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Fairfield, Connecticut

Uncoway (The Place Beyond)

Town of Fairfield
Aerial view of Fairfield
Aerial view of Fairfield
Official seal of Fairfield, Connecticut
Seal
Nickname(s): 
The Field
Location in Fairfield County and the state of Connecticut
Location in Fairfield County and the state of Connecticut
Fairfield, Connecticut is located in the United States
Fairfield, Connecticut
Fairfield, Connecticut
Location in the United States
Country  United States
U.S. state  Connecticut
County Fairfield
Metropolitan area Bridgeport-Stamford
Founded 1639
Founded by Roger Ludlow
Government
 • Type RTM
Area
 • Total 31.38 sq mi (81.3 km2)
 • Land 29.9 sq mi (77 km2)
 • Water 1.48 sq mi (3.8 km2)
Elevation
59 ft (18 m)
Population
 (2020)
 • Total 61,512
 • Density 2,057.3/sq mi (794.3/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (Eastern)
ZIP Codes
06824, 06825, 06828
Area code(s) 203/475
FIPS code 09-26620
GNIS feature ID 0213429
Major highways I-95.svg Merritt Pkwy Shield.svg

Fairfield is a town in Fairfield County, Connecticut, United States. It borders the city of Bridgeport and towns of Trumbull, Easton, Weston, and Westport along the Gold Coast of Connecticut. As of 2020 the town had a population of 61,512. In September 2014, Money magazine ranked Fairfield the 44th best place to live in the United States and the best place to live in Connecticut.

History

Colonial era

In 1635, Puritans and Congregationalists in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, were dissatisfied with the rate of Anglican reform, and sought to establish an ecclesiastical society subject to their own rules and regulations. The Massachusetts General Court granted them permission to settle in the towns of Windsor, Wethersfield, and Hartford which is an area now known as Connecticut.

On January 14, 1639, a set of legal and administrative regulations called the Fundamental Orders was adopted, and established Connecticut as a self-ruling entity. By 1639 these settlers had started new towns in the surrounding areas. Roger Ludlowe, framer of the Fundamental Orders, purchased the land presently called Fairfield, and established the name.

According to historian John M. Taylor: "Early in 1639 the General Court granted a commission to Ludlow to begin a plantation at Pequannocke. He was on that errand, with a few others from Windsor, afterwards joined by immigrants from Watertown and Concord. He bought a large tract of land from the Pequannocke sachems, - afterwards greatly enlarged by other purchases to the westward,- and recalling the attractive region beyond (Uncoa), which he had personally seen on the second Pequot expedition, he also “set down” there, having purchased the territory embraced in the present town of Fairfield, to which he gave its name."

Towns created from Fairfield

Fairfield was one of the two principal settlements of the Connecticut Colony in southeastern Connecticut (the other was Stratford). The town line with Stratford was set in May 1661 by John Banks, an early Fairfield settler, Richard Olmstead, and Lt. Joseph Judson, who were both appointed as a committee by the Colony of Connecticut. The town line with Norwalk was not set until May 1685.

Over time, it gave rise to several new towns that broke off and incorporated separately. The following is a list of towns created from parts of Fairfield.

Revolutionary War

See also: Burning of Fairfield (1779)

When the American Revolutionary War began in the 1770s, Fairfielders were caught in the crisis as much as, if not more than, the rest of their neighbors in Connecticut. In a predominantly Tory section of the colony, the people of Fairfield were early supporters of the cause for independence. Throughout the war, a constant battle was being fought across Long Island Sound as men from British-controlled Long Island raided the coast in whaleboats and privateers. Gold Selleck Silliman, whose home still stands on Jennings Road, was put in charge of the coastal defenses.

In the spring of 1779, he was kidnapped from his home by Tory forces in preparation for a British raid on Fairfield County. His wife, Mary Silliman watched from their home as, on the morning of July 7, 1779, approximately 2,000 enemy troops landed on Fairfield Beach near Pine Creek Point and proceeded to invade the town. When they left the following evening, the entire town lay in ruins, burned to the ground as punishment for Fairfield's support of the rebel cause. 10 years later, President George Washington noted that after traveling through Fairfield that "the destructive evidences of British cruelty are yet visible both in Norwalk and Fairfield; as there are the chimneys of many burnt houses standing in them yet."

Fairfield recovered slowly from the burning, but soon after the end of the war its houses and public buildings had all been rebuilt.

Twentieth century

World War I brought Fairfield out of its agrarian past by triggering an unprecedented economic boom in Bridgeport, which was the center of a large munitions industry at the time. The prosperity created a housing shortage in the city, and many of the workers looked to Fairfield to build their homes. The trolley and later the automobile made the countryside accessible to these newly rich members of the middle class, who brought with them new habits, new attitudes, and new modes of dress. The prosperity lasted throughout the twenties.

By the time of the Wall Street Crash of 1929, the population had increased to 17,000 from the 6,000 it had been just before the war. Even during the Depression, the town kept expanding.

The grounding of a barge with two crewmen on Penfield Reef in Fairfield during a gale led to the 1st civilian helicopter hoist rescue in history, on November 29, 1945. The helicopter flew from the nearby Sikorsky Aircraft plant in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Fairfield became the home of the corporate headquarters of General Electric (GE), one of the world's largest companies.

The opening of the Connecticut Turnpike in the 1950s brought another wave of development to Fairfield, and by the 1960s the town's residential, suburban character was firmly established.

Geography

The town is on the shore of Long Island Sound. According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 31.3 square miles (81 km2), of which 30.0 square miles (78 km2) is land and 3.4 square kilometres (1.3 sq mi)*, or 4.15%, is water. The Mill River, the waters of which feed Lake Mohegan, flows through the town.

Fairfield consists of many neighborhoods. The best known are wealthy Southport, where General Electric Chief Executive Officer Jack Welch lived for many years, and Greenfield Hill, with its large areas, famous dogwood trees, and picturesque green with its white-spired Congregational church. Other well established neighborhoods include Stratfield, Tunxis Hill, the University area, Grasmere, Mill Plain, Knapp's Village, Melville Village, Holland Hill, and the Fairfield Beach area, which has recently undergone a renaissance with the construction of many new homes by residents wishing to live in proximity to the beach and downtown. Two shopping districts in town include the Post Road (U.S. 1) and Black Rock Turnpike.

Neighborhoods

Fairfield Post Road 1956 Postcard
Fairfield Center in a 1956 postcard

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1820 4,151
1840 3,654
1850 3,614 −1.1%
1860 4,379 21.2%
1870 5,645 28.9%
1880 3,748 −33.6%
1890 3,868 3.2%
1900 4,489 16.1%
1910 6,134 36.6%
1920 11,475 87.1%
1930 17,218 50.0%
1940 21,135 22.7%
1950 30,489 44.3%
1960 46,183 51.5%
1970 56,487 22.3%
1980 54,849 −2.9%
1990 53,418 −2.6%
2000 57,340 7.3%
2010 59,404 3.6%
2020 61,512 3.5%
U.S. Decennial Census
See also: List of Connecticut locations by per capita income

As of the census of 2010, there were 59,404 people in the town, organized into 20,457 households and 14,846 families. The population density was 1,927 people per square mile (744/km2). There were 21,648 housing units at an average density of 703 per square mile (277/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 91.6% White, 3.7% Asian, 1.8% African American, 0.06% Native American, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 1.2% from other races, and 1.6% from two or more races. 5.0% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 20,457 households, out of which 38.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 60.6% were married couples living together, 9.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.4% were non-families. 22.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 15.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.69 and the average family size was 3.19.

In the town, the population was spread out, with 25.4% under the age of 18, 11.1% from 18 to 24, 21.1% from 25 to 44, 27.4% from 45 to 64, and 15.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females, there were 90.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.6 males.

The median household income (in 2013 dollars) was $117,705 (these figures had risen to $103,352 and $121,749 respectively as of a 2007 estimate). Males had a median income of $69,525 versus $44,837 for females. The per capita income for the city was $55,733. 2.9% of the population and 1.8% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 2.8% of those under the age of 18 and 3.6% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.

In 2012, Fairfield was ranked 64th in Money magazine's Best Places to Live.

Points of interest

Fairfield Beach Connecticut Postcard c 1921
Fairfield Beach, in a 1921 postcard
1934 Postcard showing Post Road in Fairfield, Connecticut
Post Road, in Fairfield Center, in a 1934 photo
Fairfield Library Horse
1910 postcard showing Fairfield Library
Postcard of Fairfield, Connecticut c 1938 showing corner of Post Road and Old Post Road
Fairfield Community Theater, shown in this 1938 postcard, is operated by the Fairfield Community Theatre Foundation

Historic sites

  • Connecticut Audubon Society Birdcraft Museum and Sanctuary — 314 Unquowa Road (added 1982)
  • Bronson Windmill — 3015 Bronson Road (added 1971)
  • David Ogden House — 1520 Bronson Road (added 1979)
  • Fairfield Historic District — Old Post Road from Post Road to Turney Road (added 1971). This is the old town center of Fairfield, roughly along Old Post Road between U.S. Route 1 and Turney Road. The area contains Fairfield's town hall, public library, and houses dating from the late 18th century.
  • Fairfield Railroad Stations — Carter Henry Drive (added 1989)
  • Greenfield Hill Historic District — Roughly bounded by Meeting House Lane, Hillside Road, Verna Hill Road and Bronson Road (added 1971)
  • John Osborne House — 909 King's Highway West (added 1987)
  • Jonathan Sturges House — 449 Mill Plain Road (added 1984)
  • Pine Creek Park Bridge — North of Old Dam Road, over Pine Circle (added 1992)
  • Southport Historic District — Roughly bounded by Southport Harbor, railroad tracks, Old South Road, and Rose Hill Road (added 1971)
  • Southport Railroad Stations — 96 Station St. and 100 Center St. (added 1989)

Arts, entertainment, and sports

  • The Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts on the campus of Fairfield University opened in 1990. Its busy schedule of events includes popular and classical music, dance, theatre, programs for young audiences, and the noted Open VISIONS Forum lecture series which feature eminent opinion-makers, artists, authors, political commentators, and learned contributors to the humanities and sciences. The Quick Center houses the 740-seat Kelley Theatre, the 150-seat Lawrence A. Wien Experimental Theatre, and the Thomas J. Walsh, Jr. Art Gallery. The Quick Center has become known as one of the finest concert halls in the country and was recognized as the "cultural epicenter of Fairfield County" by Westport Magazine.
  • The PepsiCo Theatre, a renovated 1922 carriage house on the campus of Fairfield University, is the home to the Theatre Program of the Department of Visual and Performing Arts and Theater Fairfield, the resident production company of the University. The PepsiCo Theatre also hosts experimental productions by students, faculty and local professionals.
  • The Bellarmine Museum of Art on the campus of Fairfield University host shows by regional artists and touring exhibitions as well as a permanent collection.
  • The Gazebo on Sherman Town Green is home to concerts during the summer in the afternoon hours. Free to listen, along with free food and drinks it is an ideal place for entertainment. Many concerts are directed toward an older audience.
  • WSHU-FM Public Radio operated by Sacred Heart University
  • WVOF, student-run radio at Fairfield University
  • Fairfield University hosts collegiate athletic competitions open to the public including basketball, baseball, cross-country, field hockey, lacrosse, rowing, soccer, swimming, tennis, and volleyball.

Parks and recreation

Fairfield residents enjoy a wealth of recreational opportunities, many of which stem from Fairfield's enviable location on the Long Island Sound.

  • The town's 5 miles (8 km) of Long Island Sound coastline include five town beaches which are staffed by lifeguards during the summer, and miles of privately owned beach which are open to the public below the high tide mark.
  • South Benson Marina is a town-owned facility providing 600 boat slips which residents can rent for the summer.
  • Lake Mohegan, which includes waterfalls called The Cascades, is a popular destination for hiking, as are the Fairfield Audubon Society and the Bird Sanctuary.
  • Ye Yacht Yard, a town-owned facility on picturesque Southport Harbor, provides boat launch services to residents, and access to moorings in Southport Harbor. Ye Yacht Yard is also the location of Community Sailing of Fairfield, whose members share use of two 18-foot sailboats.
  • The "SportsPlex" is located in downtown Fairfield and offers athletic activities such as; ice skating, indoor climbing, Indoor soccer and gymnastics.

Other points of interest

Penfield Beach II
Penfield Beach

Transportation

Fairfield is traversed by U.S. 1, Interstate 95, and the Merritt Parkway. It has three Metro-North Railroad stations, Fairfield Metro, Fairfield and Southport. The town is served by several public bus lines of the Greater Bridgeport Transit Authority.

Places of worship

Economy

In May 2012, Moody's Investors Service revised the Town of Fairfield's $192 million general obligation bond debt from negative to stable. In June 2012, Moody's awarded Fairfield with an AAA bond rating, which it maintains to this date.

Taxes

In 2005, the mill rate of Fairfield was 16.67. The 2012–2013 taxes in Fairfield rose 4% to a mill rate of 23.37. The 2013–2014 mill rate which went into effect on July 1 for fiscal year 2013–2014 also increased by 2.38% to 23.93.

Large and distinctive companies

  • R.C. Bigelow (Bigelow Tea Company) — headquarters, Black Rock Turnpike
  • Sturm, Ruger & Co. — headquarters, Lacey Place in Southport, firearms manufacturer
  • Fairfield University — 1073 North Benson Road (5000 students and more than 500 academic employees plus additional administrators and staff)
  • Sacred Heart University — New England's second largest Roman Catholic university

Education

Fairfield Entrance
Main entrance to Fairfield University

Fairfield has two public high schools, Fairfield Warde and Fairfield Ludlowe; three public middle schools, Roger Ludlowe, Tomlinson, and Fairfield Woods Middle School; and eleven public elementary schools.

Fairfield has several Catholic schools, including two high schools, Fairfield Prep and Notre Dame, and two primary schools, St. Thomas Aquinas and Our Lady of the Assumption. A third Catholic primary school, Holy Family, was closed by the Diocese of Bridgeport at the end of the 2009–2010 academic year.

Non-religious private schools include Fairfield Country Day School and the Unquowa School.

Fairfield is also home to two post-secondary institutions, Fairfield University and Sacred Heart University.

Notable people

  • William Burnett Benton (1900–1973), former U.S. senator
  • Leonard Bernstein (1918–1990), conductor, composer, musician
  • James Blake (born 1979), professional tennis player
  • Julius Boros (1920–1994), professional golfer, winner of 18 PGA tour events including the 1952 and 1963 U.S. Open and 1968 PGA Championship
  • Aaron Burr Sr. (1716–1757), native, clergyman, educator, and father of Vice President Aaron Burr
  • John Byrne (born 1950) comic book artist and author
  • Ann Shaw Carter (1922–2005) first woman to be a commercial helicopter pilot
  • Kenton Clarke (born 1951), CEO of Computer Consulting Associates, trumpet player, Buglers Hall of Fame and Drum Corps Hall of Fame
  • Susan Cooper (born 1935) author of children's sequence The Dark Is Rising
  • Hume Cronyn (July 18, 1911 – June 15, 2003), actor, Lifeboat, Cocoon
  • Michael J. Daly (1924–2008), World War II Medal of Honor recipient
  • T. F. Gilroy Daly, attorney and federal judge, born in Fairfield
  • C. Douglas Dillon, Secretary of US Treasury, ambassador to France, lived in Fairfield c. 2002–2003
  • David L. Downie, author and professor of politics and environment policy at Fairfield University
  • Keir Dullea, actor, 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Dick Durrell (1925–2008), founder of People magazine, adjunct professor at Sacred Heart University
  • Timothy Dwight IV (1752–1817), Congregationalist minister, author, president of Yale College; pastor for 12 years at Greenfield Hill Church
  • Margaret Morrison, granddaughter of Andrew Carnegie
  • Tatiana Foroud, internationally recognized genetic researcher
  • Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, founding members of Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club
  • Robert Greenberger (born 1958), writer, editor and Fairfield politician
  • J. J. Henry, PGA golfer, 2006 Ryder Cup team member
  • Paul Hogan, aka "Crocodile Dundee", actor, lived many years in Fairfield with wife Linda Kozlowski
  • Don Imus, radio personality, past resident in Southport
  • Eliot A. Jardines, Assistant Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Open source intelligence
  • Oliver Burr Jennings, Exxon (Standard Oil) founder
  • Pat Jordan, sportswriter and acclaimed author of A False Spring, ranked #37 on Sports Illustrated's Top 100 Sports Books of All Time
  • Linda Kozlowski, actress, born in Fairfield
  • David LaChapelle, born in Fairfield, photographer and director
  • Justin Long, actor, Jeepers Creepers, Ed
  • Roger Ludlow, town founder
  • Pauline Bradford Mackie (1873–1956), writer of historical fiction
  • John Mayer, Grammy-winning singer-songwriter and guitarist
  • Bradley B. Meeker, Minnesota Territorial Supreme Court justice
  • Brian Monahan, US Navy rear admiral and Attending Physician of the United States Congress
  • Matt Morgan, professional wrestler, American Gladiator and actor
  • Anne M. Mulcahy, chairman, Xerox Corporation
  • Charles Nagy, former MLB pitcher for Cleveland Indians
  • Joe Namath, New York Jets quarterback, Hall of Famer, past resident
  • Henry Fairfield Osborn, (1857–1935) geologist, paleontologist, eugenicist
  • Dan Remmes, actor/writer, book writer of Grumpy Old Men: The Musical
  • Jason Robards, actor, lived in Southport
  • Richard Rodgers, composer of more than 900 songs and 43 Broadway musicals, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Rodgers and Hart
  • Philip Rubin, CEO emeritus of Haskins Laboratories and a former White House science adviser
  • Meg Ryan, actress, Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally..., born in Fairfield
  • Chris Sarandon and Joanna Gleason, actors
  • Gold Selleck Silliman, Revolutionary War general
  • Samuel Smedley, privateer in Revolutionary War
  • Howard Sosin, founder of AIG Financial Products, presently investor
  • Jonathan Sturges, delegate to the Continental Congress and member of the United States House of Representatives
  • Gene Tierney, actress, Laura, Leave Her to Heaven; attended Unquowa School in Fairfield
  • Brian Torff, jazz musician, composer, head of Fairfield University music program
  • Raviv Ullman, star of Phil of the Future
  • Franco Ventriglia, opera singer, Fairfield native
  • Jeffrey P. von Arx, president of Fairfield University
  • Robert Penn Warren, author and poet
  • Robert Waterman, clipper ship captain who sailed to California and named Fairfield, California after this city
  • Michael Weatherly, actor, plays Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo in series NCIS
  • Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, former town resident
  • Bob Wright, chairman of NBC for 20 years
  • Mabel Osgood Wright, author and founder of Connecticut Audubon Society (Birdcraft Museum in Fairfield)
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