There Goes The Neighborhood

Sure, you live in Westport.

But you also live in Greens Farms. Maybe Coleytown. Or Saugatuck.

Those are a few of the neighborhoods that make up our town. Some are long established, predating our founding in 1835. Some are newer, the result of growth or realtors’ whims.

All are part of ‘06880.”

Karen Scott knows Westport neighborhoods as well as anyone. A co-founder of KMS Partners @ Compass, the other day she took me on a (phone) tour of town.

The Mid-Fairfield County Board of Realtors defines 13 distinct Westport neighborhoods. Besides the 3 mentioned above, there are a few everyone recognizes: Old Hill and Compo Beach, for example. Some are less well known, like Red Coat in the far northwest, Long Lots, Roseville/North Avenue and Compo South (see map below).

(Map courtesy of Mid-Fairfield County Board of Realtors)

A couple are new. Hunt Club (from the Fairfield border and Cross Highway west to Bayberry and south to the Post Road) and Compo Commons (the smallest of all, more commonly known as Gault).

But 2 caught my eye. One is In-Town. The area between the Merritt Parkway, Saugatuck River, Post Road and Roseville Road — with, among others, North Compo and all its side streets — has, with the influx of families from Manhattan and Brooklyn, suddenly become very desirable.

They like the proximity to downtown — they can walk there in theory, if not practice. Until recently though, no one lived “In-Town.” They just lived “close to town.”

Washington Avenue, an “In-Town” neighborhood. (Photo/Google Street View)

The other relatively new name is “Saugatuck Island.” When I was a kid, there was just “Saugatuck Shores.” (And houses there were among the cheapest in Westport. Some were not winterized. Who wanted to live way out there, anyway?!)

But a while ago — no one is sure when — some residents living beyond the wooden bridge decided to become even more exclusive than what had then become the already prestigious Saugatuck Shores.

Hence “Saugatuck Island.” One long-time and embarrassed resident cringes every time she hears it. But there it is, complete with a large sign at the entrance. (Fun fact: No other Westport neighborhood has an actual “entrance.”)

(Photo/Gene Borio)

Karen Scott says that neighborhoods are a good way to describe Westport. “Everyone has preferences,” she notes. “Some people want land, not neighbors. Others don’t want a lot of land. Some prefer near the beach, or close to town. Some want to be close to amenities. Some want to be close to the train station, I-95 or the Merritt” — though with COVID, commuting convenience is less of a concern these days.

The hot real estate market has cooled the “neighborhood” concept a bit, she says. “When there aren’t a lot of homes for sale, some people say, ‘I don’t care. I just want to be in Westport.'”

The neighborhood concept itself has evolved (and become more formalized). At one time, Karen says, areas of town were designated by school districts. (That was probably easier when there were 3 junior highs — Bedford [now Saugatuck Elementary School], Coleytown and Long Lots — rather than just 2 middle schools, located a mile from each other.)

The Long Lots neighborhood has been “sub-divided.” It now includes the Hunt Club area.

As a realtor, Karen Scott is used to describing Westport’s 13 “official” neighborhoods, then squiring clients around to those that sound interesting.

Some buy in neighborhoods they took a quick liking to. Others end up in ones they did not originally consider.

But for all its different neighborhoods, Westport is really one big small town. And most people, Karen says, find “joy and happiness” all over, once they’re here.

Wherever that is.

11 responses to “There Goes The Neighborhood

  1. I thought this piece was going in a different direction…

    On 4/28, a listicle went up on the 25 best places to live in Connecticut and, aside from the list being fairly devoid of population diversity, 4 of the top 10 were communities within Greenwich or Greenwich on its own. Westport was 12. I don’t really care about the list but why wasn’t Saugatuck or In-Town or Red Coat recognized individually? Particularly, Saugatuck. It has a vibrant shopping and eating district, lovely homes, access to the train station and the high way and the beach. Aside from wanting to return to the neighborhood of my youth – Old Hill – and it’s proximity to the YMCA, I’d want to move to Saugutuck over many of the places on the list’s top 10.

    • Richard Johnson

      Cos Cob, Old Greenwich, Riverside, and Greenwich have separate postal names and zip codes – they are totally distinct parts of the larger town of Greenwich each with the population of a small town.

      The rankings don’t surprise me – as a former Greenwich resident, the public amenities and services in Westport are absolutely not on par. I love it here, but there is just no comparison to Greenwich’s public works (sidewalks, granite curbs, improved streetscapes and traffic patterns – all the stuff Westport cries poor or blames the state about) and parks and rec (if you think Compo is nice, visit Tod’s Point). Greenwich itself easily has 3-4x the shopping and dining that Westport has, too, and its downtown is truly vibrant with lots of apartments and condos that are absent in Westport. Again, I love living here but I got quite a rude awakening to just how little the town invests in making Westport’s public spaces beautiful and safe.

      • Gloria Gouveia

        Mr. Johnson, That’s a fair assessment of Westport, particularly as it compares with Greenwich.
        Another other infrastructure matter that Greenwich is also on top of is drainage.
        The Town of Greenwich, with the help of Congressman Jim Himes, has just received funding to correct drainage issues along the Indian River in Mianus.
        We in Westport have the same kinds of drainage issues, are also represented by Jim Himes, and have access to the same funds for State-wide infrastructure improvement and ARPA money, but our leadership has different priorities for spending. One has only to compare the budgets of both towns to see the difference in local policies.
        To add insult to injury, the Greenwich mill rate is significantly lower than Westport’s.

  2. Werner Liepolt

    Thanks for focusing a lens on Westport’s neighborhoods…

    Some are also defined by historical significance:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridge_Street_Historic_District_(Westport,_Connecticut)

  3. The neighborhood names I recall from the 1960s were Coleytown, Old Hill, Saugatuck, Saugatuck Shores, Compo (although not as extensive an area as depicted here), Old Mill, and Greens Farms. Perhaps there were others that I was unaware of. I can say for sure that when I was visiting Tracy M’s on Calumet, I never thought of that as In-Town.🤨

  4. Rick Carpenter

    Yes! “In-Town” is hot! And there are even a few of us who moved in who aren’t from Manhattan or Brooklyn.

  5. Does anyone remember RD, or Rural Delivery, of the mail. There were some side roads off Bayberry Lane that were considered Rural Delivery in the 1950s.

  6. When did Weston cleave off from Westport, or vice versa. I have a vague recall (these days, everything is vague) that the separation was acrimonious. Long before the Weston Shopping Center was built around 1952 (when I was in high school) there was a “commercial” section around Norfield Corners.

  7. Must we continue to divide ourselves? Compo commons is silly, just silly. Those of us who were here before the development remember it well. It was the remains of a gravel mine – a scar on the landscape. In the midst, there was a rusted gravel sorter. It was called simply: The Gravel Pit.

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