Tag Archives: William F. Cribari Bridge

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.

Pic Of The Day #404

The William Cribari Bridge footpath. Al’s Angels holiday lights are hung year-round. (Photo/Katherine Bruan)

Pic Of The Day #285

You can’t get there from here: The Cribari Bridge opens (Photo/David Squires)

Pic Of The Day #237

The Cribari Bridge at Christmas. (Photo/Joel Treisman)

Day Tripper

Yesterday’s New York Times NY/Region section included a “Day Trip” feature to Westport.

Readers in the tri-state area — around the world, really — learned some interesting things about our town.

The itinerary begins at Match Burger Lobster, Staples grad Matt Storch’s new restaurant next to Fleishers Craft Butchery. Who knew that his kitchen crew shucks more than 500 pounds of lobster each week — or that lobster tastes better in winter, because cold water makes it sweeter?

From the restaurant, the story suggests, visitors can walk over the William F. Cribari Bridge. It’s named, the Times says, for “a beloved traffic conductor,” though “beloved traffic cop” is a bit clearer.

Bill Cribari, “beloved traffic conductor.” (Photo montage courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

“The short span provides vistas of the nautical town and entree to uninterrupted sidewalks through a Gold Coast neighborhood of mansions that are not above running weekend tag sales,” the paper excitedly reports.

The next 3 paragraphs talk about F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald’s 1920 rental on Compo Road South, near the Longshore entrance. Friends said the couple were “reveling nude in the orgies of Westport,” even though Zelda called the town “unendurably dull.” Imagine what they would have done in a livelier place!

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald slept — and partied — here.

“Day Trip” moves on to “secluded Compo Beach.” The Times describes it as “rocky (and) shell-studded….Tranquil and contemplative in winter, the sunsets are gorgeous.”

The final part of a day in Westport, apparently, should be a stop at the Black Duck. The paper calls it a “watering hole,” and singles out this feature: the $11 martini.

The martini “may be the biggest on the Eastern Seaboard, a further way to unwind after a leisurely day. Founded in 1978, too bad it wasn’t around for the Fitzgeralds,” the Times concludes, with both lame humor and a dangling modifier.

The best place for an $11 martini. (Photo/Chou Chou Merrill)

(Hat tip: Peter Perry)

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Now we know the holiday season is really here.

(Photo/Andrew Colabella)

The lights are lit on the William Cribari Bridge.

Al’s Angels’ gift to Westport won’t make the traffic flow more smoothly over the Saugatuck River. In fact, this time of year it’s heavier than ever.

But if you’re going to be stuck there, it’s a beautiful place to be.

Slicing Up Saugatuck

The 6th annual Slice of Saugatuck was the best yet.

Perfect late-summer weather; a record number of 50-plus restaurants and businesses, and a large, relaxed crowd enjoyed an afternoon of strolling, eating, music, eating, shopping, eating, kids’ activities, and eating.

Thanks go to the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce, plus the Slice’s many sponsors.

And congrats to the Gillespie Food Pantry: recipient of some of today’s funds.

Here’s what the Slice looked like, starting and ending at Bridge Square:

Owner Bill Taibe (right) and his Kawa Ni staff served Japanese delicacies (and drinks).

Firefighters at the Saugatuck station promoted fire safety (and offered a seat in their very cool truck).

The Whelk offered some delicacies …

… while a few feet away on the riverfront plaza, the Silver Steel Band played.

Matt Storch dished out fries. The Staples High School graduate’s new Match Burger Lobster restaurant opens in 2 weeks.

Socks — a face painter — came from Norwalk.

The Funicello family’s Tutti’s is always a Slice of Saugatuck favorite.

Mersene — owner of the very popular Indulge by Mersene — welcomed Railroad Place Slice-goers with her typically funky goods.

Every kid loves a bounce house.

A tae kwan do place lured passersby with this inflatable guy.

The Slice included Saugatuck Avenue too. Here’s the mouth-watering scene at Dunville’s.

All roads led to the Slice of Saugatuck. If you’re reading this before 5 p.m. — there’s still time. After 5, several restaurants extend the fun with specially priced menus.

Photo Challenge #138

“06880” readers were cranking last Sunday.

We may not agree on what to call the span over the river: William Cribari Bridge? Bridge Street Bridge? Saugatuck Bridge?

But many folks instantly recognized last week’s photo challenge as the hand crank that once opened that multi-named bridge (and still does, if the motorized system fails).

Andy Kaplan, Peter Fulbright, Tom Erickson, David Sampson, Andrew Colabella (who also spotted the extension cord for Al’s Angels’ Christmas lights), Jay Tormey, Jonathan McClure, Joelle Malec, Seth Braunstein and Carmine Picarello all nailed it. To see Tom Feeley’s image, and read all the comments, click here.

This week’s challenge is harder.

Much harder.

If you know where in Westport you’d find this scene, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Heli Stagg)

John Suggs Joins 1st Selectman Race

The 1st selectman race just got more crowded.

John Suggs has announced his candidacy for Westport’s top spot. The independent — running against Republican incumbent Jim Marpe and Democratic challenger Melissa Kane — plans a 3-pronged platform.

Suggs stresses “advocacy, common sense solutions and a nonpartisan approach.”

As a Representative Town Meeting member for 10 years, Suggs cites his leadership roles on school safety, open space and protecting neighborhoods.

A 25-year professional in asset management analysis, public policy and community development, Suggs currently works in forensic genetic genealogy. His Family Orchard business helps adult adoptees search for and reunite with their birth families.

John Suggs

Suggs says he is running as an independent because “I want to represent all of Westport — not merely the interests of any single party or constituency. In times of toxic, partisan politics, where politicians will say just about anything, true or untrue, to gain an advantage, I will always tell you the truth.”

He wants Westporters to “roll up our sleeves and work harder, smarter, better to reduce traffic congestion, sustain the quality of our schools, revitalize downtown and fill empty storefronts, and preserve our property values.”

Suggs says that local elected officials cost Westport taxpayers money as they “endlessly study our problems with exorbitant fees paid to outside consultants.”

He pledges to “place a moratorium on expensive studies, roll back onerous traffic control measures that aren’t working, refurbish (not replace) the Compo Beach pavilion, and restore (not destroy) the Cribari Bridge in Saugatuck.”

Suggs was born and raised in California. With a BA in political science from Loyola Marymount University, an MS in management and systems from New York University and an MBA from Fordham University, he has served as a public policy director, affordable housing advocate, history teacher and Jesuit seminarian.

He and his wife moved to Westport in 2003 with newborn twins, in large part for the schools. Suggs is an active Assumption Church parishioner, and volunteered as a Little League baseball and basketball coach. For 5 years, the Suggses have been a host family for A Better Chance scholars.

“Despite my long record of working on behalf of the town, I am starting the race as the underdog, going up against both established political parties,” Suggs tells “06880.”

“But having talked — and more importantly, listened — one on one to so many people these past few months, I know that my message to Westporters that we must not allow ourselves to get dragged down into the finger-pointing and blame game of toxic partisan politics by both parties resonates deeply for people across the entire political spectrum.”

He adds, “These next few years will be full of difficult challenges for all Westporters, at the state and federal level.” He urges residents to “put aside partisan bickering and pull together as one community, using our common sense to find our own best solutions to navigate through.”

Among the “common sense solutions” Suggs advocates is “fine-tuning traffic controls to mitigate traffic backups.” Adding 3 seconds to a green arrow helps clear 7 more cars from congested intersections, he says.He’d also restore right turn on red at downtown intersections.

Suggs wants to “adaptively reuse valuable town-owned assets” rather than build new ones. He believes “perfectly sound empty buildings” could be converted to new uses like municipal offices, homes for non-profits and senior housing.

“Let’s listen to our residents when they resoundingly no (or yes),” Suggs says. From railroad parking and replacing the Compo pavilion to funding schools, “local politicians should never presume” to tell Westporters what to believe. The 1st selectman should be “an honest broker to ensure all Westporters have a say, and are satisfied that decisions are being made fairly and honestly.”

Josh Suggs wants to save the William F. Cribari Bridge over the Saugatuck River.

He describes his past advocacy efforts as leading the campaign to “save the Cribari Bridge, and protect Saugatuck and Greens Farms from 18-wheelers”; fighting to restore “critical education funding” to the budget; organzing an effort to preserve nearly 6 acres of endangered land as a state archaeological preserve; being an early and strong proponent of a blighted property ordinance; helping revise guidelines that are now “free and fair to both proponents and opponents of future sanitary sewer extensions,” and leading the campaign to stop construction of a driveway from the Barnes & Noble shopping center onto South Morningside Drive, opposite Greens Farms Elementary School.

Recently, Suggs says, partisan politics has seeped down from national and state levels, “influencing substantive policy decison in our so-called nonpartisan RTM.”

He concludes, “I’ve always been true to my convictions. I’ve entered this race not just to win, but to represent the whole community, encouraging greater civic involvement that will lead to a better Westport.”

(For more information, click here.)

William F. Cribari: The Man Behind The Bridge

Everyone is talking about the William F. Cribari Bridge. That’s the official name of the historic 133-year-old swing span over the Saugatuck River. Yet many Westporters still use the old name: the Bridge Street Bridge.

That’s a shame.

William Cribari — or “Crobar,” as he was universally known in his native Saugatuck — was quite a guy.

He was a World War II vet. Serving under General George S. Patton, he took part in the invasions of Normandy, Sicily and North Africa. He also served in the Battle of the Bulge.

But that’s not why the bridge is named after him.

For more than 30 years, Cribari was a special police officer. He walked the beat on Main Street, and directed traffic at both the pre-light Riverside/Saugatuck Avenue intersection, and the Post Road by Kings Highway Elementary.

But that’s not why the bridge is named after him either.

His greatest fame came when he was shifted to Riverside Avenue, at the entrance to the Manero’s (now Rizzuto’s) parking lot.

William F. Cribari (Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

There — with a smile, a theatrical wave and more than a few dance steps — he masterminded rush hour traffic through the heart of Saugatuck. Much of it went over the Bridge Street — now William F. Cribari — Bridge.

He was much more than a traffic cop, of course. Cribari’s full-time job was tool crib operator for Nash Engineering. He was a longtime Westport PAL volunteer, and a Knight of Columbus. He attended every Army-Navy football game from 1946 on.

At 12 years old he joined the Saugatuck Volunteer Fire Department as a snare drummer. He remained a life member.

More than 30 years later, he became drum major for both the Nash Engineering Band — marching every year in the Memorial Day parade — and the Port Chester American Legion Band.

In 2003, Cribari and his wife Olga were honored as grand marshals of Festival Italiano. That annual event was held in Luciano Park — not far from where he was born at home in 1918, and just around the corner from where generations of commuters learned to love Westport’s greatest traffic cop.

Paul Ehrismann found this great montage from the Westport News, and posted it on Facebook.

Cribari died on January 30, 2007, at 88.

A decade later his name lives on, through his namesake bridge.

Let’s all make sure his legend does too.

For years, William F. Cribari controlled traffic on the Bridge Street Bridge. Now it’s named for him. (Photo/Michael Champagne)