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Westport Museum opens a walking tour to explore Saugatuck River’s history

Saugatuck River Bridge
Wikimedia Commons
Saugatuck River Bridge

The Westport Museum for History and Culture will open later this month a new walking tour featuring stories about the history of shipping and commerce by the Saugatuck River — beginning with its Indigenous people.

“The tour explores the history from the time the Paugussett tribe lived in the area and used it for fishing,” said Ramin Ganeshram, the museum’s executive director.

The Saugatuck River was originally home to the fishing and oystering communities of the Paugussett tribe. European settlers later set up commercial trade routes and shipping along the river, which lured both Irish and Italian immigrants during the 19th and 20th centuries.

The landscape is still marked by its commercial and industrial past, but Ganeshram said there is more diverse history to explore. “There’s Black history starting in the 19th century and Indigenous history starting 7,500 years ago. There’s women’s and children’s history starting as laborers in factories. There’s immigrant history that came to Saugatuck to work in the factories and to work on the railroad,” she said.

The new tour explores the history of what remains in the region, featuring a blue iron truss bridge crossing the Saugatuck River and Bridge Street. The Saugatuck River Bridge, or the William F. Cribari Memorial Bridge, “is one of the oldest moving bridges” to allow water traffic, according to Ganeshram.

“Visitors will really resonate with the fact that there are aspects following American history from pre-colonization to the present, and there will be surprising facts and information that they probably didn’t know,” she said.

The program is funded by Connecticut Humanities and explores the rich history of this riverfront Westport neighborhood.

The walking tour will take place from 1-2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 16, and 12-1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct 22. The meeting location is the Saugatuck Train Station. More information about pricing is available online.

Janet is a former news intern at WSHU.