A century-long watch for Minute Man statue
Published 6:33 pm, Wednesday, June 16, 2010
In just a century, Westport has transitioned itself from a farming community to a residential suburb of New York City. Restaurants, stores and people have come and gone, but there have been a handful of constant, unchanged features -- perhaps most prominent among them is the Minute Man statue at the intersection of Compo Road South and Compo Beach Road.
Today, the Revolutionary War-era soldier depicted in the sculpture by Harry Daniel Webster is poised and ready with a rifle by his side, just as he was when the brass statue was dedicated on June 17, 1910. The dedication date of the statue, which was commissioned by the Sons of the American Revolution, was the same as the Battle of Bunker Hill 135 years earlier.
In honor of the 100th anniversary, a ceremony with fife and drum players, a three-man musket firing squad and speakers such as First Selectman Gordon Joseloff and Rev. Frank Hall of the Unitarian Church will take place at Compo Beach on Thursday, June 17, at 4 p.m.
Select members of the colonial militia, dubbed minutemen, played an integral part in not just Westport's history, but the country at large. These soldiers, commissioned by the provisional congress in 1775, were renowned marksmen and saw heavy combat during the war. In April 1777, 2,000 British soldiers landed at Compo Beach and razed the countryside. Upon their return, they were attacked by colonial soldiers. The minutemen were eventually scattered during that skirmish, but the war would rage on.
"There's a quite humorous and real link that makes that significant and important," she said.
While the statue has its roots in history, it's also planted firmly in pop culture. The final episode of "I Love Lucy," which aired May 6, 1957, clearly took inspiration from the statue. In the sixth and final season of the show, Lucy and her husband, Ricky, move out of New York City and into Manhattan. Show writer Bob Weiskopf did the same, and he drew upon his experiences to use the statue in the show.
"[Westport] became food for humorous inspiration," Curran said. "That's been true for many artists over the years."
In that final episode, Lucy volunteered as chairwoman for the Westport Historical Society and accidentally destroyed the statue, which was set to be dedicated at the town's Yankee Doodle Day Celebration. Controversy ensued for poor Lucy, and her best friend Ethel wondered if the organization should change its name to the "Westport Hysterical Society."
The events in the show weren't exactly totally accurate, but the backdrop is based in reality. The Yankee Doodle Fair is an annual event in Westport, but it is organized by the Westport Women's Club. Once the minute man celebration is over, the Yankee Doodle Fair will kick off at 44 Imperial Ave.
The fair even predates the statue, but only by three years.