We met F.E. Lewis’s grandchild Alden Bryan in Vermont where he graciously shared pictures of Lewis’s “Longshore Farm” in Westport. These were personal property and covered five scrapbook volumes and hadn’t seen the light of day in nearly a century. Among a hundred other pictures a long dock was attached to his boating complex and linked to the large tower previously discussed. Motor launches, sailboats and larger boats were moored offshore. This is an invaluable find for The Westport Historical Society as none of these pictures of one of “Westports Crown Jewels” had never been seen.
We told him of the early history of Longshore. As the story goes in 1648 Fairfield farmer Henry Gray lived in the Pequot held “Machamux” meaning “beautiful land” in the colonists translation, modern day Greens Farms- as we have seen Bedford was later to won almost the entirety of- as well as Compo. Gray (Scott and Zelda lived in a descendants house) had followed his strayed cattle – which were searching for new grass – west to the banks of the Saugatuck River. Their he purchased land from the local “Compaw” Native Americans.
At the age of seventeen local resident Howard Gault trucked granite for a stone dock Lewis had built for himself and was irritated that it was allowed to fall into disrepair later by the town -Gault commented “they destroyed one of the best docks around” (1). Gault Energy, family-owned and run for 145 years is the oldest family-owned and -operated fuel company in Fairfield County – and the oldest business in Westport (2). Founded as a hauling company in 1863, Gault Energy wagons transported grain to rural Westport farms and then, evolving with the town’s needs, the loads changed from feed to lumber to coal to gravel, stone and fuel. Gault pointed out to Barbara Probst Solomon the ruins of a tower the Lewis erected on his private beach recalling “It was a wonderful thing…like an imitation lighthouse”. Barbara Probst Solomon wondered whether this tower was the one referred to in Nick Carraway’s description [of Gatsby’s waterfront] “I watched his guests diving from the tower of his raft, or taking the sun on the hot sand of his beach while his two motor boats slit the waters of the Sound” . As mentioned Lewis possessed boats so large that the term “yacht” was seen as not sufficient enough to convey its’ size.
F.E. Lewis sold Longshore to Colonel Patrick Powers. In his lifetime, Powers produced nearly 300 movies, most of them early silent films produced at Universal before 1913 or one-reel animated shorts. In 1928, Powers sold Walt Disney a Cinephone system so that he could make sound cartoons such as Mickey Mouse’s Steamboat Willie (1928). Unable to find a distributor for the sound cartoons, Disney began releasing his cartoons through Powers’ company Celebrity Pictures. (3)
In early 1929 by Col. Patrick Powers built the golf course at Longshore, aided by famed golf course architect Orrin E. Smith. Rockefellers and the Roosevelts, Babe Ruth, Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe were all part of Longshore’s storied past. http://innatlongshore.com/about/history/Today, the course is ranked 9th best course in Connecticut by GolfWeek Magazine. (4) In 1938 Powers promised Westporters a great gift: he would build a $100,000 ‘marine stadium’ in Westport — presumably at Longshore, yet the town declined (5).
In 1960, Westport’s forefathers finalized a deal to purchase Longshore Country Club and Park in only nineteen days. It was not done without some resistance. Ed Karazin’s father was an electrician. “Like many people back then, he thought of golf as a rich man’s sport,” Karazin said. However, he also added that the first couple of golf championships at the country club were won by electricians and plumbers. They, in fact, were able to utilize the golf green when they got off work in the late afternoon, while many of the town’s more affluent members were commuting back and forth to New York City. (6) Purchased for 1.9 million, it was the Louisiana Purchase of Westport- the best deal in Westport real estate history.
1. Barabara Probst Solomon, 84.