A Brief History of Darien, CT
A Brief History of Darien, CT
Sometimes we forget to look back and admire the unique and accomplished histories of our Connecticut towns. Maybe you’re considering building a new custom home and moving into the area. Or perhaps you’re renovating or building an addition on a special property here. Either way we thought it would be interesting to take a brief look back, to the history of Darien.
Darien, CT, located in lower Fairfield County, was originally the Middlesex Parish area of the town of Stamford until it was incorporated into its own town in 1820. It’s located directly on the shore of Long Island Sound and was named after a city in Panama.
Settlement of the area began around 1700 and roads were built shortly thereafter. Darien is located right on the main route from Boston to New York, a significant rout traveled for centuries. During the Revolutionary War, General George Washington, along with nearly 20,000 men, marched directly through Middlesex Parish – what would eventually become Darien – on their way to New York City. Middlesex Parish citizens were divided between British and Patriot loyalties, causing a major rift. In fact, several raids took place in which many townspeople were sent to British prisons.
For its first couple of decades, after being officially incorporated, the population of Darien remained around 1,000. Most residents were farmers or otherwise artisans and merchants. The completion of the railroad in 1848 was the start of a new beginning for the town, but it wasn’t until the end of the Civil War that New Yorkers discovered the beauty of this small town and wanted to build their own residences. Summer homes were built first and trolley services commuted visitors from place to place – these trolleys were eventually shut down in the 1930s. This was the time period when many people who worked in New York began to move to more rural areas and commute to the city.
Directly following the Civil War, Darien opened the very first home in the United States for disabled veterans and the orphans of fallen soldiers. Although the home has since been closed and the grounds expanded and turned into a cemetery, many veterans received the care and help they needed in those buildings after returning from war.
During the twentieth century, Darien began to come into its own. A wealthy New York merchant bought the southern tip of Long Neck and built an impressive home known as “Brick House.” This home has housed a plethora of well to do men and women including Andrew Carnegie and his wife and an elite girl’s school where President John F. Kennedy’s sisters where educated. The town theater opened up during the 1920s and several schools were constructed.
Today, Darien is known as an affluent and comfortable suburban town that offers easy access for commuters to New York. The town boasts a large and active town center as well as an excellent school system and a very involved community. The coastal town offers all of the amenities that a small-town suburban family could want (population eventually leveled off just below 20,000) – beautiful land to build homes and the waters of Long Island Sound for outdoor activities.