Bob, the Historian of the Westport Historical Society gave the Y’s Men some perspective on an exhibit presently on display at the Society dealing with old homes in Westport.
In 1935 the WPA commissioned a photographer (T. O’Conor Sloane Jr.) to photograph Westport homes that were 100 years old or older. Bob discovered 90 of these photos in the Society’s vault and augmented this find with material furnished by the state Archivist. In total he ended up with 131 photos of differing Westport houses and later determined that 106 were still in existence although many had been modified in their appearance since the earlier photos.
The search for still existing houses took the form of showing the old photos on social media (Dan Woog’s Website) and asking for comments. Received comments were extremely helpful in locating many houses as well as providing some historical facts with regard to some locations.
The present exhibit shows the old and new photos of the houses along with the garnered historical material including samples of artistic works by the artists who lived in these houses.
Q. Didn’t this church where we meet get moved from one side of the street to the other?
A. Yes it did. This church was included in the old photos and was moved around 1927.
Q. Why, when a house is in an advanced state of decay should it be restored when 90+ % of the restoration will be new materials?
A. We are looking at maintaining the streetscape and outer image. So the use of new materials is not that vital to our concerns.
Q. What did Main St. look like in 1935 and the 1800s?
A. The Historical Society has a book that you can purchase that will give you some idea of the layout.
Q. What is the importance of maintaining the Saugatuck Bridge?
A. I am putting together a study on that.
Q, Does Westport have a preservation strategy?
- Any 50+ year old building in Westport must undergo a waiting period before it can be demolished. The Historical Society also attempts to persuade homeowners of significant properties to install a plaque on their homes presenting some historical information. Westport also has three historical districts where nothing can be demolished without permission. That requirement of permission also applies to the demolition of landmark houses. Such permissions have never been granted.
Q. What is the predominant construction of old houses?
A. Most are wood with a variety of building techniques used .