There are lots of ways to learn about Westport.
You can read books. Drive around town. Talk to old-timers.
Or you can check out the Westport Historical Society‘s next exhibit.
It’s a 2-parter. “Five Generations of Yankee Ingenuity: The Gault Family” (Sheffer Gallery) and “Tracy Sugarman: Citizen-Artist” (Mollie Donovan Gallery) tell you everything you need to know about one remarkable family, and one amazing man. Taken together, they describe what was Westport once was, and how we became what we are today.
The Gault story began in 1863. Robert bought a horse and wagon to haul and plow manufactured goods from the northern part of town to the railroad station.
The company moved into lumber, stone and coal, then farming, chicken and livestock raising, even ice harvesting and gravel crushing.. They received coal and sand by barge and rail at their Riverside Avenue depot.
In the Great Flu Epidemic of 1918, Gault provided horse-drawn hearses.
In the 1930s the Gaults delivered home heating oil — and built a Little League field across the river from their oil storage tanks.
After World War II, Howard Gault subdivided the Hockanum estate on Cross Highway, preserving the Frederick Law Olmsted-designed landscape and carriage roads (paved with Gault sand, gravel and asphalt).
The Gaults have long cared about historic preservation — and 21st century energy. The company’s services now include oil tank removal, biofuel, propane and standby generators. At the same time, the new Saugatuck redevelopment project — reclaiming and recreating the old-time community — has been driven by the Gault family.
Tracy Sugarman, meanwhile, made his mark as a “citizen-artist.” A veteran of D-Day, he settled in Westport after World War II and became a successful illustrator.
Meeting Martin Luther King in 1964 at Temple Israel changed his life. He spent 2 “Mississippi Summers” documenting black voter registration initiatives. He formed lifelong friendships with people like Fannie Lou Hamer, and was with Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney shortly before they were killed. Through his scores of drawings, 2 books and over 40 videos, he documented decades of African American history, as well as poverty in Appalachia and life at Rikers Island. He published his 1st novel a month before he died in December — age 91.
Don’t miss these 2 exhibits at the Westport Historical Society. They’ll give you special insights into this special town.
And when you’re there, be sure to ask about the names on the 2 galleries: Sheffer and Donovan. That’s your next assignment.
(The opening reception is Friday, May 24, 5:30-7:30 p.m. For more information click here, or call 203-222-1424.)