The Planes

In The Great Gatsby a hydroplane is mentioned. There are two types of hydroplanes- a boat, and a plane. F.E. Lewis possessed at least seven yachts over time- “His two motor-boats slit the waters of the Sound” (GG, 39) (see Naval section, above). As a plane “he told me he had just bought a hydroplane…Want to go with me, old sport? Just near the shore along the sound.” (GG,47) F.E. Lewis possessed at least seven yachts over time- “His two motor-boats slit the waters of the Sound” (GG, 39). Local reports were that Lewis allowed the US Navy in World War One to station hydroplanes off his estate in the Saugatuck River.

The August 27th The Westporter Herald warned that


Residents Are Confronted With New Menace-Aviators Stunts Endanger Lives of Bathers-What To Do?

Residents of Fairfield Beach have just solved the bathing suit problem only to be confronted with another fact. Daredevil exploits of a seaplane pilot whose maneuvers daily are jeopardizing the lives of scores of bathers and beachers have started the residents wondering if there isn’t some way of insuring protection against these ‘stunt men’.

It has become a favorite practice of the plane chauffeur passengers scooting along the waterfront at a low altitude, just missing the roofs of the houses and then swinging out over the water and going at breakneck speed for three diving floats.

Seeing the giant aircraft apparently bent upon their demolition is not enjoyed by anyone except the pilot and his passengers. It is his practice to whizz straight at the floats and in the nick of time and then lift his machine up in the air over the heads of terrified bathers.

The August 8th 1919 Westport paper reported



Westport sportsmen and business concerns interested in aviation will be given an opportunity to acquire modern navy seaplanes at low prices when the Navy Department sells 265 machines at auction in the near future.

On a kayak trip on the Saugatuck River I was surprised to discover the twisted wreckage of two docks, not counting the one the main one that Lewis had previously mentioned. These could be where one of his many yachts was moored, or due to this location where seaplanes were docked during either World War One or Two. What supports this latter idea is that the Saugatuck River is the calmest section of Lewis’s waterfront, it empties into a larger less calm bay, which in turn leads to the front of the Lewis estate where planes would have the room to be launched off into Long Island Sound.

On August 8, 1920 The Westporter Herald reported:

Compo Beach Sprays


A big seven passenger seaplane alighted at Compo Beach Sunday afternoon attracted quite a bit of attention. It came sailing up form the direction of South Norwalk and circled over the beach, alighting in the water and coming ashore near the Cannons at Cedar Point. Nearly everyone on the beach flocked around the machine and a few minutes later the flyer started out with five passengers for a twenty minute flight.

And later that August


Word has been received that a big hydroplane will be at Compo Beach on Monday. Labor Day, to take up those who want to see what the surrounding countryside looks from the sky. The plane was a Compo Wednesday and did a thriving business at $10 a trip.

The new technology was not without its’ dangers, as an article earlier that August conveyed:

A hydroplane attempted to land at the beach Saturday afternoon and came near being wrecked by striking the sand bar. Bathers went to the assistance of the pilot.

Another article of that August:

A hydroplane flew over Westport Wednesday night and circled down over the Saugatuck River, which it followed southward. It was later learned the flyer stopped at Compo Beach, where a small crowd of bathers gathered around the machine.

During World War Two on the Saugatuck River just off the (now former) Lewis estate young Westport men learned to fly seaplanes in preparation for patrol, rescue and combat. (Lou White).

Norwalk Hour of October 27, 1948 featured an advertisement


Don’t let the cost of flying make you an inactive pilot. Take advantage of the low winter rates offered at THE WESTPORT SEAPLANE BASE, Longshore, Westport, Connecticut. THE SEA WINGS CLUB,  is, in effect, the Westport Seaplane base and has been for ten years, affording the pilots in the area the best in seaplane flying.

Planes were flying over and all around the Fitzgerald’s house in the summer of 1920.

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