Tag Archives: Vani Court

Street Spotlight: Vani Court

This is the 5th story in “06880”‘s series highlighting Westport’s roads.

In 1948 a small road was built as temporary veterans housing. Named Vani Court in honor of Michael Vani — killed in the line of duty during World War II — it was expected that when Westport’s housing supply caught up with postwar demand, the small homes would be torn down.

Though basically just shells — 2 bedrooms, kitchen, living room, with kerosene space heaters, supported by 6 concrete piers, and with topsoil provided in piles for anyone desiring a lawn — they proved popular.

An early renter, in front of a Vani Court home.

A couple of years later, Westport’s Housing Authority reversed course. They offered to sell the homes to tenants.

The 20 homes were quickly snapped up. Three more were soon built.

Vani Court, from 1,000 feet. The Compo Road South entrance is not shown; it would be on the left side. (Aerial photo/Carl Hamann)

The original owners’ names include a who’s who of Westport: Romano, Van Zandt, Benos, Feeney, Bowes, Dorta, Baker, Verina, Giunta.

Nine of the original World War II veterans who lived on Vani Court.

Seven decades later, Vani Court — nestled next to the railroad tracks off South Compo Road, on the right just past the bridge as you head to the beach — remains.

Nearly every home is an original. Only a couple have been torn down. (Longtime residents were nervous when that happened. But, one says, “the newcomers roll with Vani Court.”)

The road is one of Westport’s last old-fashioned true neighborhoods. It’s not just a place where kids ride bikes and play games up and down the cul-de-sac, and wander freely in and out of friends’ homes.

It’s a place where families stay, and put down roots. Children move into parents’ homes, and raise their own children there.

Many residents like their roads. Vani Court residents love theirs. And they are intensely proud of it.

Vani Court, via Google Earth View.

Elaine Daignault grew up in Greens Farms. She and her husband Jesse moved to Vani Court in 1997. Their children grew up there, and — like Elaine — graduated from Staples High School.

Jackson Daignault wrote his college application essay about Vani Court. He said that on the close-knit street he “learned how to comfortably interact with all kinds of people, to observe without judging, and to go with the flow in a community where so many strive to appear perfect.”

Playing basketball in the street, riding out a hurricane with several families in one house, and growing up knowing every neighbor’s name gave him “an understanding I never could have reached living in my own wing of a mansion.”

In fact, Jackson said, “the sound of the commuter train, just steps from my kitchen window, has been the soundtrack that shaped who I am today.”

Kids of all ages play together on Vani Court.

Elaine — who is Westport’s director of human services — appreciates from a mother’s perspective the comfort of knowing neighbors looked out for her kids, just as she did for theirs.

“Anyone who needs helps can knock on any door,” she says — and that goes for any age. “Literally, if someone needs a cup of milk, we’ll bring it over. And if someone takes a tree down, everyone comes over, chops wood and brings it home.”

Jonathan Greenfield lives near — but not on — Vani Court. When his dog Buddy was lost, neighbors rallied around to find him. Here they are together again, on the road.

Vani Court is located a few steps from one of Westport’s true hidden gems: the  Saugatuck River railroad bridge pedestrian walkway. Linking South Compo with the train station, it’s a great amenity for residents who commute — or want to walk to Saugatuck. (It’s also a wonderful place to watch the fireworks.)

Just as great, Elaine says, is that kids can ride their bikes from Vani Court to the beach without ever crossing South Compo.

She is amazed — but not surprised — that families raised several children in the small homes. On the street’s private Facebook group, she sees photos of kids waiting for school buses in the 1950s. The images are similar to those of her own kids — and now, the younger families moving in.

Easter on Vani Court. This photo could have been taken years ago — or this year.

Elaine mentions the Boone family. Jon Boone’s in-laws — the Kappuses — moved to Vani Court decades ago.

Jon — a noted youth coach — bought that house. After he died suddenly last year, neighbors rallied round. They celebrated his life together by erecting a large screen and sitting outside, in the rain, watching football.

Though most owners (and even renters) stay for years, their ties don’t break when they move. The other day, the entire street headed to Fairfield for the birthday party of a 10-year-old girl whose family has relocated.

Over the years, owners have remodeled, renovated — and enlarged — their homes. This one is at the end of the cul-de-sac.

A number of Vani Court residents worked, or still work, for the town. Rick Giunta — whose parents were original owners — is a longtime Parks and Recreation Department employee. His sons work there too.

For a while, 3 generations of Giuntas — Rick’s dad, he and his wife, and their boys — lived together on Vani Court. He calls it “a blessing” to have watched his kids go to the same schools he did, play the same kickball and whiffleball games on the street, and enjoy the comfort and security only an “extended family” like the road could provide.

“It’s the best place in the world,” Rick says.

Summer’s First Strong Storm

A fast-moving storm — with hail, heavy rain and high winds — roared through parts of town yesterday evening, around 7:45. More than 500 Westporters lost power.

A tree fell on a house on Vani Court …(Photo/Westport Fire Department)

The Fire Department responded to 18 calls with 45 minutes. They included burning and downed power lines, carbon monoxide, and a tree resting on a house on Vani Court.

… and barely missed one at Edgewater Commons. (Photo/Kaye Leong)

Sherwood Island State Park will be closed today (Sunday), due to damage.

But the storm left as quickly as it came. Skies cleared before nightfall.

Sherwood Mill Pond, moments after the storm passed … (Photo/Matt Murray)

Today is forecast to be mostly sunny, with a high around 80.

… and Ned Dimes Marina at Compo Beach, a few minutes later. (Photo/Kristina Bory)

Vani Court’s New Buddy

Alert “06880” reader Jonathan Greenfield loves Westport. These days, he loves it just a little bit more. He writes:

The residents of Vani Court exemplify the absolute best in neighborly values. They truly reflect all that’s wonderful in Westport.

That quiet street off South Compo — which still consists of many post-war Capes built for returning veterans in the 1940s — is where my rescue dog Buddy Holly ended up 2 days in a row after he pushed his way past my daughter, and through an open door.

My 9-year-old son gave chase. I grabbed a leash and ran to the car, as my 4-year-old daughter pointed the way.

I tried to obey the South Compo speed limit, but panic set in. My son and dog were nowhere to be found.

Buddy, at the beach.

We often include Vani Court on our daily walks. Maybe Buddy was there!

As I turned onto the road, I saw a commotion.

My son arrived out of nowhere — on a bike, which he’d gone home to retrieve. I got out of my car, and learned that 2 drivers had seen my son running along the road. They offered him a ride, to help. He declined, saying he could not get in a stranger’s car!

At the same time, residents on  Vani Court had come outside with their own dogs and treats, hoping to nab Buddy. He darted from one dog to the next, having a great time.

Tim Luciano came close to nabbing him. James McLaughlin tried to lure Buddy into his backyard.

The chase became exhausting. But when Jesse Daignault appeared with his dog Milo, Buddy took interest. With lightning fast hands, Jesse grabbed Buddy’s collar.

Victory! Jonathan Greenfield with Buddy, on Vani Court.

But Buddy was just getting started.

The next day — just as my youngest was leaving for preschool — Buddy pushed her aside. He was ready for another adventure.

This time I took a different approach. I followed him calmly, so I wouldn’t chase him away. He headed back to Vani Court.

Dan and Kelly Merton were out with their golden retrievers. Like a magnet, Buddy went to them. Another mini-circus developed.

Eventually Buddy headed back to our house. He wouldn’t come in though. My wife followed him back to Vani Court.

Soon, I got a text from my wife. Iris said, “Got him!” Melissa Wilson had come out with her dog. She and James McLaughlin lured Buddy into her backyard.

As soon as I got home, I called an invisible fence company. I’m also setting up dates to continue Buddy’s training, so he can run with us and be safely off leash.

We are extremely thankful for everyone who helped. Vani Court is such a special place.

It’s not just the charm of the postwar Capes. It’s the people. They so easily express what it’s like to be neighbors. Thank you!

Buddy, back home with Zach Greenfield.