The Westport area had been inhabited by Native Americans for at least 7,500 years before the first permanent European settlers. Five farmers and their families, subsequently known as the Bankside Farmers, arrived at Machamux in 1693 having followed cattle to the isolated area known to the Pequot as the "beautiful land". As the settlement expanded its name changed: it was briefly known as "Bankside" in 1693, officially named Green's Farm in 1732 in honor of Bankside Farmer John Green and in 1835 incorporated as the Town of Westport.
Agriculture was Westport’s first major industry. By the 19th century, Westport had become a shipping center in part to transport onions to market. In the 20th century a combination of industrialization, and popularity among New Yorkers attracted to fashionable Westport—which had attracted many artists and writers—resulted in farmers selling off their land. Westport changed from a community of farmers to a suburban development. Westport's population grew rapidly from the 1950s to 1970s. This expansion was driven by the town's proximity to New York City, its school system's reputation, “chic New York-type fashion shopping” and the "natural beauty of the town". By the 21st century Westport had developed into a center for finance and insurance (23%), and professional, scientific and technical services (21%).
Archaeological finds led to what are currently the earliest identified inhabitants of the Westport area that date back 7,500 years. Records from the first white settlers report the Pequot Indians living in the area which they called Machamux translated by the colonialists as beautiful land. Settlement by colonialists dates back to the five Bankside Farmers; whose families grew and prospered into a community that continued expanding. The community had its own ecclesiastical society, supported by independent civil and religious elements, enabling it to be independent from the Town of Fairfield.
During the revolutionary war—on April 25, 1777 a 1,850 strong British force under the command of the Royal Governor of the Province of New York, Major General William Tryon landed on Compo Beach to demolish the Continental Army’s military supplies in Danbury.Minutemen from Westport and the surrounding areas crouched hiding whilst Tryon's troops passed and then launched an offensive from their rear. A statue on Compo beach commemorates this plan of attack with a crouching Minuteman facing away from the beach; looking onto what would have been the rear of the troops.
The Town of Westport was officially incorporated on May 28, 1835 with lands from Fairfield, Weston and Norwalk. Daniel Nash led 130 people of Westport in the petitioning of the Town of Fairfield for Westport’s incorporation. The driving force behind the petition was to assist their seaport’s economic viability that was being undermined by neighboring towns’ seaports. For several decades after that, Westport was a prosperous agricultural community distinguishing itself as the leading onion-growing center in the U.S. Blight caused the collapse of Westport's onion industry leading to the mills and factories replacing agricultural as the town's economic engine.
Starting around 1910 the town experienced a cultural expansion. During this period artists, musicians, and authors such as F. Scott Fitzgerald moved to Westport to be free from the commuting demands experienced by business people. The roots of Westport’s reputation as an arts center can be traced back to this period during which it was known as a "creative heaven."
In the 1950s through to the 1970s baby boomers relocating from New York to the suburbs discovered Westport's culture of artists, musicians and authors. The population grew rapidly assisted by the ease of commuting to New York City and back again to rolling hills and the "natural beauty of the town." By this time Westport had “chic New York-type fashion shopping.” And a school system with a good reputation, all factors contributing to the growth.
Geography and environment
According to the United States Census Bureau, Westport has a total area of 33.3 square miles (86 km2). 20.0 square miles (52 km2) or 60.02% of it is land and 13.3 square miles (34 km2) or 39.98% is water.
Both the train station and a total of 26 percent of town residents live within the 100-year floodplain. The floodplain was breached in 1992 and 1996 resulting in damage to private property, the 1992 flooding of the train station parking lot and the implementation of flood mitigation measures that include town regulations that affect renovations and additions to building within the floodplain zone.
Neighborhoods of Westport, CT
Saugatuck – around the Westport railroad station near the southwestern corner of the town – a built-up area with some restaurants, stores and offices. Saugatuck originates from the Paugussett tribe meaning mouth of the tidal river.
Saugatuck Shores - A curved peninsula surrounded by the Long Island Sound, this area was once part of the town of Norwalk. Today several hundred residents live on the peninsula that became part of Westport in the 1960s..
Saugatuck Island - founded in the 1890s as Greater Marsh Shores, the island was renamed to its current name in 1920 and became a special taxing district on November 5, 1984.
Greens Farms – is Westport's oldest neighborhood starting around Hillspoint road and ending at Westport's boundary on the east side.
Cockenoe Island (pronounced "KuhKEEnee") – just off the southeastern coast of the town. Cockenoe Island was purchased by Westport for $212,740 from the United Illuminating Company in 1969 so that the company could not use the land to build a nuclear plant.
Old Hill – west of the Saugatuck River and north of the Post Road, a historic section of town with many homes from the Revolutionary and Victorian eras. Prior to the road being called the Boston Post Road it was called the Connecticut Turnpike.
Coleytown – Located at the northern edge of town, near the Weston town line. Home to Coleytown fire station, Middle and Elementary school.
Compo – Located around the main beach in the town, Compo Beach. Compo (Compaug), can be traced back to the early Paugussett tribe and means the bear's fishing ground.
Panorama from Saugatuck Bridge, Westport, CT, taken in 2012.
As of the census of 2000, there were 26,644 people, 9,586 households, and 7,170 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,286.7 people per square mile (496.8/km²). There were 10,065 housing units at an average density of 503.0 per square mile (194.2/km²).
According to the 2000 Census, there were 9,586 households, of which 38.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 66.1% were married couples living together, 6.8% have a woman whose husband does not live with her, and 25.2% were non-families. 20.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.66 and the average family size was 3.10.
In the town the population was spread out with 27.9% under the age of 18, 2.7% from 18 to 24, 26.2% from 25 to 44, 28.0% from 45 to 64, and 15.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 90.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.3 males.
According to a 2007 estimate, the median income for a household in the town was $147,391, and the median income for a family was $176,740. As of the 2000 Census, males had a median income of $100,000 versus $53,269 for females. The per capita income for the town was $73,664. 2.6% of the population and 1.5% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 2.7% are under the age of 18 and 2.1% are 65 or older.
Westport was named the fifth top-earning city in the US, with a median family income of $193,540 and median home price of $1,200,000 in July 2008.
Westport Town Hall on Myrtle Avenue
The town switched to a Representative Town Meeting style governance in 1949. The government consists of a three-member Board of Selectmen, a Representative Town Meeting (RTM), a Board of Finance, a Board of Education, a Planning and Zoning Commission, and various other commissions, boards, and committees.
In 2005, the mill rate for Westport was 12.97 and is expected to increase to 17.43 for fiscal year 2013.
The town of Westport is protected by the paid, full-time firefighters of the Westport Fire Department (WFD). Established in 1929, the Westport Fire Department currently operates out of 4 Fire Stations, located throughout the town, and maintains a fire apparatus fleet of 4 Engines, 1 Truck, 1 Rescue, 1 Fireboat, 1 High Water Unit, 1 Utility Unit, and a Shift Commander's Unit. The Westport Fire Department responds to, on average, approximately 4,000 emergency calls annually.
Below is a complete listing of all fire station locations and apparatus in the town of Westport.
Rescue 3, Fireboat, High Water Unit, Utility Unit
Car 3 (Shift Commander)
515 Post Rd. E.
555 Riverside Ave.
66 Center St.
61 Easton Rd.
Education and science
View of Staples High School, December 2011
About Westport's schools (public & private) and library.
High school – Staples High School, Westport's only public high school, was ranked by Newsweek magazine in 2005 as 452nd on a list of the best 1,000 high schools in the country (Grades 9 to 12) with 1,800 students. In the 2008–2009 school year Staples was also ranked the No. 1 school in Connecticut by Connecticut Magazine. The school underwent a $73,900,000.00 renovation that was completed in 2005. In 2011, Staples High School was ranked No. 1 out of 190 high schools in the state of Connecticut, with 87 percent of students meeting or exceeding state goals. This put Westport as the No. 1 high school district out of 134 districts across the state.
Middle schools – The district has two middle schools (Grades 6 to 8) – Bedford Middle School and Coleytown Middle School – with a total of 1,321 students. In September 2009, Bedford Middle School was awarded the government-honored Blue Ribbon Award. In 2011, Out of 298 middle schools, Coleytown Middle and Bedford Middle schools were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the state.
Elementary Schools – There are five elementary schools (Kindergarten to Grade 5) with a total of 2,556 students:
Preschools – There are a number of preschools in Westport, including Stepping Stones Pre-school, Greens Farms Nursery School, Saugatuck Nursery School, Earthplace Nursery School and the YMCA Childcare.
For the 2009–10 fiscal year, the school district's adopted budget is $110.6 million. The school district had an estimated $109.1 million budget for the 2009–10 fiscal year, giving it an average per pupil expenditure of $16,266. The average 2010 class size for kindergarten through first grade was 22 students and 25 students for second through fifth grade.
Private schools – Greens Farms Academy, located in the 1920s Vanderbilt estate overlooking Long Island Sound, is a K-12 private preparatory school located in the Greens Farms section of town. Pierrepont School, opened in 2002 on Sylvan Road, is a private K-12 school for gifted students.
The Westport Library taken from the opposite side of the Saugatuck River.
The Rolnick Observatory, operated by the Westport Astronomical Society, is open to the public for free on clear Wednesday and Thursday evenings. The observatory is located at 182 Bayberry Lane, on a former Nike missile site.
Earthplace, The Nature Discovery Center, is a natural history museum, nature center and wildlife sanctuary located at 10 Woodside Lane. The organization is dedicated to the promotion of public environmental education, preservation and conservation. Activities include maintaining a 62-acre (250,000 m2) open space wildlife sanctuary with trails, presenting public nature education programs, a water quality monitoring program, an interactive nature discovery area, a nursery school and summer camp.
Around 1910 the Town of Westport experienced the beginning of a period during which it attracted artists, musicians, writers, and creative people. These include F. Scott Fitzgerald.
The Westport Country Playhouse, founded in 1930, is a regional theater known for its excellent theatrical performances. After Paul Newman moved to Westport in the 1960 he became a principal "driving force" behind the playhouse reported as "one the country’s most respected summer theaters." The playhouse went through a renovation process that was completed in 2005 on its seventy-fifth anniversary.
One of the most popular tracks on REO Speedwagon's eponymous debut album, released on Epic Records in 1971, was "157 Riverside Avenue". The title refers to the Westport address where the band stayed during the recording process.
In musicals and onstage
In the musical Rent, Benny is married to Alison Grey of Westport, who comes from a wealthy family.
Westport is where the Ricardos and the Mertzes moved to when Lucy and Ricky bought a house in the country on I Love Lucy.
Westport was the location of the fictional residence (1164 Morning Glory Circle) of Darrin and Samantha Stephens on the television series Bewitched.
Comprising 234 acres (0.95 km2), Sherwood Island State Park is located on Long Island Sound and includes beach access. Compo Beach and Burying Hill Beach are municipal beaches that are open to out-of-town visitors in the summer for a fee. The state's 9/11 memorial was put in Sherwood Island State Park in Westport; on a clear day the New York City skyline can be seen.
Panorama of Westport town park: Longshore Club Park, taken in 2011.
In 1960 Westport purchased Longshore Club Park.
Panorama of Compo Beach, Westport, CT, taken in 2012.
In 2011 Paul Newman's estate gave land to Westport to be managed by the Aspetuck Land Trust.
Main article: Media in Westport, Connecticut
Westport's first newspaper dates back to the printing and publication of the first issue of The Saugatuck Journal on December 26, 1828.
Westport is served by both English-language newspapers and news websites including Westport News and WestportNow, as well as the Westport Minuteman. The town is also home to a monthly magazine Westport.
Literature and film
For a more comprehensive list, see: List of Literature and films from Westport, Connecticut
Westport has been the subject, inspiration, or location for written and cinematic works.
In 1911, part of the film The Charity of the Poor was filmed in Saugatuck followed up the next year, in 1912, with the film In Time of Peril.
Two films partially filmed in Westport during the 1950s include the 1956 movie, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, with Gregory Peck, based on the book by Sloan Wilson which was itself based in Westport, takes place in part and was filmed in parts of Westport. In particular, shots of the Westport Saugatuck train station can be seen, as well as a sequence towards the end of the movie showing a still recognizable Westport Main Street in the late 1950s. Followed up by the 1958 production of Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys!.
The 1968 film The Swimmer starring Burt Lancaster and based on a short story by John Cheever, was partially filmed in Westport backyard pools.
Among the many famous actors, singers and other entertainers who have lived in town is Paul Newman who resided in Westport from 1960 until his death in 2008.Fala (1940–1952), President Franklin D. Roosevelt's dog, was an early Christmas gift from Mrs. Augustus G. Kellogg, a town resident. Actress Gene Tierney grew up in Greens Farms.Martha Stewart also lived in Westport at her historic estate of Turkey Hill. Saint Jean Donovan, a lay missioner martyred in El Salvador in 1980 grew up in Westport and graduated from Staples High School. She is honored on the litany of saints by the Lutheran World Federation and by The Anglican Communion.
Save the Children, the American charity, governed entirely separately from the British charity of the same name, is headquartered in Westport.
There are three periods in Westport's economic and industrial history. First was farming, then industry and manufacturing, and finally services: financial, professional, scientific, and technical.
Farming – From 1648 with the settlement and commencement of farming at Bankside for the next two and half centuries Greens Farms flourished as an agricultural area. At its peak From 1861–1865 Westport was the largest onion seller to the U.S. Army during the Civil War in the United States. 75 farmers contributed to the onion industry that saw up to ten dollars for a barrel of white onions sold to the New York City market. 89–95 The onion industry ended with the arrival of the cutworm which wiped out the community's crop.
Industrialization – in the 20th century, Westport's manufacturing activities expanded mills and factories and it became a shipping center.
Service industry – the financial services sector employs 7,171 in Westport; half of whom commute daily to Westport. The financial services industry is a major segment of the local economy. The major financial services companies in Westport now are Bridgewater Associates, a global investment manager and Westport's largest employer, Canaan Partners, a leading early stage venture capital firm focusing on IT and life sciences, and BNY Mellon. Professional, scientific, and technical services companies include Terex, a Fortune 500 company manufacturing industrial equipment and offering professional and technical services around those products, and dLife, a multimedia diabetes education (and marketing) company.
^Meyers, Joe (September 10, 2008). "Major movies filmed scenes in Conn.". Connecticut Post Online.|accessdate= requires |url= (help) "The recent Warner Bros. release "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2" features parts of Bridgeport standing in for Providence, R.I. and Manhattan; the Westport Country Playhouse is passed off as a Vermont summer stock theater; and WestConn in Danbury fills in for the Rhode Island School of Design."