Exit 18 - Westport CT residents and ex-residents

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1639 January 14     Connecticut becomes a Commonwealth under the "Fundamental Orders," or State Constitution, a document developed by the Connecticut colonists, outlining a set of principles for governance, but recognizing no allegiance to England. This document is the origin of the motto of Connecticut, "The Constitution State."
1650     The General Court of Connecticut adopts "Ludlow's Code," Roger Ludlow's codification of the laws of Connecticut, emphasizing civil liberties and equal protection.
1732     Green's Farms area officially recognized, though the area had already held the name unofficially for many years, based on the successful farming of John Green.
1835     Westport is incorporated as a new town, including sections from Norwalk, Fairfield and Weston. On April 28, Daniel Nash submitted a petition with the signatures of 145 citizens of Saugatuck to the state government in Hartford to incorporate the new town of Westport. On May 28, the petition was granted. The first town meeting was held on June 16.
1842     Green's Farms added to the town of Westport.
1843     Civil rights of Jews officially protected by an act of the Connecticut State Legislature.
1845     Westport town government assumes all responsibility for public primary education through the eighth grade, replacing the Church Society in this role.
1846     Townspeople of Westport vigorously oppose the building of the railroad line through Westport. After a bitter battle, the town fails to block the charter for the railroad. The Cockeroft family of New York agreed to sell some of their land to the railroad, as long as a 1,675-foot solid brick wall was built around their property. This brick wall now defines Stony Point, used as the entrance to "Stepford" in the 1975 film "The Stepford Wives."
1848     The State of Connecticut outlaws slavery.
1885     Wilbur Cross becomes principal of Staples High School. Cross would go on to become Governor of Connecticut, from 1931 to 1939.
1892     The Westport Water Company installs the town's first water supply system.
1902     David Bradley challenges ownership and public use of Compo Beach in Bradley vs. Town of Westport, in Bridgeport court. On November 21, the case is decided in favor of the town.
1903     The town offers leases on the Saugatuck river for cultivation of shellfish. This offer is soon withdrawn due to unmanageable demand.
1909     Control of Staples High School transferred from the estate of Horace Staples to the town of Westport.
1909     Town selectmen order private bath houses torn down on Compo Beach.
1917     Westport Board of Finance established, with its members independently elected for oversight of Westport's finances after the town unexpectedly ran out of money.
1917 February     Westport selectmen receive order to appoint 20 enrollment officers to supervise a census to coordinate enlistment for a possible war effort. The United States declares war on Germany on April 6.
1917 September     By a vote of 355 to 256, Westporters resoundingly reject prohibition. Two years later, national prohibition becomes law with the passing of the Eighteenth Amendment.
1923 December 17     The KKK burns a 15-foot high cross in Westport. Rumours swirl of KKK meetings in the town.
1924 February 13     Westport Police Department formally organized.
1927     Bridgeport Hydraulic acquires the water supply system for Westport.
1936 October 22     President Franklin Delano Roosevelt speaks from the steps of the YMCA during a campaign stop, the only currently serving president to visit Westport since George Washington.
1937     The state of Connecticut purchases Sherwood Island, which becomes the first state park.
1939 -1941     Sarah B. Crawford of Westport serves as Connecticut's first female secretary of state.
1949 February 26     Westporters vote to change local government from a Town Meeting system, criticized by some as representing only the special interests who showed up for the meetings, to a Representative Town Meeting system, with elected representatives from six districts.
1957     The Westport RTM officially adopts a town charter, strengthening the power of the RTM. Previously Westport had operated only under state law.
1957     Westport's "garbage crisis," finally solved when the Westport Woman's Club agrees to a landfill on its site at the edge of the Saugatuck River. In October, the Woman's Club sends out invitations for a tea party to be held on top of the dump. About 500 people show up for the festivities.
1957     Herbert E. Baldwin elected First Selectman.
1960     Westport acquires Longshore Beach and Country Club, and opens it to the public.
1960     Richard Nixon wins Westport's vote by a nearly 2-1 margin: 6,842 to 3,825
1964 May 22     Rev. Martin Luther King preaches at Temple Israel.
1967     United Illuminating Company of Bridgeport announces plans to build a 14-story nuclear power plant on Cockenoe Island, less than a mile off Compo Beach. Jo Fox Brosious, editor of the Westport News, leads a vigorous campaign against UI's plan. In August the Westport RTM votes unanimously to take all possible steps to save the island.
1967     John J. Kemish elected First Selectman.
1967     Timothy Breen, a resident of Westport, turns in his draft card to a minister at an anti-Vietnam was protest in Boston. The draft boards responds, as was its practice, by punishing him through reclassifying him 1-A, for immediate drafting into the armed forces. Breen sued the draft board, in Timothy J. Breen v. Selective Service Local Board No. 16. The case finally reached the Supreme Court, and Westport attorney Emanuel Margolis, supported by the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union, won a unanimous decision in favor of Breen, forcing the draft board to cease its practice of punitive reclassification of protestors.
1967 December 15     Staff Sergeant Michael Paquin becomes the first Westporter killed in the war in Vietnam.
1968 May 13     The Westport recreation and education boards unanimously approve a racially integrated summer program for children sponsored by Action for Bridgeport Community Development.
1968 November     A referendum on whether to create a Transit District for Westport is approved by a large margin, the first step toward partial federal funding for a local bus system.
1969     Under pressure due to efforts at legislation from Wesporters to shift eminent domain away from the utility companies, United Illuminating finally decides to offer to sell Cockenoe Island rather than become subject to this fundamental legal shift. On April 17, the Westport RTM votes to appropriate the $200,000 necessary to meet UI's offer. Cockenoe became part of Westport.
1969 September     Westport residents opposing the war begin a petition drive urging the RTM to adopt a resolution asking the President and Congress to end the war.
1969 October     By a vote of 17-15, the RTM passes a resolution requesting withdrawal from the war. This unprecedented action by a town resulted in a front-page story in the New York Times.
1969 October 15     1,200 students from Staples High School march from Staples to downtown Westport to protest the war.
1970     Westport acquires the 38-acre Wakeman Farm on Cross Highway near North Ave. from Isaac Wakeman. In the early 1990's an acrimonious dispute would develop over the use of this property for playing fields by the town.
1970     Stauffer Chemical company breaks ground for new offices at Nyala Farm, after a long and bitter dispute within the town.
1970 April     A proposal of busing a limited number of children from Bridgeport in to Westport under Project Concern, a program funded by the government and the state and supported by several religious groups in Westport, encounters strong opposition from conservatives in town. Quickly a group calling itself BEST (Bipartisan Education Study Team) appears to coordinate opposition to the proposal. A Project Concern program began in September at Assumption School, involving 25 students bused in from Bridgeport. This set an example of how a conservative Catholic institution could support the program on moral grounds, and run it successfully. The Westport Board of Education voted for the proposal, 3-2. In response, conservative groups in Westport quickly called for the recall of the chairman of the Board of Education, Joan Schine. The recall drive ultimately failed, and in 1971 25 students from Bridgeport entered Burr Farms School, and other students from Bridgeport entered Coleytown and Bedford Elementary.
1973     The Greening of the Post Road is launched, with planning supervised by Frank Geiger. In all, 70 trees are planted along the Post Road.
1973 January 23     Richard Nixon announces the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam, technically ending the war, though U.S. troops would not complete their withdrawal until April 30, 1975.
1973 November 7     Jacqueline Heneage defeats Jack Kemish, becoming first selectman of Westport, the first Democrat since 1948 and the first woman to win the office. Heneage would serve until 1981.
1974 August 10     The Minnybus system makes its debut, with a fleet of 8 buses, capable of carrying 16 passengers each. The buses are a distinctive red and white.
1976     The Bicentennial Quilt of Westport is designed by Naiad Einsel, and assembled by 33 Westport women, who spent the entire year sewing it. The quilt now hangs in Westport Town Hall.
1981     Sidney Kramer founds Save Westport Now, an organization calling for a halt to commercial development until a new town plan is completed.
1981     Local businessman Arnold Kaye is repeatedly turned down for his request to build a video arcade on the Post Road.
1982 January 22     Arnold Kaye chains himself to a steel post in Town Hall to protest being turned down for his proposal for a video arcade. He had notified the Westport Police ahead of time, so he is unchained within about ten minutes, but has made his point.
1982 June 14     Arnie's Place opens at 1365 Post Road East, is shortly closed down again by order of the Superior Court, but opens permanently a month later.
1982 November     First Selectman Bill Seiden appoints the Homeless People's Committee, to address issues of the homeless in Westport.
1985 June 26     Celebrations begin for Westport's 150th anniversary, and Connecticut's 350th. Two books about Westport were completed that year, and presented at Town Hall as part of the celebration: Jack and Dorothy Tarrant's A Community of Artists and Westport...a Special Place, written and compiled by Eve Potts, and designed by Howard Munce. The celebrations also included a short play written by Ed Bryce, re-enacting the founding of Westport by Daniel Nash. The play was presented on the same day, and in the same place, that Nash left for Hartford requesting Westport's incorporation as a new town.
1985 November     Democrat Dorothy S. Hauhuth is elected First Selectman. She would serve until 1989.
1986     When the state proposes replacement of the historic metal bridge over the Saugatuck on Bridge Street with a "McBridge," Westporters vociferously object. After much wrangling, the state DOT agrees to completely restore the bridge. After a temporary bridge is built to the side of the historic bridge, the bridge is disassembled piece by piece and completely restored.
1986 September 1     The new library built on top of previous landfill for the town opens.
1987     By a vote of 26-8, the RTM votes to condemn the property of Baron von Langendorff's estate. A referendum of 54 to 46 percent supports the acquisition of the property by eminent domain through comdemnation. The town eventually acquires the property at a cost of $9.42 million. In a contest to suggest a name for the park, Winslow Park is chosen.
1989     Lindblad Travel goes out of business, in part due to having to pay a fine to the federal government for violating trade embargoes against Vietnam and Cambodia. Just three years later in 1992, the embargo against Cambodia was lifted by U.S. President George H. W. Bush, and in February 1994, President Bill Clinton lifted the trade embargo against Vietnam, resulting in a number of American companies starting to offer tours there.
1991     Joan Schine, former chairman of the Westport Board of Education, is awarded the Woman of Valor award by Education Equity Concepts, a non-profit group based in New York, for her sustained efforts in community service for children.
1995     Westport forms a Sister City program with the city of Yangzhou, China to promote cultural exchange.