The other day, alert “06880” reader Amy Leonard discovered an August 8, 1949 Life magazine. The cover promised an inside look into “Fairfield County: Country Home of Smart New Yorkers.”
Amy asked if I’d be interested. She knows me well.
The country’s most popular magazine located us “between the sailboat-dotted waters of Long Island Sound and the woodsy border of New York State.” Our “scalloped shore line” offered “hundreds of miles of valuable waterfront property.”
The “electrified New Haven Railroad and high-speed Merritt Parkway” provided swift access to New York City. Our “rolling hills and leisurely life” attracted well-to-do, already successful commuters.
“Their existence is not utopian,” Life warned. Commuters’ days revolved around the 7:43 a.m. train to New York, and the 5:16 p.m. back. Taxes were high, “and servants expensive.”
But, the story continued, “for the New Yorkers who can, or think they can, afford a country home, Fairfield County is probably the best — and the newly fashionable — place to have it.”
They could, for example, pay $140 a year beyond the regular train fare. That got them a seat in the railroad club car: “an exclusive, air-conditioned arrangement for wealthy commuters who prefer not to ride in coaches.”
Not everyone took the 7:43, of course. “Idea people” — artists and authors whose commuting schedule was not as rigorous as businessmen — had long lived here.
In fact, Life said, “there are probably more professional artists within a 25-mile radius of Westport than in any comparable spot in the U.S.” Just 4 years old, the Westport Artists Club already boasted 148 members.
The Life story ended with a few aspirational photos: a painted split rail fence, station wagon, old window pane and beagle, among them.
Described as “some of the items which commuters consider essential to a happy life in Fairfield County,” they distinguished “the transplanted New Yorker who has fled from the sameness of apartment life, and is now making his country place as similar to the one next door as he can.”
Life ceased weekly publication in 1972. What would a current story on Westport say and show?
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