Last week, town officials reassigned the Inn at Longshore lease.
Rory Tagert — who operated the facility in the heart of the park for 35 years — is retiring. Longshore Hospitality LLC — which operates boutique hotels in many states, including Delamars in Southport, Greenwich and West Hartford — is the new operator.
Since the town bought the property and took over in 1960, it’s been the scene of countless banquets and other celebrations. Here it was during the ’60s:
Besides the ballroom and several hotel rooms, the Inn’s expansive lawn — sloping down toward Long Island Sound — is one of Fairfield County’s favorite wedding sites.
The front of the building has not changed much over the years. But here’s a view of the rear, from 1949:
First came “Groundhog Day.” Then “Independence Day.”
A new film takes place on April 1. It’s not called “April Fools Day” — the title is “Batsh*t Bride” — but the premise is clear.
Just before her wedding that day, a bride pranks her fiance by saying they should break up. Unfortunately, he feels the same way. Everything spirals out of control from there.
Jonathan Smith’s indie feature — starring Meghan Falcone as Heather — debuts August 26 at Stamford’s Avon Theatre. The venue is signifcant: “Batsh*t Bride” was filmed throughout Fairfield County.
Many scenes took place right here, including Christ & Holy Trinity Church and Longshore and Pearl restaurant. A number of Westporters had roles as extras.
The first scene the filmmakers shot was Heather’s failed wedding. Cinematographer Jason Merrin worked on it while in town for his own wedding.
A local blog posted the call for extras. Expecting only a handful of people, Smith planned his camera angles creatively. However, the Christ & Holy Trinity pews were packed.
Lights! Camera and action came later. (Photo/Ellen Bowen)
Many extras were then recruited for other background shots. One was even given a line.
The ballroom and hotel scenes were all shot at The Inn at Longshore. But the production was allowed in only on Monday through Wednesday, for 2 consecutive weeks.
Smith liked Longshore so much, he rewrote several sections to fit the grounds. He added in golf and kayak scenes.
Tickets to the premiere are $10. Chez Vous Bistro offers a $25 prix fixe 2-course dinner prior to the screening, while Flinders Lane Kitchen & Bar has happy hour drink prices and complimentary appetizers after the screening (with ticket stubs).
Email email@example.com for tickets and dinner reservations.
On October 24 that building will host a “Westport Wedding Tour” — Westporter Andrea Rourke’s exhibition for brides-to-be (and any grooms who do not claim shotgun on football games). She has organized many such events in the past — but this is the 1st in her hometown.
Over the years, Longshore has been the site of a bajillion weddings. Was yours one of them? (Photo courtesy of The Inn at Longshore)
As part of the decor — along with flowers and wedding cakes — Andrea hopes to show photos of couples who were married at the Inn.
A gallery of photos — many, presumably, taken on the broad lawn between the Inn and the Sound — will show how much Longshore has changed over 50 years.
And how timeless it is.
(Interested in contributing your Longshore wedding photo? Want more information on the “Westport Wedding Tour”? Call 800-272-3976, or click on www.weddingdayonline.com)
The Inn at Longshore back in the day. Much has changed since this undated photo was taken -- and much has not.
Few Westporters realize that our town jewel camethisclose to being something else entirely. In early 1960, the 169-acre property — the privately owned Longshore Beach and Country Club, with a golf course, tennis courts, pools, marina, inn/restaurant and play areas — came up for sale.
The typical Westport response — build houses! — was strongly considered. But First Selectman Herb Baldwin and his kitchen cabinet decided to make a bid, on behalf of the town.
They had to act quickly. In just 18 days they put together a $1.9 million package — then earned approval from the Board of Finance and RTM. The latter vote was 38-0. (The RTM doesn’t even name bridges or approve jUNe Day unanimously.)
A month and a half later — on May 28, 1960 — Longshore Club Park opened to the public. It’s gone through plenty of changes — it took several owners to get the Inn right; the golf course and tennis courts have been revamped; a much-loved but rickety apartment building was torn down; a sailing school and rental shop now flourishes; some trees have been cut down, others planted; the swimming pool was renovated; a handsome entryway was built; an ice skating rink was added, and the way-cool (but decorative only) lighthouse is long gone — but everyone and everything else has changed in 50 years too. (Except the Quonset hut behind the Boat Locker on the Post Road.)
Longshore is a photographer's delight, at all hours of the day and in every season of the year.
To mark the occasion, First Selectman Gordon Joseloff has appointed a 50th anniversary committee. We (full disclosure: I’m on it) will celebrate the milestone appropriately — through public ceremonies, exhibits, a website and publications. We have started collecting materials, and despite the early stage we can tell it’s going to be a very cool project. At the 1st meeting, we saw memorabilia ranging from towels from the old private country club, to 1920s aerial photos showing just a rough 3-hole golf course near the Inn.
Westporters will learn much about Longshore over the coming year. It looks like the celebration will culminate with a grand event on May 28, 2011, honoring the end of the public park’s golden anniversary.
Hall & Oates will not appear. (If you don’t understand that reference, read the history of Longshore — whenever it comes out.)
“06880” will report back, from time to time, on Longshore’s 50th. Meanwhile, the next time you drive past the park — or into it — look around. Enjoy the spectacular view.
And think what this town would be like if — 50 years ago this winter — our civic leaders had decided that $1.9 million was just too much to pay for 169 acres of land.
In the mid-1960s, the Westport Recreation Commission's youth soccer program played games at Longshore. The field -- now the site of the Inn parking lot, and several tennis courts -- sloped appreciably upward. This shot looks toward the golf course; the Inn would be on the left.
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