a bulletin board notice of a house for sale. He knew nothing about the town — Westport, Connecticut — but it had an artist’s studio with a large north light window.
That was huge: No shadows or highlights on the canvas or drawing board.
The artist’s studio.
The seller was Austin Briggs. A renowned illustrator — he drew “Flash Gordon,” worked for Reader’s Digest and the Saturday Evening Post, and was later elected to the Society of Illustrators’ Hall of Fame — that was enough to assure Ed that he was making the right move for himself and his family.
He bought the house, for $29,000 — sight unseen.
When Ed arrived for the first time, he looked down the end of Roosevelt Road. Something blue caught his eye. What was it?
“That’s Long Island Sound, sir,” the broker replied.
Okay, he thought. That’s nice.
Ed Vebell wrote his memoirs — and illustrated the cover.
The house served Ed and his growing family well. Working in that wonderful studio — enjoying the large north light window — he contributed to Time, Reader’s Digest and other publications. Specializing in military art, he drew uniforms from around the world for encyclopedias and paperback publishers. He worked for MBI too, illustrating the history of America from Leif Erikson through the Pilgrims, the Founding Fathers, and every war up to Vietnam.
Ed designed US stamps too — some with military themes. The studio was strewn with uniforms, helmets and boots. There was not even enough space for Wild Bill Hickok’s hat. So Ed stashed it in the bathtub.
Last February — less than 2 weeks after appearing at a Westport Historical Society show honoring his long career — Ed Vebell died peacefully, at home. He was 96.
It’s taken his daughters a year to clear out the house, and auction his collections.
But now the home — 9 Quentin Road — is on the market.
Ed Vebell’s home, 9 Quentin Road,
Audra Vebell says she and her sisters hope to find someone with “an appreciation of the history and special nature of this house.”
It really is special. For nearly a century, not one but two of America’s most famed illustrators lived and worked there.
In fact, just before he sold it to Ed, Austin signed his name in the garage concrete. It’s still there.
So history — and the spirit of 2 of Westport’s most prominent citizens — still remain.
When it comes to Ed Vebell and Austin Briggs, there must be something in the water.
Over the past few years, the Compo Beach Historic District has lost several homes to demolition.
Next up to go down: 15 Roosevelt Road.
The other day, neighbor Larry Hoy wrote to the Historic District Commission:
Please halt the demolition of this 92-year-old home in our historic Compo Beach neighborhood.
15 Roosevelt Road
The destruction of our neighborhood must stop. Too many of the original homes have been destroyed to make way for McMansions. Two homes on Roosevelt Road were torn down in recent years and replaced with homes that are out of scale in our neighborhood.
Both new homes required variances for which the owners claimed they had large families. As it turns out, both homes are now occupied by single people. These illicit variances have paved the way for the destruction of this once beautiful street.
A large house replaced a smaller center-chimney colonial on Roosevelt Road.
11 Roosevelt Road has recently been saved and tastefully restored. This is the approach that should be taken with 15 Roosevelt Rd. Preservation — not destruction — is the only acceptable solution for this house in our neighborhood. Please help us halt this destruction!
11 Roosevelt Road was recently restored with additions, but only minor changes to the facade. (Photos/Larry Hoy)
Speaking of history: Two streets in the Compo Beach Historic District — Roosevelt and Quentin Roads — were named after Theodore Roosevelt’s youngest son. Quentin Roosevelt was killed in his airplane over Normandy on Bastille Day, during World War I.
(The Historic District Commission will consider the application for demolition tonight at 7 p.m., in Town Hall Room 201.)
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