The Forgotten of Main Street

“We the undersigned residents of 22 ½ Main street, respectfully petition the town government to help us secure decent, low-rent housing for ourselves and our families.” As reported by the Westport Town Crier on December 22nd 1949, these words formed a petition from the residents of the building which housed 70 people including four WWII veterans which was presented to the Westport Board of Selectmen. In honor of Black History Month, we will look into the plight of the residents of 22 ½ Main Street. These residents made up the lion’s share of Westport’s African-American population, many of whom had been in the community since the 18th century when their ancestors were enslaved. The building at 22 ½ Main Street was the epicenter of a neighborhood that existed in alleyways between Elm Street and Main street with “1/2” numbers for their street addresses. The residents of 22 ½ Main Street represented citizens originally from the South who had come north to communities like Westport to seek work in what later became known as the Great Migration. It was a community that fought to survive in the heart of Westport, despite those who sought to exile them. The Town Crier reported that 70 people were living at 22 ½ Main Street, and just a few months earlier in March, a doctor who had been sent to the housing complex reported that he found 24 people living in 25 rooms. Dr. C. W. Gillette had been assigned to ascertain whether the complex were the source of a public health menace by First Selectman Albert T. Scully. It seems that “concerned citizens” of the town were worried about overcrowding and unsightly conditions in the courtyard off Main Street. The town prosecutor’s office initiated complaints via a declaration of violations which stated that “a …