Tag Archives: Westport Downtown Plan Implementation Committee

Name That Lot!

You may have heard the name Sigrid Schultz.

A pioneering female war correspondent, broadcaster and author who risked her life to expose Nazi secrets to the world, she hid her Jewish heritage from the likes of Hitler, Goering and Goebbels, whom she loathed but entertained in her Berlin home for the sole purpose of extracting information.

Sigrid Schultz

After Schultz and her mother fled Germany, they bought a house and barn at 35 Elm Street. When Sigrid died in 1980, the town demolished her home to expand the Baldwin parking lot.

This famous woman has remained largely unknown in her adopted hometown. But that may change soon, if a Downtown Plan Implementation Committee recommendation to name the new Elm Street parking lot — the one next to Bedford Square, created by the demolition of Villa del Sol directly opposite the Baldwin lot — is approved by the Board of Selectmen, acting as the town’s Traffic Authority.

Then again, it may not be named the Sigrid Schultz Parking Lot.

DPIC member Dewey Loselle suggested celebrating former Public Works head Steve Edwards. The longtime but low-key director nixed that idea.

Another suggestion was to honor the residents of 22 1/2 Main Street — the African American boardinghouse that went up in flames (probably arson) nearly 70 years ago. The location was adjacent to the new parking lot.

It might be tough coming up with an appropriate name — “22 1/2 Main Street lot” would be too confusing for the Elm Street address.

But that hasn’t hasn’t stopped one Westporter from taking a second look.

Chip Stephens grew up here. As a Planning & Zoning Commission member, he attends DPIC meetings. He wants to make sure the name of the new lot reflects town sentiment — not simply the will of one committee.

Pete Wassell

Perhaps, he says, the lot should be named after the Wassell brothers. Harry, Bud and Pete were all killed within 15 months of each other, during World War II.

Or, Stephens says, maybe there are other Westporters we should consider.

So let’s have a townwide discussion, right here on “06880.” Click “Comments” to offer suggestions, and debate the ideas.

Sure, it’s only a parking lot. But, as Stephens notes, “it will be there forever.”

FUN FACTS: So who is this Baldwin that the other Elm Street lot is named for? Herb Baldwin — a former first selectman. 

And on the other side of Main Street, Parker Harding Plaza is named for co-sponsors Emerson Parker and Evan Harding. Fortunately — considering the state of that parking lot — everyone has forgotten those two.

36 Elm Street was demolished in January, to make room for a new parking lot next to Bedford Square. (Photo/Jen Berniker)

 

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.