In 1873 Horace Staples built the First National Bank of Westport, which is today’s National Hall. Horace Staples was chairman of the First National Bank of Westport, and he donated his personal fortune to build the town’s first high school.
During much of the later part of the Nineteenth Century the business district of Westport was located on the west bank of the Saugatuck river, rather than the east side where most of the stores are today. This probably explains why the town is called Westport.
The First National Bank of Westport was located on the ground floor of National Hall. Westport’s weekly newspaper at the time, the Westport Herald occupied the second floor. Panoramic views of the Saugatuck waterfront were seen from the third floor which contained a large auditorium/ballroom, which was used by the town for concerts, dances and graduation ceremonies. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building has also housed an undertaker’s business, a plumbing business and a furniture store.
In July 1987, in a move to help revitalize the area, the entire block on the corner of Post Road West and Wilton Road was designated as a Historic Design district by the Planning and Zoning Commission. This also included the Vigilant firehouse and three other storefronts.
The Vigilant firehouse was built in 1931 and is the second fire station built on that site. The first was built in 1874 as the Vigilant Fire Company, an extension of the original Saugatuck Fire company, to protect the town on the west side of the Saugatuck River. The station is composed of two stories: a truck storage facility on the ground floor, and a five story tower used to hang fire hoses to dry.
On Saturday , Oct. 22 at 3 p.m. the Westport Historical Society will sponsor a walking tour of the Old Saugatuck Business district. The tour will be led by Bob Mitchell, President of the Westport Historical Society. There is a $1 suggested donation and children under 12 are free. Meet at Jessup Green in front of the Westport Public Library’s lower entrance. To register and for more information about the Westport Historical Society, please call (2030 222-1424. Visit the Society, westporthistory.com and its Remarkable Gift Shop for unique Westport gifts.