Tag Archives: Westport Family Y

Now You See It…

YMCA construction

No, you’re not looking out a Metro-North train window.

This is a view Westporters have not seen in nearly 40 years: the east side of the old YMCA building (and next to it, the former firehouse).

But we won’t see it for long. Construction begins soon on the new Bedford Square.

Going, Going…

With the Westport Family Y firmly entrenched now at Mahackeno, David Waldman is moving ahead to build Bedford Square: the retail/office/ restaurant/residential complex that will substantially redefine our downtown.

Westporters are watching carefully, as work begins on the old Bedford building — the handsome Tudor-style structure that since 1923 has marked the Post Road/Main Street corner.

The 1978 Weeks Pavilion never engendered such love. A stark box with all the warmth of a Russian factory, it was thankfully hidden from view by trees, the Kemper-Gunn House, and the narrow confines of Church Lane.

When the Kemper-Gunn House was moved across Elm Street in November, the Weeks Pavilion was exposed.

Now, it’s being prepared for demolition.

Y demolition

The Weeks Pavilion, as viewed from Elm Street. An old, low-slung wooden medical building that fronted the road has already been removed.

Soon, all that will remain are memories of swim meets, racquetball, a cramped lobby, and newcomers wandering helplessly through a maze of hallways trying to find their way out.

On the other hand, compared to the new Y lockers, those in the Weeks Pavilion were like the Taj Mahal.


Giving It Up For St. Baldrick’s

Most kids would do anything to make sure their hair looks cool.

Some would do almost anything.

So when they hear about an important fundraising event that involves sacrificing their hair, they say, “Go for it!”

The Westport Family Y gym buzzed today. That was the sound of clippers, as hundreds of youngsters got shorn.

Taking it all off, in the Y gym.

Taking it all off, in the Y gym.

It was all part of the 11th annual TeamBrent St. Baldrick’s Celebration.

The idea is simple: Participants raise funds to fight childhood cancer. In exchange, they give up their hair.

The Y was behind the effort 1000%. There were opening ceremonies, a DJ, head painting, complimentary T-shirts, hats and photos — and free use of every part of the facility.

A selfie to remember.

A selfie to remember. (Photos/Scott Smith)

Before today, TeamBrent — named for a 6th grader who, after a dozen surgeries, 6 rounds of chemo and 2 stem cell transplants, has survived Stage 4 neuroblastoma — raised $3.4 million for St. Baldrick’s, and $7.3 million overall.

After today, that figure is waaaay higher.

When we tip our cap to these kids, all we see is something beautiful.

Not Your Father’s YMCA

Despite this morning’s post, there are some holiday decorations downtown.

But they’re not Christmas lights.

And they’re not where you might expect them.

Alert “06880” reader Jeff Giannone sent along this shot:

Y menorah

A menorah stands ready for tonight’s celebration of Hanukkah — the “Festival of Lights.” Set for 6:30 p.m., it’s sponsored by the 4 synagogues in town. All Westporters — of all faiths — are invited.

So head down to the site of the recently vacated Y.

Or — as it was once known — the Young Men’s Christian Association.



Y Not?

What’s up with this very ordinary photo?

YMCA parking lot

It’s part of the Westport Y’s parking lot, off Wilton Road. It shows a small number of the many cars that are no longer jockeying for a spot downtown.

I went to the new Y today, for the first time. I liked the spacious, airy fitness center.

I did not like the very cramped locker room. (I was a member of the Men’s Health Center at the old Y. I miss the gym clothes and towels, too.)

And I wonder why so many able-bodied people take the elevator instead of the stairs. It’s a health and wellness facility, people.

Meanwhile, here’s what the Y’s Bedford building looks like today. With the trees (and ivy) removed, you can see a pair of gargoyles that were hidden for years.

YMCA ivy removed

That view won’t last, I’m sure. Get ready for big changes downtown.


The 90-year-old downtown Y is in its death throes this weekend.

This is the final day for the institution that since 1923 stood handsomely on the corner of the Post Road and Main Street. (And, less elegantly, on Church Lane since 1978.) It has withstood floods, hurricanes, Prohibition, the rise of post-war suburbia and the decline of mom-and-pop shops — plus much, much more.

Tomorrow, the Y is outta there. The new Mahackeno facility — bright, shiny, fresh, airy and modern — opens at 5:30 a.m.

We will miss plenty about the downtown Y. Like this:

YMCA in spring

And this:

YMCA original

And this:

YMCA lobby 1923There’s plenty we won’t miss, though. Like this:

blog - Y 1

And this:

blog - Y 2

And this:

blog - Y 3

A new day is dawning.

At Mahackeno — and downtown.

It’s Official: New Y Opens On October 6

The original proposal came around the turn of the century. The groundbreaking was 18 months ago. The ribbon-cutting was last month.

Now, finally — with unanimous approval from Westport’s Water Pollution Control Authority (aka the Board of Selectmen) — the Westport Family Y will get a Certificate of Occupancy.

At 5:30 a.m. on Monday, October 6, the new facility at Mahackeno will officially open.

The view of the new Y, from Mahackeno.

The view of the new Y, from Mahackeno.

Y officials originally thought they’d open around Labor Day. The delay involved approval of the private on-site waste-water disposal system.

So — less than 2 weeks from today — downtown will suddenly become less congested. Parking spots will open up on Church Lane and off Elm Street.

There’s plenty of room at the new Y, on Allen Raymond Lane (formerly Sunny Lane).

As for traffic on Wilton Road: We shall see.

Allen Raymond Helps Dedicate New Y

Allen Raymond did many remarkable things in his 91 years of life on earth. The lifelong Westporter was a philanthropist, tireless volunteer, devoted church member, political leader, and adviser to selectmen. He was also one of the Westport Family Y‘s longest-serving, proudest board members, and a major contributor to the new Mahackeno facility.

He died on May 1 — less than 4 months before tonight’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. But Allen was not only at Mahackeno in spirit — he was really, truly there.

Y officials showed a video of their beloved benefactor. Filmed at Allen’s home in February — when he knew his life was ebbing away — it shows him at his best. He’s smiling warmly, joking gently, speaking lovingly and gracefully.

The new Mahackeno Y will hopefully thrive as long as its downtown predecessor did: 90 years. Yet in the next 9 decades, it’s hard to imagine any moment that can top tonight’s amazing appearance — one last time — by Allen Raymond.

(Click here if your browser does not take you directly to YouTube. Filmed, edited and produced by Brian Russell of Red Shoe Film. Aerial footage by Rick Eason.)

262,672 Gallons

On Tuesday the Y began filling its new 10-lane, 25-yard lap pool at Mahackeno.

After a final coat of plaster was applied to the pool shell, Ellen Johnston — the Y’s Water Rat head coach and swim program director — took a ceremonial turn with the hose.

Y pool being filled

Just 24 hours later, here’s what it looked like:

Y pool nearly filled

Now the water will be conditioned for at least 10 days. Then it will be inspected, and certified for public use.

The Y will open the new facility when every area is ready. They’re shooting for early September.

Meanwhile, everyone into the pool — the soon-to-be-old one, downtown.

Uh Oh: Y Opening Is Delayed

Construction delays, and the uncertainty of receiving necessary permits and certifications, have forced Westport Family Y leaders to reschedule the official opening of the new Mahackeno facility. The Y had expected to greet all Westporters with a free open house over Labor Day weekend.

A new opening date — hopefully early September — will be announced later this month.

The dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new Y will take place as previously scheduled on Thursday, Aug. 28 (7 p.m.).

The rear view of the new Mahackeno Y.

The rear view of the new Mahackeno Y.