From 3,500 feet, in a 3-seat prop plane, I got a remarkable view of our town.
I marveled at the amount of water. The compactness of downtown and Saugatuck. And the many, many trees that provided a canopy, nearly everywhere.
In 1934, a statewide project photographed every square inch of the state.
The images are housed at the University of Connecticut. They’re fascinating.
Fred Cantor found this shot of Westport:
Click on or hover over to enlarge.
Amonghe surprises, he writes, are “how many houses there were by that point in the Compo Beach neighborhood (bottom center of the photo), and the fairly large number of houses in the Compo Hill/Old Mill Beach neighborhood (just above it).
“I imagine most of these were probably not winterized, but still…”
However, Fred adds, “I expected to see more homes directly on South Compo Road, leading from the train tracks to the beach.”
Also of note: The crooked intersection of South Compo, Bridge Street and Greens Farms Road (just above the railroad tracks). It looked a bit different, before I-95 was built 2 decades later.
What do you notice? Click “Comments” below to share your observations.
(Friday Flashback is a weekly feature on “06880.” Please click here to support it — and this entire hyper-local blog. Thank you!)
Former 1st Selectman Jim Marpe moderated the discussion. Asked about affordable housing, the Democratic incumbent said that local communities need to take the lead.
Traffic is a problem in the state, Lamont said — and entrance/exit ramps on highways are the source of the greatest congestion. He also noted that train bridges were not build for high-speed rail traffic, and cause slowdowns.
With unemployment very low in Connecticut, Lamont said there is a job for everyone who wants one. Though recession headwinds are ahead, he said, the state is in good shape.
The governor also noted that Connecticut has the largest unfunded pension debt in the country. However, he said, his administration has reduced interest debt, saving $400 million in interest payments.
Lamont also recalled that he met his wife Annie in Westport. (Reporting by Dave Matlow)
Governor Ned Lamont and former 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, at yesterday’s Y’s Men event at the Westport Library. (Photo/Dave Matlow)
Dozens of rescue vehicles — helicopters, tanks, ambulances, you name it — converged on Sherwood Island State Park yesterday.
Fortunately, it was just a drill.
Local and regional authorities and incident management teams shared knowledge, and demonstrated technology for Connecticut politicians and other services. The event was organized by the state Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, for the 14-town area.
!st Selectwoman Jen Tooker and Deputy Fire Chief Nick Marsan represented Westport.
Among the activities:
This bomb squad robot has X-ray vision, and can shoot projectiles.
Pumpkin spice lattes and muffins have been here since around Independence Day.
Now it’s time for “Fall Pumpkin Centerpieces.”
That’s the title of a session at Wakeman Town Farm (October 4, 6:30 p.m.). Chryse Terrill will instruct attendees on how to create a fall harvest centerpiece inside a pumpkin. Some materials will be harvested from WTF’s gardens.
Of course, everyone can take home their work of art. Click here to register.
Former Westporter Ellen Wisser died Friday in Norwalk. She was 92.
The Brooklyn native attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts with classmates and friends Grace Kelly and Vince Edwards. At Brooklyn College she met her future husband and lifetime love, Allen Wisser, who had already performed with the Broadway show “Showboat”‘s national tour.
After they married Ellen taught at James Madison High School in Brooklyn.
Ellen and Allen moved their young family to Westport in 1960. Ellen continued commuting to Brooklyn, then began teaching English, speech and drama at Harding High School in Bridgeport. She also produced and directed the annual school play, influencing the lives of many teachers and students, who continued to stay in touch for decades.
Ellen was active in the Bridgeport, Connecticut and National Educational Associations. She ran for the NEA presidency in 1976. She was an advocate of the women’s liberation movement at the local and national levels.
Ellen changed careers in her 50’s, attending Bridgeport Law (now the Quinnipiac School of Law). She then practiced family and worker’s compensation law until age 88. Ellen recently survived 3 different types of cancer, forcing her retirement, and defeated unbeatable odds.
She was predeceased by her husband, grandson Tyler Wisser and brother Marvin Borenstein. She is survived by her children, Dr. Jamie R. Wisser (Natalie), Kerry M. Wisser (Debbie), R. Ilise Gold (Fritz Heilbron); grandchildren Davin Gold, Alanna Dayton, Evan Wisser, Caitlyn Wisser, Ryan Wisser; great grandchildren Jack, Sam and Beck Dayton, Claire and Penelope Wisser; sister-in-law Gladys Floch, many nieces, nephews and cousins.
Funeral services will be held today (Tuesday, September 20, 1 p.m., Abraham L. Green & Son Funeral Home, Fairfield), with interment following at Temple Israel Cemetery in Norwalk.
Roger Ratchford died earlier this month, at 88. He was a teacher, golf coach, and advocate for people with disabilities.
The Norwalk native was raised mostly by his mother, with the help of the large Hungarian side of his family. Though she died when he was 13, Roger went on to become valedictorian of his class at Fairfield Prep. To supplement a tuition scholarship to the College of the Holy Cross, he worked afternoon shifts at Worcester Quilting Company.
After graduating he returned to Prep to teach Latin, classical Greek, French and English, and coach the golf team for 40 years. He was inducted into the Prep Athletic Hall of Fame, was named National High School Golf Coach of the Year, and held a national record for wins.
Roger was also one of the first to bring American high school students to the French Alps for homestays with French families. He strongly felt that immersion was the best way to master a language.
Until the end of his life, heh could recite by memory passages from Homer’s “Odyssey” — in the original Greek. He was proud of his work helping the nuns at the Convent of St. Birgitta in the proper pronunciation of Latin chants.
But Roger felt his greatest legacy was improving opportunities for people with disabilities. Inspired by his son Mike, he and his wife Gail became actively involved in the growth of STAR, Inc.
He lobbied for the closure of Mansfield Training Center in 1993, and advocated for a shift to group homes and the full integration of people with disabilities into the community. Two-time president of STAR, he was named Volunteer of the Year by the ARC of CT in 1988.
He was a walking encyclopedia of Norwalk history, and was proud of the Ratchfords’ long legacy in this town, from the Ratchford Hotel & Saloon in the first part of the 20th century, to his Aunt Helen’s tenure as a teacher at Norwalk High.
Roger was predeceased by his wife. He is survived by 3 children and 1 grandchild. His family is indebted to Dorrean, Sharon Mack, and her staff for their loving care during hospice.
A funeral mass will be held on Thursday (September 22, 2 pm, St. Mary’s Church, Norwalk. A Celebration of Life will be held at Fairfield Prep some time in October. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to STAR Lighting the Way.
During COVID, Westport’s eerily empty streets were a joy to drive.
A sad joy, to be sure. The other side of our unimpeded ride was knowing that so many friends and neighbors were stuck home, inside, with nowhere at all to go.
Now — thanks to vaccinations, warm weather and pandemic fatigue — traffic is back.
And it’s worse than ever.
For hours a day, backups stretch everywhere: from Route 1 and 33 almost to Fresh Market. Canal and Main Streets. All of Saugatuck.
No one can say for sure why it’s this bad. But driving in Westport really, really sucks.
Waiting in line at the Imperial Avenue light. (Photo/Dick Lowenstein)
With time on my hands the other day — I wasn’t going anywhere — I tried to think of solutions.
I wouldn’t wish another townwide quarantine on anyone. Banning Waze is not an option. (I’m as hypocritical as the rest of Westport: I happily use the app to avoid highway traffic by driving through other towns.)
So I did the next best thing. I came up with a few ideas.
Alternate red and green lights at both Wilton Road and Riverside Avenue. The awkward dance between cars heading northbound and southbound doesn’t work. One car trying to turn left from Wilton Road onto the Post Road — or left from Riverside onto Post Road West — can hold up a dozen cars behind it. So why not have green for only northbound traffic; then only green for southbound traffic; followed by what we’ve got now (first a “left turn only” for eastbound and westbound drivers, then a full green for both).
What’s the holdup? Some dude at the front of this line, trying to turn left onto the Post Road. (Photo/David Waldman)
Add a “left turn only” for drivers on South Compo, going westbound on Bridge Street. Traffic now routinely backs up under the railroad bridge.
At the same time, change the timing of the light. It’s too long for Greens Farms Road and Bridge Street drivers, not long enough for those on Compo South. (I know; a long light helps ease traffic on Greens Farms and Bridge Street when it’s backed up with I-95 overflow. Maybe shorter lights would effect Waze’s algorithm of suggesting that as an alternate route.)
A “left-turn only” arrow from South Compo to Bridge Street will make traffic flow as easily as it appears in this image from Google Maps.
Reconfigure the turning lane from Kings Highway North (where the Willows/ “Fort Apache” medical complex is on the right), onto Wilton Road. Right now the right lane is for right turns and cars going straight on Kings Highway. When one car in that lane heads straight, no one behind can turn right on red. Make the left lane for left turns and straight ahead; the right lane should be “right on red” only.
Another reason Kings Highway North should be “right turn on red” only: The left lane lines up more directly with its continuation past Wilton Road.
All of these ideas are beyond the scope of Westport officials. They’re state roads. So yeah, I know, I have a better chance of walking to the planet Zork than I do of seeing meaningful traffic light changes.
But a boy can dream.
(Do you have an idea for easing Westport’s traffic woes? Click “Comments” below. It won’t do any good — but at least “06880” readers can appreciate your brilliance.)
Betsy Kravitz celebrates Memorial Day, on South Compo Road…
… and with hands over hearts, a socially distanced crowd heart Gettysburg College junior Sophia Bookas play “Taps” this afternoon, at Saugatuck Sweets…
… while not far away, Lt. Ryan B. Weddle of the US Naval Reserves and his sons John and Ben — Cub Scouts, and Greens Farms Elementary School students — decorated veterans’ graves at Christ & Holy Trinity Cemetery.
They honored Joseph J. Clinton, who died in France during World War I, and for whom the local VFW Post 399 is named for, as well as John H. Darrow, 28th Connecticut Volunteers, who was killed in Baton Rouge during the Civil War.
Lt. Weddle and his sons also placed US and Navy flags at Westport’s World War I and World War II memorials, at Veterans Green.
The new Compo Road South house — finished this spring — sits just east of the Minute Man monument. It’s right next to Minute Man Hill.
But joggers, bikers and anyone driving by can’t really see it. It’s hidden by a high stone wall, topped by an equally high fence.
Thanks to a drone and the Higgins Group website though, we get a peek at the 6-bedroom, 9-bath, 8,950-square foot home, 1-acre property. FYI, it’s “New England rustic traditional (that) interweaves with West Coast modern sensational.”
The view looking west, toward Gray’s Creek, Owenoke and Long Island Sound. The Minute Man is barely visible, near the center of the photo.
It’s quite a place. And — in an intriguing twist — the swimming pool is in front of, rather than behind, the house.
(Drone and house photos courtesy of The Higgins Group)
At first glance, it looks like just another nice New England scene: a tree, next to a decorative metal fence.
Then you look closely and go, Whoa!
The tree has actually grown around the fence, and the concrete steps nearby. It’s pretty cool, actually — proof that we really can’t control Mother Nature.
That image was last week’s Photo Challenge (click here to see).
But although it’s in a well-trafficked spot — South Compo Road, near the side entrance to Compo Acres Shopping Center, diagonally opposite the “Raid on Danbury” historical sign — not many readers knew where it was.
Phil Bancroft was first, followed by Michael Calise, Jo Shields and Morley Boyd.
Next time you’re stuck at that light — coming from the beach or the train station — put down your phone and take a look. You’ll have plenty of time, that’s for sure.
You can also spend time figuring out this week’s Photo Challenge. If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.
Click here to help support “06880” via credit card or PayPal. Any amount is welcome, appreciated — and tax-deductible! Reader contributions keep this blog going. (Alternate methods: Please send a check to “06880”: PO Box 744, Westport, CT 06881. Or use Venmo: @blog06880. Or Zelle: email@example.com. Thanks!)
GET THE “06880” APP
The “06880” app (search for it on the Apple or Android store) is the easiest way to get “06880.” Choose notifications: whenever a new post is published, or once or twice a day. Click here for details.