Tag Archives: Toquet Hall

Cabry Lueker Takes Reins As Youth Commission Chair

The first requirement to serve on any Westport board or commission is clear: You must be a registered voter.

There is one exception: The Westport Youth Commission.

That makes sense: Half of the 30 members can’t vote. They’re still high school students.

The Youth Commission has a low-key presence. That’s surprising. It’s been around since the 1970s; it was the impetus for creations like Toquet Hall and the Compo Beach Skate Park, and it organizes popular events like Dodge-a-Cop, bringing teens and police officers together.

(Full disclosure: Way back in my Staples High School days I served on what was then called the Youth-Adult Council; later, as an adult, I spent a decade on the Youth Commission.)

As the Commission gears up for a new school year, incoming chair Cabry Lueker hopes to raise its presence in town.

Cabry Lueker

His path to leadership was swift. His extracurricular activities are diverse — he started Staples’ Finance Club, is a member of the Up Next service organization, and is very involved in WWPT-FM and the television program. Last year he heard about the Youth Commission last year from a friend.

Cabry attended the first meeting of the year, at Toquet Hall. He was impressed to see all the members facing each other — not sitting in a row, as at many town commission sessions.

Alex Laskin and Carolyn Caggiano ran the meeting, as the teen leaders always do. Everyone offered opinions. Cabry was encouraged to speak too.

He learned about Youth Commission initiatives like iMentor, a 6th grade internet safety program.

He became a regular member. A year later, he’s president.

Cabry has several goals. Having enjoyed being an iMentor. He’d like to expand it to 8th graders, with an emphasis on teaching about “digital footprints” (including implications for college admissions).

He’d like to resurrect a long-discussed project — mini-golf — through discussions with the Parks & Recreation Department. He hopes the Youth Commission can work with Parks & Rec and Staples’ Skate Club too to renovate the Skate Park.

The Compo Beach Skate Park began as a Youth Commission initiative. (Photo/Larry Silver) 

Cabry wants to raise the Youth Commission’s visibility too. He encourages all students to attend meetings, citing his own path beginning as a non-voting member.

There are a couple of vacant seats for adults, he notes. Meetings are held once a month, evenings at Toquet Hall.

There are 2 sub-committees: Peer Advisory (dealing with iMentor, mental health, police-youth relations and more) and Town Improvements (Skate Park, mini-golf, etc,).

Working closely with adults has been beneficial, Cabry says. He has learned about marketing and finance — their day jobs — from fellow members. People like Lee Shufro and Adam Chusid have gone “above and beyond” to help.

Youth Commission group photo, from several years ago.

“People think government is inefficient,” Cabry says. “But if you get involved actively, you can get things done.” He and vice chair Lola Lamensdorf are open to all suggestions.

“The whole premise of the Youth Commission is to bring youth and adults together, with youth representing their peers.

“It’s a privilege to live here. Other towns have Youth Commissions too. But I don’t think the others have the advantages we do, or work as thoroughly.”

He cites Dodge-a-Cop and Corn-a-Cop — 2 youth/police initiatives (dodgeball and cornhole, respectively) — as examples of close relationships forged through the Youth Commission.

A Dodge-a-Cop team, with actual police officers on the far left and right.

Now as chair, Cabry says, “I want to make sure everyone in Westport knows what we do, and knows they can help.”

(The first Youth Commission meeting of the 2023-24 school year is August 31, 7:15 p.m. at Toquet Hall. It is open to the public. Click here for the Youth Commission website.)

(“06880” highlights Westport activities of and for all ages. Please click here to support our work. Thank you!)

Friday Flashback #355

Westport’s manufacturing days are long gone.

Factories no longer churn out ping pong balls. The Embalmers Supply Company has gone to that great business graveyard in the sky.*

And it’s been more than a century since the Toquet Launch Company developed mechanical equipment for automobiles and boats, including carburetors for Fords.

(Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

The Riverside Avenue business was owned by Benjamin Louis Toquet.

If the name is familiar: He also built an opera house on the Post Road. It doubled as the site of town meetings and “assemblies.” After being used in the 1960s and ’70s as storage for Schaefer’s Sporting Goods, it’s served for 2 decades as Westport’s teen center.

The Toquets had long roots in Westport. Benjamin Louis’ father, Benjamin H., was born in Paris in 1834, but settled here in the 1840s. He served in the Civil War, then returned to Westport.

Benjamin Louis Toquet died in 1913. He could never have imagined what would become of the automotive industry.

Or the traffic crawling past his former factory on Riverside Avenue.

*Yep. Both are true.

(Every Friday, “06880” offers a flashback. If you enjoy this — or any other feature — please support our work. Just click here. Thank you!)

Roundup: Ukrainian Stoves, Chinese New Year …

Westport’s $250,000+ fundraising for our new sister city of Lyman, Ukraine continues to make a real difference, in that war-ravaged town.

Yesterday, 50 stoves were delivered. They fill a crucial need. Many residents lack both heat and electricity, in the aftermath of 5 months of Russian occupation.

The stoves — sourced in Europe by Brian Mayer, the Westporter/founder of Ukraine Aid International, and delivered with the help of Liz Olegov from the Alex21 group — bear the names of those groups, and our 2 towns.

Brian and Liz continue to address the immediate needs of Lyman residents.

To see Katya Wauchope’s video of the stove deliveries, click below.



The new Chinese Year of the Rabbit begins today.

In Chinese culture, the rabbit is a symbol of longevity, peace and prosperity. It can’t come a moment too soon.

And Jolantha — Weston’s favorite pig — is ready to celebrate, with her fellow animal.

(Photo/Hans Wilhelm)


Toquet Hall is providing a “lighthouse” for LGBTQ+ youth.

Lighthouse is a confidential drop-in space for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning young people to seek support. It runs every Monday, from 5 to 6:30 p.m.. at the downtown teen center.

A special “Night of Queer History” will introduce the program, with a special Jeopardy game, and a free dinner (January 30, 6 p.m., Toquet Hall). Longtime LGBTQ advocate Dan Woog — hey, that’s me! — will speak briefly on where the gay community has been, and where it’s going.

LGBTQ+ people of all ages — and allies — are welcome.

Questions? Call 203-661-1911, or email Phoebe Oler: poler@kidsincrisis.org.


Chabad of Westport celebrated its annual gala last night.

Honorees included Marissa and Hy Saporta (Community Builder Award), Elke and Lyle Katz (Jewish Heritage Award), and Sarah Hanna and Noah Wollowick (Camp Gan Israel Award).

Enjoying last night’s Chabad gala (from left): 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker, Liz and Avi Kaner, Rabbi Yehuda Kantor.


The CAMP Gallery’s new show opened Friday. It runs through February 28, with a special wine-and-cheese, meet the artist event set for this Friday (January 27, 5 to 8 p.m.).

Lydia Viscardi is a mixed media artist who creates paintings through collage and sculpture, with found objects. 

Rita Valley works in large-scale, hand-sewn fabric banners. Her political and confrontational imagery tackles social trends, morality and political behaviors. 

CAMP Gallery (190 Main Street) is open Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

CAMP Gallery’s current exhibit.


Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo is a bit more grisly than usual.

Saugatuck resident Rick Jaffe sent this shot, of what he believes is a deer leg in his back yard.

Rick asks: “What animal takes down a deer, tears it apart, eats it, and lives in my neighborhood?”

(Photo/Rick Jaffe)


And finally … English poet John Donne was born today, in 1573.

Contrary to what he wrote …

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Westport Welcomes AAPI Heritage Month

Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month begins Sunday — and AAPI Westport is ready.

With a full slate of activities, the group invites all residents to learn, connect and celebrate together.

  • Kickoff AAPI Heritage Month at Saugatuck Sweets on Monday, May 2 (4:30-6pm). Get an ice cream cone discount, and hear First Selectwoman Jen Tooker’s official proclamation.
  • Join the discussion: #StopAsianHate: One Year Later (Wednesday, May 4, 6 p.m., Westport Library). The film We Need to Talk About Anti-Asian Hate will be shown. NBC News correspondent Vicky Nguyen will moderate a discussion with Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, Organization of Chinese Americans of Fairfield County president Miriam Yeung, #IAmNotAVirus founder Mike Keo, and AAPI Westport co-founder Patra Kanchanagom.  Click here to register.

Vicky Nguyen

  • Enjoy performances and food at the AAPI Festival (Westport Weston Family Y, Saturday, May 7, 2 to 4 p.m).  Mecha-Uma will sell Japanese food. Admission is free; register click here to register.
  • Cocktails, conversation and fellowship are on tap at the AAPI & Allies Happy Hour (MoCA Westport, May 10, 5 to 7 p.m.).
  • Middle and high school students are invited to an interactive workshop about AAPI History: Fighting Anti-Asian Hate with Immigrant History Initiative (May 14, Toquet Hall, 4 to 6 p.m.). Admission is free; pizza provided. Click here to register.
  • To experience the multiverse and see Michelle Yeo, watch  Everything Everywhere All at Once (May 19, Remarkable Theater, 8 p.m.). A short film about AAPI Westport will be shown too. Click here for tickets.

Fore more information click here. Sign up on Instagram (@aapiwestport) for updates.

Roundup: Ukraine Rally, Lynsey In London, Jersey Mike’s …


A rally in support of the Ukrainian people, and against Russian aggression, is set for tomorrow (Saturday, March 26, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.) on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge downtown.

A rally earlier this month drew hundreds of attendees. This will be smaller, but no doubt just as heartfelt.

Georgians have suffered under Russian rule. Earlier this month, these natives of that nation showed solidarity with Ukrainians on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge. (Photo/Susan Woog Wagner)


Speaking of Ukraine: The world owes Lynsey Addario a huge debt of thanks.

The Pulitzer Prize and MacArthur Fellow-winning New York Times photojournalist — and, not for nothing, a 1991 Staples High School graduate — has taken some of the most riveting photos in the month since Russia invaded Ukraine. Her images have opened billions of eyes to the horrors of this war.

Yesterday, Lynsey returned home — to her home in London, anyway. Her family there — and her parents, Westporters Phillip and Camille, and her 3 sisters spread across the US — are grateful for her safe return.

Lauren, Lynsey, Lisa and Lesley Addario — the 4 sisters.


So far, we’ve heard — from various Jersey Mike’s communications — that they are “closed permanently” (front door) and “temporarily closed for renovation” (social media).

“06880” reader Jason Stiber used the company’s “Support” function to ask if they were closing the Westport location.

The response, from “Kristin” of the Customer Relations Team at Jersey Mike’s Franchise Systems, Inc. in Manasquan (New Jersey, of course) was: “The store is relocating. That is all the information we have at this time. Please feel free to check back for updated information.”

So that’s a third option. Almost as difficult as deciding what to order there …


“06880” reader James Grogan asks: “What are the best places — coffee shops, areas of the Library, etc. — in Westport (and surrounding areas) with Wi-Fi to get work done? I have a fully remote job, and want to change my routine.”

I’m sure he’s not the only one. If you’ve got a favorite spot — and don’t mind sharing it — click “Comments” below.

When the power went out during Tropical Storm Isais in 2020, Westporters took advantage of the library’s WiFi al fresco — masked and socially distanced, of course. (Photo/Miggs Burroughs)


The other day, Wendy Crowther spotted the first osprey of the season. He returned  — right on time — to the Fresh Market perch.

Now Peter J. Swift sends along the first photo.  He appears to be settling in well. After all these years, his family are now natives.

(Photo/Peter J. Swift)


Speaking of nature: Aspetuck Land Trust is all about preserving the land.

Except for invasive plants.

The non-profit’s next “Lunch & Learn” is Thursday (March 31, noon to 1:30 p.m. Zoom).

Discover what to remove — and how — with an expert panel. Click here to register. Click here for some great invasive plant resources, to get started.

Invasive vines (Photo/Darcy Sledge)


There’s a new Lighthouse in Westport.

That’s the name of the peer-to-peer social support group for LGBTQ youth (and their allies), ages 12 to 19. It’s part of Kids in Crisis, the Greenwich-based social service organization.

Meetings take place every Monday from 5 to 7 p.m., at Toquet Hall. Two adults are always present, And there is food!

Questions? Email program coordinator Joe Belisle: lighthouse@kidsincrisis.org.


The Westport Police Department earned national recognition for its work in helping donate more than 200 previously used ballistic vests and helmets to Ukrainian fighters.

They — along with departments in Brookfield, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Monroe, Norwalk, Stratford, Trumbull and Wilton, plus Western  Connecticut State University — joined the effort.

Police1 — a national website — highlighted the donations as its Photo of the Week:

Donated vests and helmets: Police1’s Photo of the Week.


Yesterday’s Roundup carried news of a Ukrainian relief effort spearheaded by 1972 Staples High School graduates Tom and Mary-Jo Birtwell McCann.

They’ve added a GoFundMe page. Click here to help. Click here for a story on the effort from the Nantucket Current.


Author Marlene Hauser is a former Westport resident, from the 1990s. She lives in England– but her new book “Geraniums” mentions her former town.

Westport is mentioned toward the end. After a long search, the main character is finally reunited with her mother — right here in town.

As for the title: When Marlene was here, she was a regular visitor to a Westport greenhouse. (Hat tip: Barbara Katz)


Connectalent — the Westport-based recruiting company that places female talent and increases diversity within companies, –has just received B-Corp certification from B Lab.

Connectalent qualifies as a full-service recruiting agency that aims to solve a social issue through its work serving an underserved population of candidates — a group that faces chronic discrimination in a particular market, which includes job discrimination based on gender.



Today’s “Westport … Naturally” feature shows off Lauri Weiser’s photography — and her creativity. This is her work:

(Photo/Lauri Weiser)


And finally … in honor of Lynsey Addario’s safe return from Ukraine:

Roundup: Senior Center, Toquet Hall, Twilight Zone …


The latest casualties of COVID: the Senior Center and Toquet Hall.

Both places — gathering spots for older Westporters and teenagers, respectively — have suspended all indoor and in-person programming.

The town Department of Human Services says that some Senior Center classes and programs will be offered on Zoom.

The Senior Center lunch program will operate as a drive-thru at noon, Monays through Fridays. To participate, call 203-341-5099 at least 24 hours in advance.

Back in action soon — hopefully.


Rod Serling moved from Westport to California in the late 1950s. He died — at just 50 years old — in 1975.

But the screenwriter extraordinaire still lives. Continuing a long tradition, the SyFy network airs a “Twilight Zone” New Year’s marathon. It starts at 2 a.m. tomorrow (Friday, December 31) and runs through 5 a.m. Sunday, January 2.

There’s a new episode every half hour or so. Click here for the schedule.

Looking for “A Stop at Willoughby” — the famous show in which the conductor of a train calls out “Next stop: Westport Saugatuck!” (and which Serling called his favorite of the entire first year)?

It’s 8:20 p.m. on Saturday — New Year’s Day.


Local to Market — Main Street’s great new spot for food, crafts and much more — is hiring.

If you’re fond of fine local stuff, have a passion for small business, and are interested in joining a fun team for 10-20 hours a week, email jon@localtomarket.com.

Local to Market is hiring.


Our “Westport … Naturally” feature focuses on natural features (naturally).

Sometimes though, the natural world needs a slight man-made touch. David Lowrie created this scene, using (naturally) all natural tree stumps, at his property off North Bulkley.

(Photo/Tom Lowrie)


And finally … today is the birthday of a ton of important musicians: Bo Diddley, Skeeter Davis, Del Shannon, John Hartford, Paul Stookey, Felix Pappalardi, two Monkees (Michael Nesmith and Davy Jones), Patti Smith and Jeff Lynne.

It’s hard to pick just one to showcase. But in the spirit of optimism — at the end of a tough year, and the dawn of a new one — I’ll go with this:

Friday Flashback #137

I’m not sure what year this was.

I don’t know what “Projectoscope” means.

But — even if it didn’t live up to its promise as “the best program ever given here” — it must have been pretty cool.

(Courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

I do know one thing: the Opera House where D.W. Robertson presented his famous, marvelous Projectoscope is still around.

Today though, we call it Toquet Hall.

Friday Flashback #56

Some Friday Flashback photos are unrecognizable today. Others are long gone.

More than 100 years after this image was taken, it’s still around.

And it looks almost unchanged.

The photo — provided by Seth Schachter — shows what is now Toquet Hall, on the Post Road across from Bedford Square.

Around 1900 — when this photo was taken — it housed the offices of the Westporter-Herald newspaper, and the Westport Drug Company. You could buy newspapers, postcards, magazines and cigars there. The store next door on the left sold cigars too.

There’s the still-familiar alley leading to Toquet Hall — today, a teen center — on the right.

So who was Toquet?

Benjamin H. Toquet was born in Paris in 1834, and came to America in 1845. He served in the Civil War, then returned to Westport.

His son Benjamin Louis was born in 1864.

Toward the end of the century the younger Toquet — now a respected businessman — built an opera house on Post Road property inherited by his wife, Nellie Bradley. The first town meeting was held there on April 2, 1892.

For the next 17 years, all town meetings and assemblies were held there.

The older Toquet died in 1913, a successful entrepreneur. He headed up the Toquet Motor Company, which developed carburetors for Fords.

B. Louis Toquet had a daughter, Vivienne. His family — and his father — lived at 10 Avery Place. As of 1946, he still lived there.

More than 70 years later, their name — and building — live on.

The Toquet building last year.

Thank You, Barbara Butler!

A star-studded cast filled the Senior Center this afternoon, to honor Barbara Butler. Town and state officials, longtime volunteers, and the heads of the library and Y — among many others — paid tribute to the head of Westport’s Human Services Department.

But calling Butler — who retires tomorrow, after 27 years of service to the town — a department leader is like calling the Beatles “a band.”

Barbara Butler (right) shares memories with RTM moderator Eileen Flug.

Barbara Butler (right) shares memories with RTM moderator Eileen Flug.

In nearly 30 3 decades here, Butler has overseen every age group from teenagers (Youth Commission, Toquet Hall, Staples High School outreach) to seniors (Senior Center, Baron’s South elderly housing task force).

She’s been involved with tax relief, casework, career coaching and emergency preparedness. She’s helped homeowners pay for oil, and provided suits and dresses for needy Staples grads.

Butler helped found Project Return and the A Better Chance of Westport program.

She’s been a member of the TEAM Westport diversity group, and served with Positive Youth Development and the United Way. She’s a past president of the League of Women Voters.

Next month, the RTM votes on the formation of a new Commission on People with Disabilities. Butler spent her final weeks on the job helping launch that project.

In her spare time, she runs. And rows.

Guests at today's party signed a card for Barbara Butler. That's her in the center, rowing.

Guests at today’s party signed a card for Barbara Butler. That’s her in the center, rowing.

The Senior Center was packed today with her bosses (past and present), colleagues, friends, family and fans.

But if organizers invited everyone Barbara Butler helped over the past 27 years, they would have needed Yankee Stadium.

And still turned folks away.

Fresh Toquet

Toquet Hall is one of Westport’s most intriguing spaces.

Located in an alley between the Post Road and Jesup Green — on the 2nd floor of what was once Westport’s opera house — the teen coffeehouse provides a big, open spot for middle and high school students to hear bands, watch shows, play pool and hang out after school and on weekends. All in the heart of downtown.

It’s also one of Westport’s most underutilized spaces.

The games area at Toquet Hall.

The games area at Toquet Hall.

Since it opened in 1998, a core group of kids has always enjoyed Toquet Hall. The vast majority, however, seldom set foot inside. Many have no idea it even exists.

A small crew of teenagers and adults have set out to change that.

The Toquet Hall enhancement group — part of the Westport Downtown Plan Implementation Committee — and Toquet teen governing board have worked on a few upgrades.

They include:

  • Fix the stage and flooring, helping reduce noise impact on the retail space downstairs — while allowing more usage and expanded hours
  • Renovate the snack bar, adding more items like french fries and smoothies
  • Build a storage closet above the stairs, to maximize space on stage for more musical performances, movies and plays
  • Improve signage, for better visibility and access (it’s pretty hard to find).

Work begins this summer.

A GoFundMe site is helping raise the $35,000 needed.

Meanwhile, all Westporters — whether they’ve ever been to Toquet Hall or not — are invited to an open house this Saturday (June 18, 2 to 6 p.m.).

Don’t know where it is? Follow the handy directions below!

Toquet Hall directions

Greens Farms Academy's Harbor Blues singing group performs ...

Greens Farms Academy’s Harbor Blues singing group performs …

... and middle schoolers enjoy an afternoon workshop.

… and middle schoolers enjoy an afternoon workshop. A group of teenagers and adults hope to renovate the space, attracting many more kids.