Tag Archives: Werner Liepolt

Cribari Bridge Disappears

Werner Liepolt — an alert “06880 reader/William F. Cribari Bridge neighbor/member of the Connecticut Department of Transportation Project Advisory Committee for a new, rehabilitated or (long shot) basically unchanged span — read with interest yesterday’s post about $40 million in possible funding for the project.

Then he noted with equal interest that the DOT has pulled (“temporarily?” he wonders) the Cribari Bridge project from its web page. (Click here for the error message.)

However, he does have 2 public documents — sent to Advisory Committee members — showing plans for the “restored” bridge. Here they are. Click on, or hover over to enlarge:

Historic Designation For Bridge Street Neighborhood

Werner Liepolt lives on Bridge Street.

Around the corner is the William F. Cribari Bridge. In 1987 — the first time the century-old span was slated to be replaced by a modern one — Westporters succeeded in gaining National Historic Structure designation for it.

The William Cribari (Bridge Street) Bridge is the gateway to Bridge Street. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

In November 2015 — with plans once again afoot to renovate or replace the Cribari Bridge, and spillover impacts likely for Bridge Street and beyond — Liepolt began a quest to get National Historic District status for his entire neighborhood.

The longtime Westporter knew that many of the houses on his road had contributed to Westport history. Over the years, he’d heard stories from older residents about who grew up where, which families were related, and how beautifully the forsythia had bloomed.

He saw historical plaques affixed to many homes. But to submit a Historic District application, he needed to learn more.

Morley Boyd — Westport’s historic preservation expert — directed Liepolt to a history of the town, and an 1869 document in which Chloe Allen “dedicated to the public” the road between her house (still standing on the corner of Bridge Street and South Compo) and the Saugatuck River.

Chloe Allen lived in the Delancy Allen House at 192 Compo Road South. It was built in 1809.

That half-mile stretch now boasts more than 20 historical resources. Thirty-one properties are eligible for Connecticut State Historic Preservation plaques.

Wendy Crowther noted that a New Yorker cover by Edna Eicke shows a little girl celebrating July 4th on the porch of her 1880 home, on the corner of Imperial Avenue and Bridge Street.

That’s the same house where John Dolan — keeper of the manually operated swing bridge — lived until the 1940s.

The New Yorker cover of June 30, 1956 shows this 1880  home, at the corner of  Bridge Street and Imperial Avenue.

Liepolt also researched what it means to be a National Register District. Benefits, he found, are modest — and obligations non-existent.

A homeowner can do anything to and with a house that any other owner can. An owner who makes restorational repairs may enjoy a tax benefit.

Liepolt learned too that if any federal funding, licensing or permitting is involved in development in a National Register District, that agency must take into account the effects of that action on historic properties, and consult with stakeholders.

Liepolt says this means that a possible Connecticut Department of Transportation plan to use federal funds to widen Route 136 — Bridge Street — as it feeds the bridge over the Saugatuck would require the Federal Highway Authority to consider the effect, and consult with property owners there.

The 1884 Rufus Wakeman House, at 18 Bridge Street.

The goal of this consultation is to mitigate “adverse effects,” Liepolt explains. These can be direct or indirect, and include physical destruction and damage; alteration inconsistent with standards for the treatment of historic properties; relocation of the property; change in the character of the property’s use; introduction of incompatible elements; neglect and deterioration, and more.

In February 2016, Liepolt asked Westport’s Historic District Commission to make a formal request for designation of the Bridge Street neighborhood. It was approved unanimously.

Liepolt worked with HDC coordinator Carol Leahy and an architectural historian to complete the research, take photographs, compile materials and write the final application to the National Parks Service.

The 1886 Orlando Allen House, at 24 Bridge Street.

This past April, the application was approved. Bridge Street is now added to the list of Nationally Registered Districts.

There was no big announcement. I’m not sure if anyone in town really noticed.

But we sure would notice if — without this designation — the look and character of the Bridge Street neighborhood ever changed.

Werner Liepolt Picks Up Painting

Some folks retire with no clue what comes next.

Werner Liepolt was not one of them.

After 42 years as an English teacher at Staples High and Bedford Middle Schools, he knew immediately what he wanted to do.

His daughter Jordan — a Rhode Island School of Design graduate, working now as director of design for an international textile company — had left boxes of art material in her parents’ home.

She thought no one would use them.

But Liepolt — whose previous art experience consisted of doodling during English department meetings — did not want the supplies to just sit there.

He pulled out 2 boxes of pastels, and enrolled in Tom Brenner’s course at the Silvermine Arts Center.

Liepolt drew upon his Bridge Street neighborhood, his garden, his hiking experiences in Maine and the Adirondacks, and boating on Long Island Sound. He loved those places, and wanted to show them to others.

The Bridge Street Bridge inspired this work by Werner Liepolt.

Early recognition came at Seven Arts Gallery in Ridgefield. Fellow Westport teacher Paul Fernandez included 5 of Liepolt’s botanical illustrations in a show.

Liepolt — a longtime visitor to Mount Desert Island — submitted several pastel works to a juried competition sponsored by the Rockefeller Land & Garden Preserve there. Two were accepted. They’ll be shown starting Tuesday (August 8).

Great Marsh in Acadia National Park, by Werner Liepolt.

He also participated in an invitation plein air “Paint the Adirondacks” conference with 80 top artists at Lower St. Regis Lake.

Underneath his daughter’s boxes of pastels, Liepolt found water colors. Last spring, he began studying with Kristie Gallagher at Silvermine.

He notes, “I’ve had the good fortune to teach in a community that supports good education. I’ve found a receptive audience for my plays and screenwriting, and am enjoying the rewards of expressing my take on the world through visual expression.”

Werner Liepolt at work.

As an undergraduate, Liepolt heard John Cage speak. The composer cautioned students not to succumb to a corporate job.

“What will you do when there is no one to tell you what to do?” he asked.

Perhaps paint.

Werner Liepolt painted his son fishing in the Rockies.

Werner Liepolt’s Ghoulish Halloween Rediscovery

In 1972, Werner Liepolt was a Bedford Junior High School English teacher. Today, as Halloween approaches, is a good time to remember those long-ago days.

Fellow Annenberg School of Communications graduate Christopher Speeth had secured a soon-to-be-demolished amusement park as a set, raised enough money to rent a 35mm camera and hired some actors. Knowing of Liepolt’s off-Broadway credits, he asked him to write a horror movie.

Werner Liepolt, back in the day.

Werner Liepolt, back in the day.

Liepolt told his 9th graders about his script. It involved a carnival that consumed its customers. He tested scenes on them, and revised it based on their reactions.

“My students were my idea of a perfect horror movie audience,” Liepolt recalls. “They were impeccable critics of the macabre.” The film that emerged was “Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood.”

It was released for a limited run at Texas drive-ins. Liepolt saw it at one screening. His students never did. The movie disappeared.

A former student managed a seafood restaurant and store. For years, every time Liepolt bought shellfish or went to dinner, he asked about the film. The teacher never had any news. But “his faith in it convinced me of its worth,” Liepolt says.

Four decades later — in 2003 — others realized that worth too. Speeth dug the movie out, sent it to Lucas and Coppola’s Zoetrope Studios, and convinced them to remaster it.

In 2007 British horror film aficionado Stephen Thrower saw a screening. He gave Speeth and Liepolt’s work a chapter in his acclaimed, encyclopedic “Nightmare USA.”

Malatestas Carnival of Blood

Word spread. Amazon sold copies of the DVD.

Liepolt’s son Jamie and some classmates at College of the Atlantic unearthed it, and screened it. He alerted his dad that “Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood” was alive. (Or, Liepolt notes, “had joined the ranks of the walking dead”).

Last month, Arrow Films — which negotiated the rights to redistribute the film — asked Liepolt for an interview. A crew from LA arrived at his Westport home several days ago. They’ll use 40 minutes as part of a DVD bonus package.

“I was as surprised as they were that I remembered so much about the writing and the shoot,” Liepolt says. They may even include a digital copy of the shooting script that he preserved.

Werner Liepolt today.

Werner Liepolt today.

Liepolt also provided Arrow with photos of actors he recruited for the film. Herve Villechaize — famous for his roles in a Bond film and the “Fantasy Island” TV series — began his theatrical career in Leipolt’s American Place Theater production of “The Young Master Dante.” He said he wanted — theatrically — to commit a murder in a certain gruesome way. Liepolt obliged.

The writer also recruited Lenny Baker, who went on to headline on Broadway (“I Love My Wife”) and starred in films (“Last Stop Greenwich Village”).

“That ‘Malatesta’ emerged from the crypt astonishes me,” Liepolt says. Thrower is not surprised, though. He said it “more than deserves a spell in the cult spotlight.”

There is a Facebook page for the film, so Liepolt’s 9th graders from the 1970s can finally track down and see the film they heard about 40 years ago. There’s also a website, and Arrow promises a number of promotions.

“It’s amazing fun that people are enjoying what I helped create so long ago,” Liepolt says. “What makes me sad, though, is that there are so few remaining who helped create the film.”

Halloween is here soon. What better way to get in the mood than a screening of Werner Liepolt’s great — and now rediscovered — ghoulish cult classic?