Tag Archives: Wendy Crowther

Question Box #4

Our Question Box is once again full.

Here are the latest answers — to the best of my ability, anyway. I’m stumped by many of these queries. So readers: Please chime in with any additional information. Click “Comments” below.

And if you’ve got a question for our box, just email dwoog@optonline.net.

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Is there a noise ordinance regarding parties in Westport? (Chris Grimm)

No. According to Police Chief Foti Koskinas, the only noise ordinance covers “reasonableness” and “time of day.”

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What is the history of the canal that runs under the Kings Highway Bridge, and empties into the Saugatuck River. Where does it begin? What is its purpose? (Nancy Beard) 

A very interesting question — and one I’ve never thought of.

It begins near Richmondville Avenue, not far upstream. It’s listed on maps as a branch of the Saugatuck River. It appears in its present form on an 1878 map of Westport, so perhaps it is natural.

Jeanne Reed grew up on Short Street, off Richmondville. She says they called it a “brook,” not a canal.

Wendy Crowther adds more. She writes:

“A few years ago, Morley Boyd and I did historical research on the mills that once existed along the Saugatuck River north of the Post Road.

“The most well known is Lees Manufacturing Company, located off Richmondville Avenue. Portions of this mill stand today (and are being converted into housing).

“Another mill, Phoenix Manufacturing, no longer exists. It was located on the land where the water company sits today, on Canal Street.

“Both mills used water power from the Saugatuck to manufacture their goods.  To do this, they dug canals off the Saugatuck to siphon water from the river and direct it toward their turbine blades. The canal that leads to the turbine is called the head race. The canal that leads water away from the turbine to return it to the river is called the tail race. Small signs of these original races still exist today (if you know where to look).

“During our research, Morley and I heard stories that the canal/tail race would often turn the colors of the rainbow during the day, when Lees Mfg. was dying their threads and yarns. According to a historic site plan of Lees mill, its dye house was located immediately beside the tail race. We theorize that the race was pressed into service as a convenient way to dispose of wastewater from the company’s dye operation.

“When the water company was established downriver from Lees Mfg. in the early 1900s, dyes were not a good thing to flow into the water supply from upriver.  Morley and I speculate that Lees’ original tail race was redirected and lengthened to parallel the Saugatuck River all the way down to the area just behind Coffee An’, where it was joined with Willow Brook. From there, the combined waters from the canal/tail race and Willow Brook emptied into the Saugatuck, downriver from the water company. This way, the dye bypassed the water company’s section of the Saugatuck.

“This is the canal that remains today. We believe that it served as a very long tail race for Lee’s Mfg. Co.

“We suspect Canal Street got its name not only from this canal, but also due to the two supply/tail races (canals) used by the  Phoenix Mill (where the water company stands today).”

“This was just a theory.  We paused our research then to focus on other projects.”

Traffic nears the Kings Highway North Bridge, near Canal Street — and the “canal.” (Photo courtesy of Google Street View)

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Nicki and I were walking in Winslow Park. Deep in a woodsy area we came upon what appeared to be an outdoor forest church, complete with pews and a dismantled podium (see below). What’s that about? (David Pogue)

According to Bob Mitchell, this is the Woodland Chapel of nearby Saugatuck Congregational Church. It was constructed by Tobey Patton (son of the church’s minister, Rev. Alison Buttrick Patton) as his Eagle Scout project.

Interestingly, that part of Winslow Park is not town property. It’s owned by the church.

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What is the back story of these oars on the building just over the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge on Post Road East? (Jilda Manikas)

I am not very helpful today. Beats me!

Readers: If by a “stroke” of luck you know, click “Comments” below.

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Why is this deactivated (?) squad car seemingly permanently parked in the Petco/Michael’s/Home Goods/Panera plaza? I don’t think it ever moves. Does it deter crime? (Chris Grimm)

No clue! But for a long time there was also one parked behind what used to be Blockbuster (!) at the Post Road/North Maple corner, across from the Exxon gas station.

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Are there any open water year-round swim groups here? And are there any mushroom foraging organizations? (Claudia Sherwood Servidio)

Finally! A two-fer I can (sort of) answer.

Burying Hill Beach’s High Tide Club is still active, as far as I know. They don’t swim all year, but they did go through October. Click here and also here for a pair of “06880” stories.

As for the ‘shrooms: Try Earthplace.

The High Tide Club’s recent late-summer picnic at Burying Hill Beach.

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Have a question for the Question Box? Email dwoog@optonline.net.

Unsung Heroes #205

A group of “06880” readers who ask for anonymity write:

We would like to nominate the founding members of the Westport Preservation Alliance as the Unsung Heroes of the Week, for their valiant efforts to preserve both the history and the open spaces of our beloved town.

We were ecstatic to see their activism recently in relation to Baron’s South. We are grateful for their tireless efforts. We watch, with great pride, the activism that they galvanize in our community.

Newcomers to Westport should know that it is thanks to the tireless efforts of  WPA members Morley Boyd, Wendy Crowther, Helen Garten and John Suggs that much of Westport’s natural beauty, as well as some of its historic treasures, remain protected.

The preservation of our Cribari Bridge and the prevention of its expansion and/or destruction, for example, is due in large part, to the WPA’s inexhaustible efforts. Without it, 18-wheelers might now be causing even worse traffic, cacophony, and air pollution in our otherwise idyllic town.

William F. Cribari Bridge. (Photo/Sam Levenson)

It is with great relief too that we watch the WPA step up to protect such sites as the Golden Shadows mansion and surrounding property (between South Compo and Imperial Ave.)

As we keep our eyes on the new Amazon development in the former Barnes & Noble plaza, we hope that the WPA will monitor potential subsidiary developments, and keep the area surrounding Greens Farms Elementary School safe for our children.

It is a tremendous honor for us to nominate Boyd, Crowther, Garten and Suggs for their tenacity and strength as they stand up in order to do right by our charming, beautiful, and relatively peaceful town.

Each of the founding members has an impressive resumé in his or her own right; the fact that these Westporters devote so much time and effort to keep our town unspoiled makes the WPA more than worthy of the Unsung Hero of the Week nomination. Thank you, Westport Preservation Alliance, for fighting the good fight for us all.

{PS. For those who don’t know the history of the WPA’s efforts in preserving the iconic Cribari Bridge, we encourage you to click here to read the detailed history of the WPA’s efforts.)

(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email dwoog@optonline.net)

[OPINION] Townwide Effort Needed At Baron’s South

Longtime residents and Westport Preservation Alliance founders Morley Boyd, Wendy Crowther, Helen Garten and John F. Suggs are passionate about honoring and saving Westport’s historic structures and open spaces. Over the years they’ve served on many town commissions and committees 

Though Baron’s South — the town-owned property between South Compo Road and Imperial Avenue, not far from the Post Road and downtown — has always been on their radar screen, they are now very worried about its future. They write:

What should we do with Baron’s South?

This question has haunted the wooded, hilly, 22-acre parcel in the heart of town since we acquired it in 1999.

In 2016 it was zoned as passive open space.  Shortly thereafter, an extensive tree removal project took place, and a landscape plan was commissioned but never finalized. Since then, the town has largely ignored the property.

As a result, Baron’s South is rarely visited by the public. The weeds are taller than the deer, and the former pathways are disappearing behind encroaching overgrowth.

Vegetation surrounds a Baron’s South pathway.

In fact, many Westporters don’t even know where Baron’s South is.

Now the Planning & Zoning Commission is considering rezoning swaths of the property for active, organized recreation. This could mean bocce courts, swimming pools, even new buildings.

These are worthy ventures. But aren’t there already plenty of places in Westport to get active? And wasn’t the goal of the “open space” designation to permanently preserve and conserve this unique, centrally located piece of green infrastructure so that all Westporters could enjoy its quiet and natural beauty?

There’s no doubt that Baron’s South needs an infusion of energy. But why isn’t harnessing passive energy the goal?

Let’s form a town and citizen-driven cooperative to direct resources and passive energy toward the restoration and conservation of this incredibly special property. With the guidance of local environmental organizations like Earthplace, Wakeman Town Farm and Sustainable Westport, let’s engage children, parents and grandparents to work side by side to gradually remove debris and invasive plants, install beneficial native plants and trees, create pollinator meadows, improve the park’s many entrances, and build pervious paths to lead us to its interior rooms.

Golden Shadows, the home of former property owner Baron Walter Langer von Langendorff.

Along the way, we and our kids can learn to notice and appreciate the park’s wildlife and beneficial insects, rather than fear them. We can learn the value of native plantings, water conservation, biodiversity, and sustainability. We can come to understand the negative impacts of monocultures, climate change, pesticides and herbicides.

Passive open space requires active management and attention. Re-committing ourselves to this goal is the change that is needed.

As anyone who has ever done yardwork or gardening knows, the work can be as physically challenging as any ball game and as meditative as yoga. Bring your energy, your calm, your curiosity, your children and your save-the-planet sensibilities to bear on this great park.

Let’s save Baron’s South for a better good — the good that comes from quiet places, thoughtful passive-use planning, hard work, and the wisdom of Mother Nature.

The next meeting of the Zoning Regulation Revision Subcommittee takes place via Zoom at noon tomorrow (Tuesday, July 27). The public can participate. To get the Zoom link, call 203-341-1076 or email mperillie@westportct.gov.

(Want to learn more about Baron’s South? Click here for stories from the “06880” archives.)

Wildlife amid the growth at Baron’s South. (Photos/Wendy Crowther)

0*6*Art*Art*0 — Week 50 Gallery

It’s March again.

Nearly a year ago, we started our weekly art gallery. It was a welcome diversion from COVID. We’re still going strong, thanks to so many creative Westporters (and ex-residents).

As long as you keep sending your work, we’ll keep featuring it. Whatever form suits your mood — we want it. You don’t have to be a pro, or even experienced. Send it all!

Art should be inspired by, relevant to, or somehow, in some way, connected to our current lives. Student submissions of all ages are especially welcome. So are artists who have not submitted before.

Email dwoog@optonline.net, to share your work with the world.

Untitled. Wendy Roseberry writes: “My husband Brian Whelan and I moved here from Virginia in June. He is an artist. is work is shown at River Gallery. Right before the shutdown last March, a friend threw a masquerade ball with a 20-piece orchestra. Little did we know we would all wear masks from then on.”

“Lily in Hand” (Larry Untermeyer)

“CT Graffiti” (Karen Weingarten)

“Class of 1972 Foursome: Brendan Duffy, Richard Roberts, Jeff Bosch & Dave Kidney” (Eric Bosch)

“Finishing Touches” (Larry Weisman)

“Everything is a Bouquet” (Roseann Spengler)

“Give the Priceless Gift” (Ellin Spadone)

“Oil and Water Do Mix … Have to be Open to It” (Barbara Stewart)

“Rock, Paper, Scissors, Mask” (Photographer Amy Schneider notes: “The mask always wins. It’s not a game.”)

“Bent but Not Broken” (June Rose Whittaker)

“Snow/Sand/Sound” (Wendy Crowthr)

 

0*6*Art*Art*0 — Week 49 Gallery

This week’s art gallery rocks!

As the pandemic nears its 1-year anniversary, our spirits rise. This week’s artists echo our optimism. Several make their “06880” debuts, offering a wide range of colors and styles.

Each week, we showcase your art — in whatever form you create it. You don’t have to be a pro, or even experienced. We want it all!

Art should be inspired by, relevant to, or somehow, in some way, connected to our current lives. Student submissions of all ages are especially welcome. So are artists who have not submitted before.

Email dwoog@optonline.net, to share your work with the world.

“Simple Treasures” (Lauri Weiser)

“Cooking Obsession in the Time of COVID” — oil on canvas (Paddy Duecy)

“Hope is the Thing With Feathers — Emily Dickinson” (Amy Schneider)

“Dunes Play” — oil on canvas (Kimberly Porio)

“Nature Sculpture” (Karen Weingarten)

Untitled — water flowing out of Sherwood Mill Pond at dead low tide (Wendy Crowther)

Untitled (Lawerence Weisman)

“Perspective” — low-flying aircraft or birds’ feet? (MaryLou Roels)

“Soon to be Released” — crocuses in snow (Elana Nasereddin)

“Snow Blanket at Compo” (Pam Kesselman)

“Lasting Impression” — rhododendron outside the kitchen window (John Gould)

“A Perfect Winter’s Day” (Karen Kramer)

Sigrid Schultz’s Secret

This week — as the world remembers the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz — alert “06880” readers Morley Boyd, Wendy Crowther and John F. Suggs share a stunning World War II discovery. 

Sigrid Schultz, in a portrait by her father Herman Schultz.

Last week, the Westport Museum of History & Culture opened a compelling exhibit about Sigrid Schultz. “Dragon Lady” honors the pioneering female reporter, social justice activist — and longtime Westporter — who played an important role in exposing the growing Nazi threat during the lead-up to the war, and beyond. 

 Yet no one knew how truly perilous that role actually was for Schultz — until now.

Boyd, Crowther and Suggs have spent several years researching this remarkable, often overlooked hero. In this exclusive story for “06880,” they share a stunning discovery. They write:

Serving as the Chicago Tribune’s Berlin bureau chief from 1926 to 1941, Sigrid Schultz masked her intense loathing for the Nazis in order to cultivate contacts at the highest level of the Third Reich. Among her many accomplishments, Schultz interviewed Adolf Hitler several times. She also fearlessly cast a barb at Hermann Göring for his failed attempt to have her arrested.

She boldly covered the persecution of Jews, was one of the first to report on abuses at the German concentration camps, and was once called “Hitler’s greatest enemy.”

She also had a big secret: She was Jewish.

This fact appears to have been missed by every scholar and historian who has studied her thus far — including her own biographer, and the Westport Museum.

In 1938, as tensions escalated in Germany, Schultz’s mother Hedwig left Berlin, and  bought a house on Westport’s Elm Street.

On the ship’s manifest, Hedwig is identified as “Hebrew.” According to traditional Jewish law, a person’s Jewish status is passed down through the mother.

The passenger manifest, identifying Hedwig Schultz as “Hebrew.” It says “DO” for “Ditto,” referencing the names above.

Back in Germany, as the persecution of Jews became more aggressive, Schultz likely wondered whether her lineage would be discovered and used against her.

In a 1940 letter to her Chicago Tribune publisher, she detailed the growing threats and attempts meant to intimidate her. She noted, “I’ve even been denounced as being Jewish…”

Four months later, after learning of failed assassination attempts on 2 of her best German sources, Schultz fled Germany for the house on Elm Street. Based on her extensive knowledge of Nazi Germany’s inner workings, she was recruited as a high level intelligence operative in the OSS, the precursor to today’s CIA.

When Schultz’s mother died in Westport in December of 1960, it appears that Schultz went to extreme lengths to obscure her Jewish identity.

On Hedwig’s death certificate, Sigrid wrote “unknown” in the space reserved for her maternal grandmother’s maiden name and birthplace.

In fact Schultz was quite close to her mother, having lived with her most of her life. She also personally knew both her maternal grandmother and maternal aunt, and was in possession of historic family documents (including those related to her maternal grandfather, Louis Jaskewitz).

We believe that Schultz would have been quite knowledgeable about her family tree. It’s doubtful she did not know her own grandmother’s maiden name and birthplace.

Schultz did confide in a few people.  One was her good friend, Ruth Steinkraus Cohen. In a November 10, 1986 interview with Sigrid’s biographer, Cohen said:

Schultz also divulged her secret to a young Staples student who interviewed her at her Elm Street home in 1976, as part of an assignment for Joe Lieberman’s English class.

Student Pamela Wriedt-Boyd quietly took notes as Schultz spoke about the importance of maintaining journalistic professionalism –- no matter what.

By way of example, Schultz recounted a chance meeting with Hitler at the Hotel Kaiserhof in Berlin. Schultz had been chatting in the lobby with Göring when Hitler suddenly appeared. After Göring introduced the two, Schultz said that Hitler “bowed down, grabbed my hand, kissed it, then raised his head and with his eyes, tried to stare deeply into mine. That kind of soulful stare had always repulsed me, and I failed to show the appreciation he expected.”

As if to underscore the point of her story, Schultz added, “He didn’t know I was Jewish!”

Pamela received an “A” for her report. She provided us with a notarized statement attesting to the story Schultz told her that day.

While only a few people in Westport knew the truth about Schultz’s Jewish identity, her father’s relatives in Norway were never in the dark. We tracked down Schultz’s nearest living next of kin — a first cousin, twice removed — who lives there. He said:

Schultz was a pro at keeping secrets. There were many reasons her life and livelihood depended on it.

Our research continues. We are developing a more in-depth piece about Schultz that will not only cover this topic but others. Many have never been explored before, including her later life in Westport.

In the meantime, we are finalizing details of a bronze plaque that we intend to affix to a stone pillar on Elm Street near Schultz’s former house. (The home — located in what is now a parking lot — was unceremoniously torn down soon after her death).

The narrative on the plaque will be brief. But it will certainly make mention of the fact that Sigrid Schultz was a courageous Jewish American patriot, whose actions helped defeat one of the greatest evils the world has ever known.

The Little Red House Lives!

It’s a constant Westport discussion: empty Main Street storefronts, the perceived loss of community character, the fate of downtown.

Recently, David Waldman — developer of Bedford Square on Church Lane, and the new retail/residential complex at the old Save the Children site on Wilton Road — cautioned in an “06880” post that pessimism can be self-fulfilling. He pointed out many positive occurrences downtown.

Local preservationists/alert “06880” readers Wendy Crowther and Morley Boyd agree that good things are happening by the banks of the Saugatuck. They offer this story as proof.

In December 2016, the “Little Red House” faced demolition. A new mixed retail and residential project was planned for 201 Main Street/15 Belden Place — the spot opposite Le Rouge by Aarti and Ron’s Barber Shop, occupied by an aging storefront and some riverfront residences.

The Little Red House in 2016. (Westport Historic Resources Inventory, courtesy of Wendy Crowther)

Immediately, “06880” readers expressed strong opinions about the loss of a familiar part of the downtown landscape. Perched on the edge of the Saugatuck River, the circa 1920 Colonial Revival style structure could never be mistaken for distinguished architecture.

But that wasn’t the point. It was a picturesque little house which, despite flooding and development pressures, had endured. With the passage of time, the structure simply became a small part of what so many felt made Westport special.

Westporter Peter Nisenson, of PEN Builders, saw the many comments on “06880.” As the property’s new owner, he quickly reconsidered his company’s plans to demolish the antique waterside structure.

Nisenson realized that the house could actually become an attractive, valuable part of his larger redevelopment project.

After obtaining a record-setting 15 variances (thank you, Zoning Board of Appeals!), the Little Red House has been flood-proofed and refurbished.

Today, it’s almost near completion.

The Little Red House today. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

Now divided into 2 light-filled apartments – each with its own porch and astonishing 180 degree views of the Saugatuck River – the structure retains all its beautiful wooden beams.

As a special nod to its place in the hearts of Westporters, the house’s original red paint has been color matched.

So here’s our takeaway: Whether it’s a quirky iron bridge, a beloved local bar or simply a picturesque waterfront dwelling, residents need to speak up when our non-renewable resources become endangered.

In this case, a savvy local developer responded to community input. He harnessed the peculiar power that authentic and familiar things seem to have over us.

As a result, his project is enhanced. And the public has the satisfaction of knowing that the Little Red House will contribute to the aesthetic value of Westport’s riverfront for generations to come.

How’s that for a positive downtown story?!

Morley Boyd and Peter Nisenson, in the refurbished house. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

9 Stone Bridges

Alert  — and history-minded — “06880” reader Wendy Crowther writes:

It’s hard for us to imagine today the difficult problem that rivers, streams and brooks posed for Westport’s early settlers and travelers.

At first, traversing even small tributaries required getting wet. Later, rudimentary crossings were built so that carriages and wagons could manage the steep approaches, rocky bottoms, and wetland mud without tipping over, snapping axles, or becoming mired.

These overpasses became more problematic in the early 20th century, when the automobile came into fashion. Smoother transitions across Westport’s many brooks — most notably Willow, Muddy and Deadman’s — were needed.

Which brings us to Westport’s early stone bridges.

Around 1920, a series of 19 Craftsman-style stone bridges were built throughout town. Nearly a century later, 9 remain.

That’s a remarkable number considering they’ve seen nearly 100 years of use. They’ve survived hurricanes and “100-year storms,” and endured the collisions of decades of distracted drivers.

One of Westport’s 9 stone bridges, this carries Greens Farms Road traffic over Muddy Brook (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

Today we pass over these bridges daily. Yet few of us notice their rustic presence. Their stone walls (“parapets,” in bridge lingo) were designed to convey the sense of a park-like setting — an aesthetic popular at the time.

Most blend seamlessly into the roadside landscape, often appearing to be mere continuations of Westport’s many fieldstone walls. They are simple, folkloric, and historically important.

And they are at risk.

The Cross Highway bridge. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

One of them in particular — on Kings Highway North — has a target on its back.  The town has hired a firm to design its replacement.

This concerns me and my fellow Westport Preservation Alliance colleagues Morley Boyd and Helen Garten. We are pushing back against the replacement plan favored by the town’s Public Works Department.

We’ve also made a pitch to the town to collectively nominate all 9 bridges for listing on the National Register.

While we would love to see all 9 bridges thematically nominated, we’re especially worried about the Kings Highway North Bridge over Willow Brook.

It matches the style of the other 8 bridges. More importantly, we believe it may have been built atop even older stone abutments. It’s possible that its enormous foundation stones may date back to the original King’s Highway, built in 1673 to carry mail from New York to Boston. Losing this bridge to a modern replacement would be tragic, especially if portions date back to pre-Revolutionary times.

Large stones in the abutments beneath the Kings Highway North Bridge may be remnants of a much earlier bridge. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

We’re also concerned that the other 8 bridges will confront a similar replacement plan “down the road.” That’s why we’ve suggested the town pursue a National Register designation.  This will help protect the bridges — and may also make them eligible for rehabilitation grants.

To become eligible for a National Register listing, the history of these structures would be fully researched. State Historic Preservation Grants are available to conduct this work.

We feel that these very special bridges possess the integrity of location, design, setting, materials and workmanship to qualify for this distinguished honor.

On a more visceral level, the preservation of these bridges will allow us to appreciate the human craftsmanship that went into building them.  By picturing the crew of local men who lifted each stone by hand and mortared them in place, we’ll not just notice these bridges — we will feel them.

Evergreen Avenue (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

The locations of 4 of the 9 bridges have been identified above.  Do “06880” readers know where the other 5 are? See if you can find them as you drive around town (or, for the expats, as you travel down Memory Lane).

Tomorrow (Tuesday, January 9, 7 p.m., Town Hall Room 309), our request that the Town pursue a National Register listing for these nine early 20th Century bridges will be heard by Westport’s Historic District Commission at its public hearing.

We hope they are willing to cross that bridge when they come to it.

1 Wilton Road: Demolition Is Halted

For several days, Westporters watched with mounting concern as 1 Wilton Road — the little building at the always-clogged intersection with Post Road West and Riverside Avenue — was slowly reduced to its skeleton.

This morning, “06880” posted reader Wendy Crowther’s concerns.

Earlier this evening, I heard from Wendy again. She writes:

Following a site visit today that included a Westport building official, the Westport Historic District Commission, the owner of 1 Wilton Road, a representative from the Westport Preservation Alliance and other interested parties, it was agreed that the scope of work done represents a demolition.

Consequently, the work will be temporarily halted on the original structure (although construction of an addition will continue) while the owner obtains a retroactive demolition permit.

1 Wilton Road, front view. The Wright Street office building looms behind it. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

The demolition permit will be subject to an automatic 180-day delay period because the building is over 50 years old.  A waiver of the balance of the 180-day delay period will be reviewed at the Historic District Commission’s regularly scheduled public hearing on November 14.

At that hearing, the public will have an opportunity to directly comment on the matter. It is hoped that the owner of 1 Wilton Road will now consider reconstructing more of the structure’s original appearance so as to preserve some historic continuity and to permit the building to read as the beloved house that has witnessed so much change itself.

Wendy concludes:

If you love this quaint and undeniably historic house, we encourage you to continue to weigh in, both here on “06880” and at November’s HDC public hearing.

1 Wilton Road, before the demolition.

1 Wilton Road: The Sequel

Earlier this month, “06880” reported on 1 Wilton Road. The quaint little building at the traffic-choked intersection with Post Road West and Riverside Avenue was going to be renovated by — and serve as headquarters for — the Vita Design Group.

1 Wilton Road, circa 1975. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

The renovation now looks like a demolition. “0688o” reader — and amateur historian — Wendy Crowther writes:

Morley Boyd and I have been watching the goings-on at 1 Wilton Road. We are disturbed by what has been happening there. Plenty of others have come to us expressing similar concerns. We’ve been looking into it, and thought readers might be interested in knowing a little more.  

The little house was built in 1830 – 5 years before Westport was founded — and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s been a grocery store, a vulcanizing business, a tire and battery emporium, a spirit shop and a knitting supply source.

But now it’s been shorn of its charming 19th century Italianate-style side addition, and just about everything else too — doors, windows, walls, siding, even the chimney – as part of a redevelopment project.

1 Wilton Road, from the rear. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

Though the owner has characterized this as a renovation, many Westporters have asked if this is actually demolition. The Historic District Commission says yes. The Building Department says no.

Either way, one thing is clear: The intersection that Westporters love to hate was, until recently, pretty well preserved in terms of historic streetscape. With the major changes coming to 1 Wilton Road, the loss of this building’s original features and charming qualities will no doubt be missed by many.

1 Wilton Road, front view. The Wright Street office building looms behind it. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)