In 2010, Anna and Shawn Rycenga went house hunting. She was the land use director in Oxford, Connecticut; he worked in New York City.
Westport was in between. It had all the amenities: excellent schools, great children’s activities, beaches. But something else attracted the couple too.
As they drove through Westfair Village, they saw kids riding bikes, and adults walking dogs. It had a true neighborhood feel.
The Rycengas bought a home on Westfair Drive. Twelve years later, they’re still there.
And still very happy.
Westfair Village — nestled between Post Road East and North Bulkley Avenue — is little known outside of the area. Its profile is as low-key as the Westfair Center strip mall it sits behind, across the Post Road from Stop & Shop.
But with over 100 homes, a couple hundred children, and a year-long calendar of fun events, it’s one of Westport’s last true “neighborhoods,” in all the community-minded, hometown senses of the word.
It’s had a long time to create traditions. Westfair Village was built right after World War II by developer B.V. Brooks Sr., for beneficiaries of the GI bill.
Located on an old onion farm, the circular streets featured modest Capes on 1/3-acre lots. He named the roads “Westfair” and “Fairport” (combinations of Westport and nearby Fairfield) as well as “Dexter” (the nickname of his son, B.V. Jr.) and “Brook” (presumably short for his own last name). It’s not clear what the 5th street — Hunting Lane — is named for.
In the nearly 80 years since then, Westfair Village has seen many changes. Homeowners added 2nd floors to the original Capes, rebuilt their interiors, and enlarged their small houses. Some became teardowns, replaced by bigger homes. Large trees provide shade, on once-open lots.
Anna Rycenga estimates 14 or 15 original homes remain.
As younger families like hers moved in, Anna wanted to make sure they felt welcome. She created a neighborhood directory.
That made organizing a block party easy. The first, in 2013, included a live band. Anna — who loves to cook — provided the food. It’s now become one of the highlights of the year.
Tables laden with food sit on lawns. People dance in the streets.
The block party has become an annual end-of-September tradition.
But the block party is just one part of a full year of fun. There are holiday parties, chili cook-offs, Easter egg hunts.
On the first day of school, mothers enjoy a “MOMosa” bar. On the last day, dozens of boys and girls ride their bikes to Long Lots Elementary.
Friday ice cream trucks are a much-loved new tradition. Westport’s Police and Fire Departments and Emergency Medical Services are all invited (and eat free). Children clamber in and out of police cars and fire trucks.
If Stevan Dohanos was alive, he’d paint the scene for the Saturday Evening Post (if it was alive too).
The pandemic accelerated the influx of families with young children.
It also made social connections harder. But parents organized a socially distant Halloween parade. And people set out lawn chairs by their driveways, and chatted with their neighbors and passersby.
“I feel blessed to live in Westport as a town, and in this neighborhood especially,” Anna Rycenga says.
Peggy Lehn agrees. She’s lived there for 30 years. She’s thrilled at the energy and sense of community the young families have brought.
“”I was sad to see some of the older residents move on,” Peggy says. “But the new residents have embraced this wonderful neighborhood. There is a real sense of community here: kids riding bikes, people walking dogs.
“And always, a wave and a smile.”
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