There are a lot more sheer rock faces in Westport than I thought.
“06880” readers took a break from hand washing, social distancing and toilet paper hoarding last Sunday to guess where the latest Photo Challenge might be.
Michael Tomashefsky’s rock wall (click here here to see) was — according to numerous wrong guessers — either off I-95 Exit 17; behind the Sherwood Diner; behind the Gault barn on South Compo; in the parking lot behind Trader Joe’s; at Erickson’s Pond (where is that?), or near the bridge by the Levitt Pavilion (huh?!).
It is, in fact, near 95 — but Exit 18. The exact location is behind the commuter parking lot on the Sherwood Island Connector, diagonally across from the transfer station.
There’s plenty of rock there. As well as history. In the early 1700s, that area was the site of the very first Greens Farms Congregational Church meetinghouse.
Congratulations to Brian Taylor, Andrew Colabella, Wendy Cusick, Jerry Kuyper and René Fontaine.
Special props to Fran Taylor, who nailed it despite having lived in Kentucky for the past few decades. Then again, she grew up right around the corner from the Photo Challenge wall.
I guess it’s her rock of ages.
Before responding to this week’s Photo Challenge, please read carefully:
We’re not looking for where these figures are today (behind a home on Hitchcock Road).
We want to know where would you have seen them from 2001 to 2008?
He noted some of the worst jams in Westport, and recommended the creation of a special town traffic czar an task force to examine the issue. Dozens of readers replied. Their comments ranged from “it’s even worse than you say” to “get over it.”
This week, the reader — who asked to be identified as “GS” — is back.
This time, he has one specific solution.
It’s a spot seldom mentioned when we discuss traffic woes. But it’s bad.
I-95 Exit 18 northbound getx jammed at rush hour. Cars creep up the hill; the backlog often spills all the way down the ramp, causing delays on the highway itself.
GS’ idea: Put a stoplight at the top of the exit, at the Sherwood Island Connector.
Exit 18, at the Sherwood Island Connector.
“Keep it green 85% of the time, for drivers coming off the exit,” he says. After all, virtually no one ever waits at what is now a stop sign, heading east to Sherwood Island State Park. (Even in summer, most traffic to the park comes off 95 northbound.)
Making Exit 18 more attractive would cause more drivers to get off there — easing the current congestion at Exit 17, and into Saugatuck, GS says. Waze and other traffic apps would notice, keeping drivers on 95 to Exit 18, instead of telling them to get off at 17 because of I-95 congestion ahead.
“It’s not a lot,” he admits. “But every little bit helps.”
It’s an interesting idea. So here is today’s “06880” challenge:
Come up with your own.
What little tweaks can you suggest, to ease traffic in Westport?
Where would you put a light, a stop sign, a turning lane? Where would you remove something that actually hinders the flow?
Be creative! Think outside the box! The sky’s the limit!
And if you think this is, um, pie in the sky: Think again.
These ideas will go right to our new task force and traffic czar.
In August 2018, Rachel Doran — a rising senior at Cornell University, former National Merit Commended Scholar, talented Staples Players costume designer, and founder of “Rachel’s Rags,” a company that makes intricate cotton and fleece pajama tops and bottoms — died.
She was diagnosed a month earlier with Stevens Johnson Syndrome and Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis, a rare reaction to common medications. She then developed Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome — another rare syndrome.
Rachel was mourned by many. Her presence continues to be felt by those who knew and loved her.
Among them is State Senator Will Haskell — a classmate of Rachel’s at Staples High School. Recently, he petitioned the state to name a road after her.
A sign recently went up on the Sherwood Island Connector. Now her name will be known by many.
The other day, operations director Claire England sent me a copy of a souvenir brochure, produced for that occasion.
I’m amazed I didn’t see it earlier. It’s filled with astonishing stories, intriguing sidelights, and tons of fun facts.
I’m sorry it’s taken me 6 years to get around to reporting on this. But after 3 centuries, that’s not so bad.
Here are a few things I learned:
† In colonial days, communities were led by their churches. The term “1st selectman” — for our town’s leader — dates back to the days when the secular leader of the church was “selected first.” Even after Westport was incorporated in 1835, Green’s Farms Congregational members served as 1st selectmen. In 1997, Diane Goss Farrell — a Green’s Farms congregant — was elected 1st Selectwoman.
†Before services were announced by a drum or bell, early settlers were called to worship by the beating of 2 thin strips of board, from a high hill.
So, the brochure asked, was Clapboard Hill named for the excellent quality of building wood that was harvested there, or for its great location that allowed worshipers to hear the clapping of the boards?
An early map of Green’s Farms. Turkey Hill and Clapboard Hill are in the center. The 1st church site (now marked by Machamux boulder) is just below that. The 2nd site is marked “Colonial Church” (center left). “Third and Fourth” Churches are also noted at the top. Green’s Farms’ founding Bankside Farmers properties can be seen along Long Island Sound. Click on or hover over to enlarge.
† In 1742, Reverend Daniel Chapman — who had served as minister since the church’s founding 31 years earlier — was dismissed. The reason: He “hath led for several years an Eregular [sic] life …in being sundry times overtaken in drinking to excess.”
150 years later, then-Reverend Benjamin Relyea noted: “In those times, when it was an act of discourtesy in making pastoral calls to refuse to partake of something from the array of decanters which always stood upon the sideboard, the only wonder is that any minister ever went home sober.”
†After the British burned the 2nd Green’s Farms Church (located near the current commuter parking lot, at the corner of what’s now the Sherwood Island Connector and Greens Farms Road), services were held in private homes for 10 years.
Meanwhile, the new American government compensated our local church for its losses during the war with land in the Ohio wilderness, known as the “Western Reserve.” The church later sold its Ohio lands, to raise money for the new meeting house (on Hillandale Road, site of the current building).
Lucy Rowe’s headstone.
† The original Bankside Farmers — founders of Green’s Farms parish — owned slaves. A century later, many freed slaves lived in Green’s Farms as respected residents. When slavery was finally abolished in Connecticut in 1848, the “last of the slaves” — Charles Rowe — was church sexton. He lived on Hyde Lane, near where Long Lots School is now. He and his wife Lucy are buried in the Green’s Farms Upper Cemetery (adjacent to the current church.)
The church’s original burial ground still stands, on the corner of Green’s Farms Road and the Sherwood Island Connector. The oldest gravestone belongs to Andros Couch, who died in 1730 at 57. Also buried there are the church’s 1st 3 ministers, who served for a total of 110 years; several sea captains, including Franklin Sherwood, and Dr. Ebenezer Jesup — a surgeon in George Washington’s army — along with his 3 wives.
† In 1911, the church celebrated its 200th anniversary by commissioning a bas-relief plaque honoring past ministers. The artist was Gutzon Borglum — the same man who carved Mt. Rushmore. He seldom did small commissions — but friends in the congregation asked him for this one.
† On November 25, 1950, the 100-year-old steeple crashed down during a hurricane. The weight of the bell carried it through the roof of the meeting house, into the Sunday School.
At the time, declining membership had already created doubts about the church’s future. Services attracted as few as 27 people, with the collection seldom reaching $5.
Insurance covered part of the steeple damage, and a subscription campaign raised the rest. Many non-members — calling the steeple a “landmark” and a “beacon” for sailors — contributed. That drive helped save the church. By 1957, membership had grown so large that 2 Sunday services were needed.
Part of the 1951 fundraising appeal.
There is much more of interest in the Green’s Farms Church’s 300-year historical brochure.
Alert — and only slightly suspicious — JP Vellotti recently noticed an interesting sight at the Sherwood Island Connector’s Post Road traffic light.
His passenger snapped a photo.
The lights are new. It looks like a camera has been added too.
Who sees the feed? The police? Or maybe the state police, because this is a state road? Or News 12 for traffic? Or….
And how do cameras get approved, anyhow?
I’m not adversely against these. I’m just curious, having never seen a public notice about their installation. After all, if you’re recording the public, they should at least have the right to know.
What do you think? All “06880” readers — no matter where you fall on the civil liberties/police state spectrum — are invited to weigh in. Just click “Comments” below (and please use your full, real name!).
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