You can’t really appreciate our towns unless you know about the people who gave it shape. So let’s name our first roll call of heroes.
It might have all turned out differently. If you have trouble imagining a different scenario, then picture yourself on Compo Beach at sunset, taking in the beauty of a fourteen-story nuclear power plant.
Or just imagine enjoying the scenery along the Merritt Parkway as you drive past the Nike missile silos. What if our beautiful libraries had remained the size of broom closets? Or if the town dump still stood in the site now occupied by Westport Library? Can you imagine life here without Longshore Park? The Little League field? The artists’ community?
It didn’t all happen by accident. It was because our area was blessed by the presence of hundreds of people who were dedicated to making this a fine place to live. There were battles waged, heated words, and campaigns and parades aplenty. Since Fairfield’s founding at the business end of a blunderbuss in 1639, our citizenry has continually dealt with the hard battle of bringing growth to a fine-looking land — and somehow managing to keep it beautiful.
Our first attempt to list the great people who made a real difference here concentrates on those individuals who bequeathed us some sort of lasting legacy, the people whose passions produced a lasting effect on the way our communities have been shaped — be it a physical building, a civic institution or a frame of mind. Of these people’s contributions, there can be little debate.
We make no claims to infallibility. For every individual who made the final list, there are two or three other people who deserve to be honored. Missing here are many of the famous writers, artists and actors who have lived and produced great works here, not to mention some esteemed business people.
This list is not locked down in perpetuity. Although many of the names were suggested by readers who answered our pleas and emailed us ideas, we have strong hopes that this will provide a springboard for your thoughts. We invite you to get thoroughly outraged and dash us an immediate letter demanding to know how we could have possibly left off so-and-so.
Why? Because the battle to keep this a sane and handsome place continues. And there are many fine people of consequence devoting their lives right now to the civic good. So please — send us your nominees. Make sure the good people are not forgotten. Write to: Mail@westportmag.com.
Roger Ludlow (1590-1665)
English-born lawyer, adventurer, and prototypical real-estate speculator who led a colonial military force to victory over the indigenous Pequots in the Great Swamp War on July 13, 1637. Envious of all the cleared farmland, Ludlow and four others returned to the area in 1639 and purchased the land that would become Fairfield, Westport, Weston, Redding, Norwalk and Wilton from the Pequonnock tribe. In January of 1640, the settlement of Uncoway officially became Connecticut’s fourth town in accordance with the terms of the Fundamental Orders, drawn up by Ludlow a year earlier. In 1650 and still under the leadership of Ludlow, now a deputy governor and magistrate, Uncoway had its name changed to Fairfield. Despite his wealth and status, Ludlow preferred his Puritan prospects in the new England of Oliver Cromwell, so he liquidated his extensive holdings — all at a considerable profit — and returned to England in 1654, eventually becoming a justice in Dublin. Legacy: The “acquisition” and settling of Fairfield County
Gold Selleck Silliman (1732-1790)
Yale graduate (class of 1752), King’s Attorney, and Justice-of-the-Peace for Fairfield County who was appointed commander of the Fourth Militia Regiment in 1774 and charged with organizing local troops to oppose the British. Like many other local patriots, Silliman went to New York to fight the British in 1776, for which service he was promoted to Brigadier General. On the night of May 2, 1779, Silliman and his eighteen-year-old son were captured at their Fairfield home by the British and taken to New York City. His release came in 1780 after two local patriot captains and twenty-five men sailed across the Sound to kidnap Thomas Jones, the Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Long Island, and exchanged him for the Sillimans. Legacy: Organized resistance to the British
Thaddeus Burr (1735-1801)
A descendant of 1644 settlers Jehu and John Burr, Thaddeus became an extremely wealthy farmer and landowner who served as a justice of the peace during the colonial period. Burr cast his lot early with the patriots, and was commissioned by the state to collect and sell flax, Fairfield County’s primary cash crop, to support the war effort. In 1775, General Washington stayed at his Fairfield home, which was then burnt by the British in their raid of 1779. After the war, Burr supported the Articles of Confederation, and personally ratified the U.S. Constitution in Hartford in 1789. Legacy: Patriots’ victory over the British
Capt. Samuel Smedley (1753-1812)
Fairfield-born merchant seaman who became a phenomenally successful privateer during the Revolutionary War, capturing a total of thirteen British vessels, including eight large ones, as captain of the Defence, Recovery, and Hibernia. Captured twice himself, Smedley escaped from a British prison, fled to Holland, and returned to fight another day. After the war, Smedley went into the lucrative West Indian trade before being appointed Fairfield County’s first collector of customs by a grateful President Washington in 1789. He served until 1812. Legacy: Patriot’s victory over the British
Ebenezer Jesup (1767-1851)
The grandson of one of Roger Ludlow’s original accomplices of 1639, Jesup established a small wharf on the Saugatuck River in 1790. Through hard work and industry, Jesup was soon shipping more than a half-million bushels of locally grown wheat a year in his own fleet of three schooners. As his own considerable prosperity depended upon the safe and timely arrival of farmers’ produce to his wharf, Jesup advocated and financed — to the tune of $30,000 — an east-west turnpike across Fairfield County, a road that eventually facilitated the growth of diverse commercial activities. Legacy: The Boston Post Road
Daniel Nash Jr. (1770-1865)
The scion of one of Saugatuck’s oldest families, Nash was a miller (grist, saw and cider) by trade. At age sixty-five, he spearheaded the separation from Fairfield movement by presenting a petition to the General Assembly in Hartford, signed by himself and 145 others, claiming that the residents of Saugatuck were “subject to great inconveniences” by having to journey all the way to Fairfield (four miles distant) to transact their legal business. Despite the objections of Fairfield, the General Assembly sided with Nash and his fellow petitioners and formally chartered the Town of Westport on May 28, 1835. Legacy: Town of Westport
John B. Steenbergen (dates unknown)
New York City entrepreneur who arrived in Fairfield in 1846 with the intention of promoting it as a summer retreat for Gotham’s grandest, who could now come and go as they pleased via regular ferry service. In addition to the many lavish Greek Revival residences that he built and sold to prominent New Yorkers, Steenbergen also constructed and operated the Fairfield House Hotel on Main Street, which, until its demise in 1898, was the largest and most elaborate hotel in the state and a popular summer refuge for thousands of well-heeled New Yorkers. Legacy: Fairfield’s origins as a resort community
Horace Staples (1801-1897)
Easton-born farm boy who, after attending the local district school, became a teacher. Finding the work considerably less remunerative than rewarding, Staples went into the hardware business in 1827 to supplement his income. Instead, he made a fortune, became one of the new town of Westport’s wealthiest citizens and the founder of its first bank. At the premature death of his daughter and only heir, Staples’s mind turned to public charity. Remembering the role education had played in his own life, he underwrote the construction of Westport’s first public school in 1884. In 1889, he founded — and funded — the Westport Historical Society. Legacy: Staples High School and Westport Historical Society
Morris K. Jesup (1830-1908)
Born into a prosperous Westport family that was ruined by the Panic of 1837, Jesup started his own railroad supply firm at the age of twenty-two. From there, he proceeded into banking and was thus able to retire at the age of fifty-four, determined to devote himself “to such religious and philanthropic matters as would excite [his] sympathy.” Among the ones that qualified were the Museum of Natural History in New York, Peary’s Arctic expeditions and a library for his hometown. Legacy: Westport Library
Edward T. Bedford (1849-1931)
A former strawberry farmer who saw a market for commercial lubricants, Bedford amalgamated with Standard Oil in 1880 and went on to establish its overseas operations. Forsaking Rockefeller and the world, he returned to Connecticut and founded New York Glucose, the manufacturer of Karo and Mazola. By far the richest man in Westport at the turn of the century, Bedford gave the town its YMCA in 1923 (allegedly because he wasn’t allowed into the old Westport Hotel as a child), its fire station, the land for the state police barracks and underwrote the funding of Bedford Elementary School (now Town Hall) and Green’s Farms School. A lifetime fancier of horses, Bedford could be seen racing his own sulkies at his palatial estate on Beachside Avenue well into his seventies. Legacy: Westport YMCA, fire station, schools, Westport Town Hall
J. Alden Weir (1852-1919)
West Point– born (the youngest of sixteen) landscape and still-life artist who studied at Paris’s Ecole des Beaux-Arts before setting up his own studio in New York City. While there, he became one of the founding members of Ten American Painters, the loose association of American Impressionists. In 1882, Weir traded a painting (not his) for a 153-acre farm in Wilton, which ended up being his summer home and studio for the next thirty-seven years, and the subject of some 250 of his own canvases. Legacy: Weir Farm National Historic Site
The Jennings Family — Oliver G. (1863-1933),
Annie B. (1855-1939), and Emma Auchincloss (1861-1942)
The children and heirs of Oliver Burr Jennings, an early business partner of John D. Rockefeller, who contributed — especially financially — to the social and cultural life of turn-of-the-century Fairfield. All three lived in opulent country estates and set the polite standard for genteel living. Among their many civic endeavors were the Improvement Association of Fairfield to eradicate mosquitoes, Fairfield High School, the Fairfield Historical Society, and the refurbishing of Town Hall. Oliver’s opulent home, Maitlands, is now McAuliffe Hall at Fairfield University. Legacy: Many Fairfield civic institutions and buildings
Dr. David W. McFarland (1858-1934)
Connecticut-born “alienist” who, after many years working at the New York City and New Jersey State Lunatic Asylums, founded his own private sanitarium in Westport for “the cure of acute and chronic mental diseases, alcoholism and drug addiction” in 1898. In 1903, McFarland bought the Martin Mansion, an Italianate manor set on fifty-five acres and converted it into a long-term residential center for roughly sixty “guests,” primarily from New York’s patrician class, several of whom were accompanied by their own servants. The facility continued to be known simply as Dr. McFarland’s Sanitarium until the 1950s when it became more therapeutic in its orientation and was renamed Hall-Brooke.
Mabel Osgood Wright (1859-1934)
New York City–born and raised daughter of prominent Fairfield retiree Reverend Samuel Osgood, who found her calling in birds at age sixteen. The author and photographer of several books about birds and their conservation, Mabel went on to found the Connecticut Audubon Society in 1898 and Birdcraft Sanctuary, the oldest private songbird sanctuary in the U.S., in 1914. Legacy: Connecticut Audubon Society and Birdcraft Sanctuary
Carmine Lanzo (1862-1923)
Born in Italy, Lanzo emigrated to this country in 1888 and resettled in the burgeoning Italian community of Saugatuck in 1898. A cobbler by profession, Lanzo was by avocation a mainstay of various Italian-American civic organizations, especially the Holy Name Society and the Sons of Italy. His greatest role, however, was that of Christopher Columbus, which he proudly performed in the annual Columbus Day parade that he founded in 1919. After his death, the Italian community switched their annual celebration to a three-day summer festival honoring St. Anthony of Padua. After a thirty-year hiatus, caused by the construction of the turnpike, the annual celebration of Westport’s Italian heritage was revived in 1983 as the Festival Italiano. Legacy: Festival Italiano
Mary Coley Staples (1862-1936)
Founder — along with Josephine Godillot, Grace King Salmon and nineteen others — of the Westport Women’s Club (originally the Women’s Town Improvement Association) in 1907. During her seven years as president (1907-1914), Mary spearheaded a number of civic improvement campaigns, including ones to clean the town streets, erect street signs, install sidewalks, plant trees, clean up Compo Beach and serve hot lunches in the local schools. To help fund their efforts, the women sponsored an annual fair, first known as the Woodland Festival, but later renamed the Yankee Doodle Fair. Legacy: Westport Women’s Club, Yankee Doodle Fair
Nevada Hitchcock (1863-1937)
New York and Philadelphia-based home economics journalist who moved to Westport in 1920 where she continued to ply her stock-in-trade with “Your Own Garden,” a popular column in the Bridgeport Sunday Post. In 1924, Nevada, along with seven other women and two men, put her theoretical experience into practice by founding the Westport Garden Club. Among their more prominent early public projects were mosquito eradication, the development of landscaped triangles at street intersections, the beautification of Town Hall and the horticultural restoration of town cemeteries. Legacy: Westport Garden Club and local green spaces
Solon Borglum (1868-1922)
Born in Utah to Danish parents, Borglum’s first job was foreman on a ranch where he taught himself to sketch and sculpt horses. Forsaking the range for the studio, Borglum went on to study in Cincinnati and Paris before choosing Wilton for his home and studio in 1895. In 1908 he founded the Knockers Club, an informal artists’ group that met in his studio on Sunday mornings, admission to which was gained only by bringing a new work. The Knockers Club held annual exhibitions until 1922, when it acquired its own barn/studio and became the Silvermine Guild of Artists. In 1919 Borglum was awarded the Croix de Guerre for his WWI service in the French military, service for which he had volunteered at age 52. Legacy: Silvermine Guild Arts Center
William S. Hart (1870-1946)
One of the marquee Broadway stage stars at the turn of the nineteenth century, Hart made his name in Shakespearean drama only to switch to celluloid westerns and become an equally bright star of the silent movie era, earning as much as $3,000 a week. Forsaking Manhattan in 1907 for a little peace and quiet, Hart moved to Westport and became a conspicuous figure about town, especially on the porch of the old Westport Hotel where he would hold court. Hart’s burgeoning career eventually forced him to relocate to California, but he remembered dear old Westport in his waning years in the form of a $100,000 bequest made on behalf of his sister, Mary, to establish the Westport Humane Society. Legacy: Westport’s popularity with stage and screen personalities
Domenic Mercurio (1872-1952)
An emigrant from Taormina, Sicily, Domenic began his American years as a fruit peddler in Bridgeport. His reputation for high-end pickings grew, and in 1900 he was able to open a fruit and vegetable store in Fairfield, located on what was then Broad Street but is now called the Old Post Road. Through subsequent expansions, the store stayed in the family and survived even as supermarkets came to dominate the market. Like Gristede’s in Westport, Mercurio’s secret was not just the old-world service but the tradition of home deliveries. Both stores, alas, are gone. Legacy: Local merchants’ emphasis on quality
George Hand Wright (1873-1951)
The son of a blacksmith, Wright was trained at the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts, and eventually became one of America’s top magazine illustrators, especially for Scribner’s, Harper’s and the Saturday Evening Post. Before he hit his stride, however, Wright struggled and in 1907 relocated to an old farmhouse in Westport simply because he couldn’t afford New York. Wright’s financially dictated move inspired other prominent commercial artists to do the same, and eventually led to the founding of the Westport Art Colony, a group of twenty-three artists dedicated to “those creations not within the scope of illustrating” that reached its peak creativity during the WPA program in the 1930s. Legacy: Westport’s artistic community
Rose O’Neill (1874-1944)
Pennsylvania-born, Ecole des Beaux-Arts trained commercial artist who literally dreamed up the Kewpie doll one night in 1909 and went on to become America’s most highly paid female illustrator. With the profits from her dolls — an estimated $1.4 million — O’Neill moved into a faux Italian villa overlooking the Saugatuck River in Westport in 1922 and devoted herself to throwing lavish and artsy parties. Until her spendthrift ways caught up with her in 1937 and she was forced to sell out, Rose served as a major benefactress and promoter of art and artists and lived by the motto: “Do good deeds in a funny way.” Legacy: Westport’s continued reputation as an artists’ colony
Lawrence Langner (1890-1962)
Welsh-born playwright, director and Broadway producer, Langner cofounded the New York Theatre Guild, dedicated to producing plays “unhampered by the need for a happy ending.” In 1928, Langner and his actress wife, Armina Marshall, moved to an old farmhouse in Weston and bought an abandoned tannery on the Post Road which they converted into the Westport Country Playhouse in 1930. The opening performance (June 29, 1931) of The Streets of New York starred Dorothy Gish and Armina Marshall, and initiated a strong tradition of high-caliber, big-name local theater that continues to this day. Legacy: Westport Country Playhouse
Herbert E. Baldwin (1894-1990)
A native of Norwalk, Baldwin established a 2,000-acre apple orchard in Westport after serving in the Navy in World War I. To busy himself in the long off-season, he got involved in local politics, serving for seventeen years on the tax review board, as a state legislator and senator, and RTM moderator (where he opposed the Nike Missile site), all before being elected first selectman for the first time in 1957. During his four terms in Town Hall, the fiscally and socially conservative Baldwin shepherded Westport through the turbulent postwar growth phase and was a prime mover behind the town’s acquisition of the Longshore Country Club for $1.9 million in 1960. Legacy: Longshore Country Club and Westport-Weston Arts Council
Margaret Rudkin (1897-1967)
Mild-mannered Fairfield housewife who discovered in 1937 that her nine-year-old son was allergic to the preservatives contained in most store-bought breads. Unable to find any commercial alternatives, she started baking her own stone-ground, whole-wheat bread, which became so popular that she opened up her own small bakery that she named after the family homestead, Pepperidge Farm. Production rose from 4,000 loaves a week in 1938 to 77,000 a week in 1953, the latter at the new factory in Norwalk. In 1956, Pepperidge Farm added its luxury cookie line. Four years later, Margaret turned off the oven for good when she sold out to the Campbell Soup Company. Legacy: Raising some big dough
John Davis Lodge (1903-1985)
Blue-blooded Bostonian who agreed to take a screen test while on vacation in Hollywood in 1933 and ended up appearing in twenty-one movies over the next seven years. In 1942, Lodge settled in Westport. After serving as a Navy officer during World War II, he was elected to Congress, serving two terms before winning the 1950 gubernatorial contest. A progressive Republican, Lodge was widely admired for balancing the budget while at the same time overseeing a boom in the construction of public buildings and increases in spending for education, all of which was only enhanced by the presence of his wife, Francesca Braggiotti, a patron of the arts. Lodge’s unveering support for a truck route through Fairfield County, however, led to his reelection defeat by Abraham Ribicoff in 1954. Under three separate GOP presidents, he served as an ambassador — to Spain, Argentina and Switzerland. Legacy: I-95, originally known as the John Davis Lodge Turnpike
Albert Dorne (1904-1965)
A distinguished magazine illustrator and former president of the Society of Illustrators, Dorne, along with fellow illustrator Fred Ludekens, founded the Institute of Commercial Art in 1948, a correspondence school for would-be artists located in Westport. Among the twelve original faculty instructors were Norman Rockwell, Stephen Dohanos, Jon Whitcomb and Al Parker. At its peak in the 1950s, the school — renamed the Famous Artists School in 1954 — had 800 salesmen, 65,000 students and a battalion of artist-teachers happy to have some extra work. Dorne’s sudden death deprived the school of its guiding vision, though it still survives to this day under new ownership in Wilton. Legacy: Famous Artists School, which made Westport even more of a haven for cartoonists and illustrators
John J. Sullivan (1906-1997)
The owner of a flower shop in Fairfield, Sullivan got into local politics in the 1930s as a result of the anti-Irish discrimination he encountered professionally. During his twenty-six years (1959-1985) as Fairfield’s First Selectman — in which he was well-served by town clerk Mary Katona — Sullivan oversaw the town’s growth in accordance with the 1961 Comprehensive Plan, a blueprint that advocated an increased business presence but also placed a premium on the preservation of open space and the refurbishing of historic neighborhoods. Sullivan’s single biggest accomplishment was luring General Electric to relocate its corporate headquarters to Fairfield in 1974. Legacy: Modern Fairfield
Edwin Mitchell (1905-2004)
After eighteen years of commuting into New York, where he worked as a retail consultant, Ed opened his own upscale, service-oriented men’s clothing store in 1958. Today, Mitchells of Westport does over $60 million a year in sales to men and women and is run by second- and third-generation family members. A consummate believer in giving back to the community, Mitchell served two terms on the Board of Finance (1964-1970), cofounded the Westport Little League, initiated the Rotary Club’s annual Roast Beef Dinner, introduced the American Field Service Program and served on the YMCA’s Board of Directors. In the early 1990s, Mitchell prevailed in the open spaces-vs.-ballfields battle that erupted over the town’s 1970 acquisition of the Wakeman Farm on Cross Highway. His commitment to community service continues to this day. There’s hardly a charity in the area that hasn’t benefited from a night at Mitchells. Legacy: A huge business that also serves the community
Ralph and Betty Sheffer (1913-2006 and 1923-1977)
A successful advertising executive who moved to Westport in 1950, Ralph Sheffer served the town in a variety of capacities over a fifty-year period, twice as chairman of the commission to review the town charter and sixteen years on its RTM, including ten as moderator. He was the key figure behind the construction of the new library, as well as the acquisition of Longshore Park. His wife, Betty, daughter of the self-made real-estate magnate Aaron Rabinowitz, became known as “Mrs. Westport” for her educational and philanthropic work and worked with the Westport Historical Society. Their daughter Ann Sheffer, along with her aunt Susan Malloy, is continuing the family tradition by strongly backing local institutions such as the Westport Arts Center, the Playhouse and the Westport Historical Society. Legacy: Family tradition of getting things done for the town
Sidney and Esther Kramer
Brooklyn-born copyright attorney and founder of Bantam Books, Sidney moved to Westport in 1950 with his wife, Esther, and opened the Remarkable Book Shop (1962-1994) on Main Street. In 1979 founded Save Westport Now, a composite anti-overdevelopment coalition opposed to the proposed office building on Gorham Island. Advocated a moratorium on commercial development until a comprehensive new town plan could be written. Legacy: Westport’s controlled growth
Ruth Steinkraus-Cohen (1921-2002)
The Vassar-educated, Juilliard-trained daughter of Herman Steinkraus served as Eleanor Roosevelt’s secretary at the United Nations Association meeting in Warsaw in 1956. Inspired, Ruth founded the International Hospitality Committee of Fairfield County, which eventually brought some 58,000 United Nations visitors to Westport, and jUNe Day. On her eightieth birthday, Ruth, a founder of Friends of Music, treated the town to a piano recital. Today the main bridge across the Saugatuck River is named for her. Legacy: jUNe Day
Yale-educated attorney who moved to Westport in 1941, and who, as chairman of the Veterans Center in 1946, successfully lobbied for the erection of surplus army barracks on North Compo Road to serve as temporary housing for returning GIs. See served as the Westport town attorney for twenty years, and concluded his career by heading up the Senior Citizens Housing. Named Westport’s Citizen of the Year in 1970. Legacy: Commitment to affordable housing
A prominent attorney originally from Norwalk, Nevas moved to Westport in 1936 and served as chairman of the town’s World War II bond drive. After the war, Nevas spearheaded the founding of Westport Real Estate Associates, an ad hoc rival to the industry-dominant Westport Real Estate Board, which was felt to covertly discriminate against Jews. After several years of competition, the two merged, effectively solving Westport’s anti-Semitism problem. Legacy: Breaking down religious barriers
Many credit Paul Green with Westport’s getting bus service in the mid-seventies. What is not often recalled is that many people actually fought the idea. But Green, an RTM member, went to work on behalf of elderly constituents who needed to get to shops and to recreation, and the city eventually got on board. Legacy: Westport Transit District
Dr. Guy Robbins
Chairman of the Zoning Board under First Selectman Herbert Baldwin, Robbins supported broadening the tax base so that Westport would not just be for the well-to-do, a very real danger given the influx of corporate types — particularly Wall Street and Madison Avenue types — in the 1950s and ’60s. ‘Robbins’ policies allowed for increased commercial development and multifamily housing (i.e., apartments). For both of these efforts, Robbins was voted Westport Man of the Year. Legacy: Westport’s strong commercial sector
As chairman of the Board of Education in 1970, Joan heroically battled considerable anger and vituperation (she even received a death threat) for trying to enact a state program called Project Concern, which sought to bus in thirty underprivileged kids from Bridgeport to fill empty seats in Westport. It proved to be enormously contentious, drawing a 1,000 riled-up parents to school-board meetings. Project Concern only lasted a decade, but today’s ABC (A Better Chance) program extends the original effort. Legacy: Led Westport to an examination of its conscience
Jo Fox Brosious
Crusading editor of the Westport News between 1964 and 1970, Jo incited and then led the grassroots coalition against the United Illuminating Company’s 1967 plan to build a fourteen-story nuclear power plant on Cockenoe Island. During the course of its eighteen months, the “Save Cockenoe Now” campaign lobbied local, regional and state authorities, choosing wisely to base their opposition on conservation rather than safety grounds. Under Jo’s leadership, the campaign swelled into the thousands, many of them citizen-soldiers who became known as Jo’s “petticoat army” — a term she despises, by the way. Victory came on April 17, 1969, when the Westport RTM voted unanimously to buy the island for $200,000. Legacy: A nice Compo Beach view, sans power plant or glow-in-the-dark marine life
She’s been called the godmother of the arts scene here. Totally committed to the arts scene, Mollie is a cochairman of the Westport Art’s Advisory Committee, cochairman of the Westport Historical Society’s Exhibit and Programs Committee, the curator of the Westport Schools Permanent Art Collection (WSPAC) and a committee member of the WPA Art Rescue Committee, which restored thirty-two large artworks produced as part of the WPA Arts Project. Legacy: Preserving Westport’s artistic history
Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward
Major Hollywood husband and wife stage and screen stars who settled in Westport in 1961 in order to provide a more stable environment in which to raise their children. While being natural boosters of the local dramatic scene, capped off by Joanne’s recent captaining of the major physical and spiritual renovation of the Westport Country Playhouse, the family has gained even more respect for the toughness and vigor of their charity work and local civic involvement. In 1978, Newman and author A. E. Hotchner cofounded Newman’s Own, a nonprofit food company that has so far donated more than $150 million to charity, most notably to the Hole in the Wall Camps that the Newmans started in 1988. Now in thirty-one countries, the camps provide, without fees, a break for children suffering from serious illnesses. The Newmans’ presence here has added immeasurably to our sense of civic pride. Legacy: Are you kidding?
Keepers of the flame
We couldn’t have put this list together without a lot of help. Many people offered suggestions, and we’d especially like to thank Barbara Raymond at the Westport Historical Society, Rod MacKenzie at the Fairfield Historical Society, and Dennis Barrow, formerly of the Fairfield Historical Society. Also to be thanked are Maxine Bleiweiss and the entire desk staff of the Westport Library. Naturally, we turned to Woody Klein’s book, Westport, Connecticut: The Story of a New England Town’s Rise to Prominence. Woody, editor of the Westport News from 1992 to 1997, has also written extensively for this magazine and promises to write another great history piece for us just as soon as his current book is finished. Other indispensable sources include: Thomas J. Farnham’s Fairfield: The Biography of a Community 1639-2000; Thomas J. Farnham’s Weston: the Forging of a Connecticut Community; and Robert Russell’s Wilton, Connecticut: Three Centuries of People, Places, and Progress.