Woog’s World / A welcome mat to newcomers
For all the puzzled looks it gets, and questions it generates, you’d think the construction site at the juncture of Long Lots Road and Post Road East is Stonehenge.
It’s not. It’s just Westport’s newest retail/residential complex. Pretty soon, businesses will open. Townhouses will be filled. Traffic at a busy corner will increase dramatically.
But that’s not the only change coming to that part of town.
Less than half a mile away, 1177 Post Road East is almost ready for occupancy. That’s the 94-unit apartment complex directly opposite Greens Farms Elementary School (the building’s website actually says “11/77 Greens Farms” — or perhaps “Greens 11/77 Farms.” It’s hard to tell).
If you think turning west out of the Fortuna’s and Crate and Barrel parking lots is bad now: just wait.
But this is not a column about what these two new projects mean for Westport’s traffic woes.
Rather, today’s “Woog’s World” is a welcome mat for newcomers. I have no idea who will move into these two new housing complexes. There will probably not be too many families — the units are mostly one- and two-bedrooms — and it remains to be seen who will be drawn to rent units that are not close to the train station (like those in Saugatuck) or right downtown (Bedford Square).
But when they are filled — and builders don’t built these kinds of things on just a prayer — it’s likely they’ll be occupied by newcomers. The men and women moving here won’t have much knowledge of their neighborhood. So here is some of what they’ll need to know.
For one thing, it’s not actually a “neighborhood.” The Post Road from Long Lots to Maple Avenue is a commercial strip. It’s zoned for things like car dealerships. But this is Westport. In addition to Toyota, Lexus and Volvo, you can pick up a Maserati literally across the street.
The Maserati dealership is just a few yards from Starbucks. While it’s true you can find this coffee chain anywhere in the world (including, in Westport, 10 steps away inside Barnes & Noble), the Post Road Starbucks is special. It’s got the most inefficient parking lot of all 12 squintillion Starbuckses. Of course, you don’t have to actually park and go inside. Just use the drive-thru lane, which will add a mere 35 minutes to your wait.
Newcomer history buffs should know that this Starbucks replaces an earlier one, diagonally across the street. And that first Starbucks was formerly Krazy Vin’s — a strip joint, with (I am told) an actual dancing pole.
Meanwhile, across Cedar Street from Krazy Vin’s was The Brook. This was not just a gay bar — it was, for a while, the oldest continually operating gay bar in the country. It drew patrons from all over Fairfield County. And it sat directly opposite from the state police barracks. That’s right: Troop G was headquartered where Walgreen’s is today. They had easy access to I-95 (via the Sherwood Island Connector) and Merritt Parkway (down Roseville Road). Plus not only a strip club and gay bar, but the Red Galleon. That was a biker bar, with actual bar brawls that the Westport cops — not state troopers — sometimes responded to.
The Red Galleon was located exactly where the 1177 Post Road East apartments are now. Times change, for sure.
New residents of the area will settle in near two long-established condominium complexes. They seem to have been here forever. But they haven’t.
The first condos in Westport were built on the old Rippe’s Farm Stand. This was a legit, New England-style place — complete with an orchard out back — that has now been replaced by “farmers markets.” It was a favorite of Paul Newman’s. And now you know how the condos that are there now — Harvest Commons — got their name.
I have no idea how Regents Park — the condos on the south side of the Post Road, next to the Volvo dealer — got their name. But they replaced a miniature golf course and driving range. Residents there say that every once in a while, a golf ball works its way to the surface of their lawn. They don’t have any idea how it got there, but now you do.
Next door to the driving range was the Westport Lanes bowling alley. It was a popular hangout for decades (along with the billiard parlor below). It went up in flames one night. The fire was spectacular, fed by all those lacquered lanes. Pins flew high in the air, once the roof was gone.
There’s much more to know about the area. Newcomers will soon discover its most popular features, including Fortuna’s Delicatessen and next door Greens Farms Spirit Shop. But I’ll save the rest for the next housing development that comes in.
Something you can read while waiting in traffic.
Dan Woog is a Westport writer, and his “Woog's World” appears each Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His personal blog is danwoog06880.com