Wakeman Farm House:
F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda lived here in 1920
Forty-eight hours of filming last week:
An afternoon on the Upper East Side interviewing Barbara Probst Solomon, the author of the seminal article on Westport and Gatsby for The New Yorker in 1996.
We were fortunate to spend an afternoon at her apartment talking about her childhood in Westport and her views on Scott and Zelda during that summer of 1920.
Barbara’s parents owned Great Marsh, the estate across the Saugatuck River and Sound from the Wakeman Farm. Barbara went to the Sorbonne in Paris after World War II. She and Norman Mailer’s sister Barbara Wasserman participated in the historic escape of two Spanish students from Franco’s goulag Cuelgamuros near Madrid. A prolific writer, the Harry Ransom Collection of the U of Texas, has recently acquired Barbara’s archives including her work in the modern post World War II Spanish resistance.
We hightailed it back to Westport for some evening filming including the Saugatuck River Bridge to capture the scattered lights of Marietta, as detailed in The Beautiful and Damned, the novel scholars all agree was written while Scott was here.
. . . The great cascade of wires that rose high above the river…and ran with the railroad Bridge in the direction of the station . . .
. . . To her right, half a mile down the river, winked the scattered lights of Marietta”
While standing on the bridge next to the tracks a freight train passed. I’ve never seen freight roll by during commuter hours, let alone one that was over a mile long.
The next day, up before the crack of dawn for Main Street without traffic, then to Nyala Farms to shoot the two ET Bedford buildings on the property—a beautiful Victorian House, the original Bedford home, built in the 1860’s, and a dairy barn from the early part of the 20th Century.
Standing under one of the two weeping beach trees on the property was one of the most remarkable Westport experiences I’ve had in the twenty odd years I’ve lived here. Over a hundred years old, the sun streaked through the branches and created a fairy-tale sense of wonderment and beauty.
Then off to the Fitzgerald home on South Compo Road, the Wakeman Farm as it was referred to when they were there. Built in 1758, the side facing South Compo looks much as it did in Scott and Zelda’s time.
The weeping beech trees of Nyala Farms
I wasn’t expecting Jeannine Flower, one of the owners to be there, but she not only welcomed us into her home, she took the time to explain what she to preserving the stories.knew about the house. She was extremely knowledgeable about Scott and Zelda’s time there and she was passionate and committed
Given how few people in town are aware of our cultural history, this was perhaps the surprise of the two days of filming—if only more in town cared as much.
As I write this piece, I realize how lucky I am to explore these hidden gems in our community.
PS. For those with the cash, The F. Scott Fitzgerald home in Westport is up for sale. Check it out here.