Brief History of Westport

Fairfield County, Connecticut


Westport is on the Sagatuck River and Long Island Sound.


1795  --  Captain Ebenezer Coley built a saltbox house for his son Michael that later became the Italianate style Wheeler House.  It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Connecticut 1795 Register of Historic Places. It houses the Museum of Westport History.

1830s  --  Westport developed as a shipping center.

1837 --  Yale-graduate Ebenezer Adams established the Adams Academy.  (It operated until 1867.) 

Adams Academy graduate E. T. Bedford founded the Karo Sugar Company.  He also gave Westport their Library, the YMCA and funds for public schools.

1853-1857  --  Adams Academy graduate William Marcey was President Franklin Pierce's Secretary of State.

1861-1865  --  the American Civil War.

Through the 19th century  --  the 1795 Michael Coley House had a succession of owners including Hezekiah Ripley, Ann Avery, Farmin Patchin, Morris Bradley and Julia Bradley Wheeler. 

1865  --  Morris Bradley enlarged and converted the old Michael Coley House to the popular mid-19th century Victorian Italianate villa style.

By 1870  --  Morris Bradley had accumulated $90,000 of real estate, including three stores in Darien.. 

early 1870s  --  Morris Bradley's daughter, Julia Bradley, married Charles Wheeler of Stratford. 

c. 1873  --  the Inn at National Hall built on the Saugatuck River.  It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

1886  --  both Morris and his son died.  His wife Mary willed the homestead to her daughter and son-in-law Julia and Charles Wheeler. 

1930s  --  producer Lawrence Langer bought a former red barn home/tanning factory and turned it into the Westport Country Playhouse for Summer Stock Theater. The structure is listed on the Connecticut Register of Historic Places.

1933  --  Julia Wheeler died.  She left the home to her two sons, William and Lewis.  Dr. Lewis Wheeler lived in the house. 

1958  -- death of Dr. Lewis Wheeler.  He gave the Wheeler House to housekeeper Charlotte Darby.

1968  --  Helen Keller died here.

1980s  --  the Bedford Elementary School was expanded to become the Westport Town Hall.

Westport is the home of Newman's Own, Paul Newman's food company.

1998  -- multi-million dollar renovation of the Westport Public Library completed.

2000  --  Martha Stewart announced that she would move from Westport to escape an "unfriendly neighborhood atmosphere." She added that the community had lost the small-town atmosphere it once had.

2000 census  --  the population, was 25,749.

Prominent residents, past and present:

Michael Bolton, singer

Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, actors

Peter DeVries, author

Phil Donahue, TV host, and Marlo Thomas, actress.


Westport Community Profile:

Westport Historical Society: Wheeler House.

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