Tag Archives: Soundview Drive

Photo Challenge #243

Readers often stump me with Photo Challenge submissions. They send images of places I can’t quite recognize, have not noticed before, or never seen.

But I never thought I’d be stumped by a picture of  Compo Beach.

Until I saw Matt Murray’s shot. His Photo Challenge last week showed an old-fashioned bottle opener — with a box underneath, presumably for the tops — mounted on what looked like wood. (Click here for the photo.)

Matt said it was on a utility pole at Compo Beach, on the Soundview exit road at Fairfield Avenue. I took his word for it.

I’m not the only one who noticed it — though not many have. Kathe Damman, Dan Aron (who lives on Soundview, and walks by it every day) and Michele Whybrow quickly checked in with the right answer.

So now, readers — including myself — want to know:

  • Who put this bottle opener at Compo?
  • Why? Was it a joke, a luxury — or a necessity?
  • And when? Glass bottles have long been banned from that part of the beach.

If you can shed any light on this Great Bottle Opener Mystery, click “Comments” below. And do the same if you know where in Westport you’d find this week’s Photo Challenge:

(Photo/Bill Dedman)

Pic Of The Day #680

John Videler’s drone shots have earned raves from “06880” readers. They are breathtakingly beautiful. And they force us to look at very familiar scenes in new, unique ways.

This shot of Compo Beach, Soundview Drive, Schlaet’s Point and environs may be his best yet. If you thought you knew the shore: Think again.

All of John’s drone shots (and more) are available for purchase. Click here for a 21st-century slice of timeless Westport.

(Drone image by John Videler/Videler Photography)

Nor’easter: Part II

Saugatuck Shores was hit hardest by today’s near-nor’easter. Jennifer Seymour reports:

2 hours after high tide, there was still several feet of water. My husband rescued me and my sons by kayak on the island side of the Saugatuck Island bridge. I lived here during Irene and Sandy, and have seen nothing close since then.

With Saugatuck Shores flooded, Jennifer Seymour’s husband and daughter paddle a kayak.

One view of Saugatuck Shores …

… and another. Yes, that’s a road. (Saugatuck Shores photos/Jennifer Seymour)

Longshore’s ER Strait Marina …

… and nearby Evan Harding Point. (Longshore photos/Scott Smith)

The Soundview Drive seawall took a pounding … (Photo/Andrew Colabella)

… but it doesn’t faze Soundview resident Paul Lane. He’s lived there for decades, and weathered many storms. (Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)

An old standby: the Compo cannons. (Photo/Andrew Colabella)

Quentin Road, off Compo Beach Road. (Photo/Bruce Becker)

Grove Point Road was underwater too. (Photo/Andrew Colabella)

Friday Flashback #94

A couple of days ago, I posted a photo of the end of a well-known house.

Toni Cunningham’s Soundview Drive home — familiar to every Compo Beach goer, and the longtime unofficial headquarters of the Compo Beach Improvement Association — fell to the wrecking ball this week.

It was a poignant shot (click here to see).

But there’s much more to the house than my brief summary.

Alert “06880” resident Tom Leyden — a longtime beach neighborhood resident — quickly sent along this photo. It’s from 1920 — and it shows the Cunningham house standing almost alone on the road.

In the distance is the vast pavilion — with a 2nd floor. It was the site of big dances and other gatherings, until a hurricane roared through

But wait! There’s more!

Tom also sent this photo:

He explains:

I have a record of 90% of the beach property owners, going back to the original ownership by the Bradleys in 1909.

They mapped their property into lots, mostly 50 x 100. Sam Roodner (of Roodner Court fame in Norwalk) bought up many of the lots, and sold them off during the early 1920s

The Cunningham property was an exception, as Irving Bradley sold to Lockwood in 1911. I’m guessing the house was built around 1915.

According to property records, the Cunningham family bought the house in 1945.

Tom and his family live on lots 88/90.

Paul Lane — longtime Staples High School football coach, who grew up on Soundview, and lives next door to the now-former Cunningham house — has a framed copy of the plot map above.

It hangs on the wall of his home, just a few feet from what is now — once again — an empty lot.

Soundview Home Goes Down

One of the most recognizable houses on Soundview Drive has met its end.

The longtime home of Toni Cunningham — for decades a moving force behind the Compo Beach Improvement Association — was demolished today.

(Photo/Patricia McMahon)

Its other claim to fame: It was the only house with a driveway actually on Soundview Drive.

Every other home on the beach exit road is accessed by a side street.

Nor’easter!

Heavy rain, high winds, a full moon and high tides made for a messy Westport this morning.

Be prepared for more this afternoon.

Westport schools are closing 2 hours early. Stay safe and dry!

It’s all water underneath the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge downtown. (Photo/Chip Stephens)

Another view of the Saugatuck River. (Photo/Chip Stephens)

A car tries to navigate Parker Harding Plaza. (Photo/Chip Stephens)

Stores on the river side of Main Street. (Photo/Chip Stephens)

Imperial Avenue is flooded. (Photo/Shari Lebowitz)

Long Island Sound laps up against Soundview Drive. (Photo/Chip Stephens)

Another view of Soundview. (Photo/Chip Stephens)

High water on South Compo, near the Minute Man monument. (Photo/Chip Stephens)

Ned Dimes Marina is higher than usual. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

Southbound traffic on I-95 is near a standstill. This shot is from Hillspoint Road. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

Eversource crews stand ready, at the Merritt Parkway exit 41 commuter parking lot. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Remembering Toni Cunningham

The Independence Day fireworks are Westport’s biggest community celebration of the year.

It’s when Soundview Drive — our town’s handsome, quirky beachfront exit road — turns into a party promenade.

This year — as we prepare for another year of cookouts, hanging out, and bombs bursting in air — we should also pause for a moment (on Soundview) to remember Toni Cunningham.

The grande dame of Compo died on Thursday. She was 101.

Toni Cunnnigham, at her 80th birthday celebration.

In that century of life, she saw astonishing changes at the beach just outside her front window. She herself contributed to many of them.

Toni first came to Westport as a teenager. During the 1930s her parents — who lived in Scarsdale – rented #75 (now #17) Soundview Drive. She crewed on Star sailboats, often swimming out to join friends to help in races.

Gail Cunningham Coen — one of Toni’s 3 daughters — says that Toni also swam to Cockenoe Island and back.

When her parents moved here full time, she’d walk to Cockenoe in winter over thick ice.

Toni and Frank Cunningham, in front of 17 Soundview Drive.

Every year in late June, Toni’s father Frank Bosco drove to a special “fireworks contact.” He shot them off from a card table on the beach in front of his house. Neighborhood kids loved it.

Frank was a longtime treasurer of the Compo Beach Improvement Association — which really did spiff up the area.

The group organized field days, and swim races to and from the floats anchored offshore. Toni was an avid participant.

She also loved riding on the seaplanes that landed on shore.

In those days, “air conditioning” meant opening windows. Toni’s daily piano playing was enjoyed by everyone who strolled by. She knew all the popular songs, and was often asked to sing and play for parties.

As she grew older, Toni succeeded her father as treasurer of the CBIA. She also became secretary. Her talent for shorthand guaranteed highly accurate meeting notes.

Compo was a family affair. Toni’s mother, Margaret Bosco, created the first “beach rules.” They ensure safe, responsible behavior — and strong litter prevention practices. (Interestingly, Toni’s daughter Gail later became CEO of Keep America Beautiful.)

In 1938, a strong hurricane hit the area. Toni refused to leave, and rode out the storm.

In fact, during her 85 years on Soundview only one hurricane forced her to leave. That was in the 1950s, when waves chewed up the road and deposited huge chunks of the seawall in front yards.

As she earned fame for riding out storms, reporters regularly called her for blow-by-blow news.

Toni and Frank Cunningham, playing a 4-hand duet.

July 4th was not the only holiday  Toni enjoyed. She also loved New Year’s eve. In the early 1960s she built a party room on the 3rd floor of her house at 27 Soundview, where she and Frank raised their family.

It featured a Steinway baby grand. But the party wasn’t in full swing until Toni sat down to play. Governor John Davis Lodge and his wife Francesca were frequent guests.

Today a small sign on the flower bed at the start of Soundview Drive — near where the boardwalk begins — honors Toni Cunningham for her dedication to the CBIA, and her beautification efforts at Compo.

The sign on Soundview Drive.

It’s a simple gesture, but an important one. In many ways, that stretch of Compo Beach is Toni Cunningham.

Think about that as you enjoy the fireworks — the first 4th of July Toni Cunningham has not been alive for in over a century.

(Contributions in Toni’s memory can be made to the Compo Beach Improvement Association Traffic Calming and Beautification Fund, 40 Compo Beach Road, Westport, CT 06880.)

Friday Flashback #34

A week ago, heavy rains and strong winds pushed Compo Beach sand onto the boardwalk. Some carried beyond, into the parking lot.

A few folks out for a stroll on Sunday were annoyed that “they” — whoever that is — hadn’t yet cleaned the sand from, um, the beach.

Those people would not have fared well a century ago. Here’s how Soundview Drive looked then:

On the other hand, check out those very cool wooden bathhouses in the distance.

Around the corner was another beach scene. I’m guessing from the somewhat garbled description — “The Old Mill Road, Compo” — that these homes were on Sherwood Mill Pond, opposite Old Mill Beach.

If you’ve got another idea — or want to commend our current Parks & Rec and Public Works staffs for their great work on our beaches and roads — click “Comments” below.

(Postcards courtesy of Jack Whittle)

Trick Or Treat!

Two hours ago — when the sun was shining and it was 75, not like now when it’s pouring rain and 10 degrees colder — this was the scene on Soundview Drive:

halloween-soundview-house-2016

Just 24 hours from now the Compo Beach neighborhood will be overrun by ghosts, pirates, princesses, and little boys and girls wearing Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton masks (a truly frightening thought).

The forecast is for clear skies, with temperatures in the 40s. Grab that candy, kids!

Let The Light Shine…

We’ve had a few hours to dig out — and play in — the Blizzard of 2016. Here are a few scenes from a day that looks quite a bit different from the one 24 hours earlier. (Click on or hover over photos to enlarge.)

The Compo Beach neighborhood escaped a flood. Instead -- like this home on the corner of Soundview Drive -- the scene was serene. (Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)

The Compo Beach neighborhood escaped a flood. Instead — like this home on the corner of Soundview Drive — the scene was serene (and very “love”-ly). (Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)

Around the corner, the Compo Beach marina was equally peaceful. (Photo/Steve Axthelm)

Around the corner, the Compo Beach marina was equally peaceful. (Photo/Steve Axthelm)

What dog doesn't love snow? (Photo/Ken Bernhard)

What dog doesn’t love snow? (Photo/Ken Bernhard)

Hayley and Monty. (Photo/Daphne Cook)

Hayley and Monty. (Photo/Daphne Cook)

Sledders were out in force at Kings Highway School. (Photo/Peter Tulupman)

Sledders were out in force at Kings Highway School. (Photo/Peter Tulupman)

Snowy mailboxes at Harvest Commons. (Photo/Jo Ann Davidson)

Snowy mailboxes at Harvest Commons. (Photo/Jo Ann Davidson)