Tag Archives: Westport Museum of History & Culture

Stations Of The Cross Honors Racial Justice

A few dozen Westporters celebrated Good Friday yesterday through a marking of the Stations of the Cross. The walk was a call to dismantle racism, and pursue racial justice.

“Give us eyes to see how the past has shaped the complex present,” said Rev. John Betit of Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

Participants stopped at several sites related to Black history in Westport. Christ & Holy Trinity, Saugatuck Congregational Church and the Westport Museum of History & Culture collaborated for the event.

After an initial prayer in the Christ & Holy Trinity courtyard, the group headed to the entrance of the church parking lot on Elm Street.

Rev. John Betis, at Christ & Holy Trinity Church: the first Station of the Cross. (Photo/Rev. Alison Patton)

They looked across at Bedford Square. In the 1940s, it was the back of a boarding house — accessible through an alley at 22 1/2 Main Street (later the entrance to Bobby Q’s) — that was the hub of a thriving Black community.

By 1949 though, it was considered a slum. The town would not grant permits for improvements. In December, residents asked the RTM to be considered for the affordable housing being built at Hales Court. They were denied.

In January 1950 — 8 days after a newspaper wondered what would happen if a fire broke out there — that is exactly what happened. Unable to obtain housing anywhere else in town, the Black community scattered — and disappeared forever.

Heading to the next Station of the Cross. (Photo courtesy of Christ & Holy Trinity Church)

The next station was the site of the former Ebenezer Coley general store, at the Main Street entrance to Parker Harding Plaza. The original outline of that saltbox building remains; it’s the former Remarkable Book Shop and (later) Talbots.

The river came up to the back of the store. Enslaved people loaded grain grown at the Coley farm onto ships bound for New York. There it was loaded onto larger ships, which sailed to the West Indies where it fed other enslaved Blacks.

The group then walked a few steps to the Museum of History & Culture. Ebenezer Coley’s son Michael owned the home at the corner of Avery Place and Myrtle Avenue. He managed the Coley store, and oversaw the enslaved people.

Bricks bear the names of over 240 enslaved and 20 free people of color, part of the parish of Greens Farms Congregational Church. They appear in the church log book as births, baptisms, marriages and deaths.

Owners brought their enslaved people into church for services, though they — and freemen — had to stand in the balcony above the sanctuary.

Bricks at the Westport Museum of History & Culture honor more than 200 Black men, women and children from the 18th and 19th centuries. (Photo/Rev. Alison Patton)

A short walk up Evergreen Avenue brought the group to the Saugatuck Church cemetery. Cyrus Brown — who, like many others affecte by racism and legal bias, went from being a landowner and farmer to a servant of the Gorham family — is buried there.

Brown’s relationship with the Gorhams was evidently strong. He is buried in the family’s plot, with a high quality headstone of his own.

A stop at Evergreen Cemetery. (Photo/Rev. Alison Patton)

After that final station, worshipers walked through the woods to the Saugatuck Church property. The labyrinth on the lawn provided space and time for  final Good Friday reflections.

Walking through the woods, to Saugatuck Church. (Photo/Rev. Alison Patton)

A final stop at Saugatuck Church. (Photo/Bob Mitchell)

(Historical background provided by the Westport Museum for History & Culture.)

Roundup: WWII Vet, Patagonia Mural, Oyster Boat, More


Jimmy Izzo never knew his grandfather’s brother. Army Staff Sgt. Louis Doddo was 30 years old when he was killed at Saipan on July 7, 1945 — just 2 months before the Japanese surrendered, to end World War II.

His remains were not identified. “Unknown X-26” was buried in the Philippines in 1950.

But now Izzo — a 1983 Staples High School graduate, longtime RTM member and former owner of Crossroads Ace Hardware store — and his family have closure.

Izzo’s cousin, Kathy Bell Santarella, began searching for his remains 10 years ago. Thanks to her persistence, the work of the American Graves Registration Service, and DNA samples from various aunts and uncles, “Unknown X-26” has been positively identified as Doddo.

The 105th Infantry Regiment, 27th Infantry Division soldier will buried in May in his hometown of Norwalk.

His name, meanwhile, is recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, along with others still missing. A rosette will be placed next to his name, indicating he has been accounted for.

Click here to read the full story, from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

Staff Sgt. Louis S. Doddo


Some cool murals — dating back to its days as Westport Bank & Trust — hang inside Patagonia.

Now there’s a pretty cool one outside too.

Many years ago, the clothing store and Green Village Initiative had a strong relationship. GVI has evolved from a Westport-based, volunteer organization to a Bridgeport urban farming and gardening non-profit. Its mission is to grow food, knowledge, leadership and community, to create a more just food system.

But the connection with Patagonia continues, based on a shared commitment to food justice.

The mural is one example. Painted by Charlyne Alexis and Stephanie Gamrra Cretara, it promotes and supports local farming, and GVI.

Plus, it looks awesome. (Hat tip: Pippa Bell Ader)


Tammy Barry has often wondered about the oyster boat moored often in Long Island Sound.

The other day, through binoculars, she read the name: Catherine M. Wedmore.

(Photo/Tammy Barry)

Intrigued, she googled it. This came up on the Westport Museum of History & Culture page:

“Catherine M. Wedmore is a 56 foot wooden oyster boat built in in West Mystic, Connecticut in 1924. This 96 year old lady still works daily harvesting oysters from Norwalk to Westport for Norm Bloom & Son/Copps Island Oysters.”

Now you know!


Have you started planning for the Parks & Rec Department’s first-ever holiday house decorating contest?

Andrew Colabella spotted this interesting scene, on Dogwood Lane. Click here for contest details.

(Photo/Andrew Colabella)


It’s a dog-eat-dog world. Or, perhaps, a bird-eat-fish world.

Molly Alger spotted this scene recently at Sherwood Island State Park:

(Photo/Molly Alger)


And finally … on this day in 1969, the Rolling Stones were the featured band at the Altamont Free Concert. During “Sympathy for the Devil,” 18-year-old  Meredith Hunter was stabbed to death by Hell’s Angels security guards. It was not rock ‘n’ roll’s finest hour.

Roundup: Heating Help, Subway History, More


Need assistance with home heating costs this winter?

Connecticut’s federally funded Energy Assistance Program — administered through Westport’s Department of Human Services — offers help to low-income households.

Individuals and families qualify based on gross annual income and household size. Click here for qualification criteria. Applications are taken through Westport’s Department of Human Services.

Another option — for households that do not meet CEAP standards — is Westport’s Warm-Up Fund. Applicants are reviewed on a case-by-case basis,

Click here for more information. Call Human Services at 203-341-1050, or email humansrv@westportct.gov with questions, or to request an application.


I’m not sure what this local tie-in is, but the Westport Museum for History & Culture’s next virtual program is titled “The History and Future of the New York Subway.”

The event — co-sponsored with the Westport Library — is Monday, October 26 (7 p.m.).

Clifton Hood–  author of 722 Miles: The Building of the Subways and How They Transformed New York will discuss the New York City’s subway system,

what that says about its future, and what the pandemic may mean for it and for New York City.

To register, click here.


And finally … in honor of that strange upcoming Westport Museum program: