Westfair Village: Westport’s Hidden Neighborhood Gem

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.

A home on Fairport Drive.

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.

This home in Westfair Village started out as a Cape. The 2nd floor was added later, and the floor plan — the same in every home — was reworked.

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.

Westfair girls …  (Photo/Anna Rycenga)

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.

… and guys. (Photo/Anna Rycenga)

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).

Friday ice cream: a neighborhood tradition. (Photo/Anna Rycenga)

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.

Police and kids hang together. (Photo/Anna Rycenga)

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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14 responses to “Westfair Village: Westport’s Hidden Neighborhood Gem

  1. Sixty years ago, I knew a few families that lived in Westfair Village. It was, just like you describe it, a neighborhood whereby everyone was friendly. Bauer Place , off Old Road, had a similar feel to it. Developed after World War II, and I think the homes originally sold for $3,000.

  2. And don’t forget High Point Road! We had a busy Block Association and regular block parties – and road our bikes up and down our road, Dan too!

  3. Anna Rycenga continues to make a huge contribution to Westport as the excellent Chair of the Westport Conservation Commission. Thanks Anna.

  4. Developer B V Brooks, Sr. recorded a map of his Westfair Village lots the month after Pearl Harbor so it is unlikely he foresaw the G. I. Bill. But, he had a clear idea of who he expected to be his buyers. Each Westfair lot came with restrictions. One was:

    “Only persons of the white race may live upon, and only such persons and corporations controlled by such persons may possess title to any land or building in the subdivision” Recorded April 16,1942 Vol 77 Page 118 Westport Land Records.

    Non-whites weren’t even allowed to live there much less buy a lot.

    Westfair Village was and remains a great neighborhood and, thankfully, such racial restrictions were ruled unconstitutional in the 1960s.

    • Bob: a veteran local attorney reminded me that it was the US Supreme Court in 1948 in Shelley v. Kraemer which struck down the enforcement of these types of repugnant covenants.

      He, too, had seen these types of restrictions many years ago including one on a Post Road deed that barred selling to “colored people or Italians.”

  5. Great work Bob, Mr Brooks was certainly a ‘Westport gem’ himself.

  6. Bob Grant, That piece of information you shared is jaw-dropping! You and I both knew at least one family there. I honestly can’t believe what I just read, although we’re talking 80 years ago.

  7. Maybe someone can comment on this. I wrote an e-mail to someone who I knew in the late1950s and he made the following comment about Westfair Village-
    (I did have a friend “in the village” That fellow who blew himself up on a commercial jet, lived there too) I won’t mention my friend’s name, but he’s age 78 or 79 and graduated from Staples. Who from Westfair blew themselves up on a plane?

  8. Ellen Dale Naftalin

    I remember that plane crash story too. In fact he was a man who lived on the way to Westfair Center. We, as children in the 50s, used to go the back way to the Center by cutting through what are now back yards. Then it was just a dirt pathway. He was quite friendly. Watched out for us on our way to the soda counter at the drug store. Then one day a plane crashed and the story was that he was the one who planted the bomb. I don’t know if it was ever proven but the investigation determined the bomb was under his seat. It was the beginning of my fear of flying. In any case, Westfait Village was a wonderful place to be a child. Halloween was amazing. Everyhouse had a doors wide open. One family used to create a haunted house inside. There were so many of us kids in the 50s. I am glad to see there are many children in the neighborhood again. Things go in cycles,

  9. When I was a lifeguard at Greensfarms beach the Franks were regulars. If remember correctly Mrs Frank was one of my 17 pregnant moms. It was a great shock.

  10. Liza Swenn Martin

    My Mom and her siblings grew up in Westfair Village. Her brother was born in their home, the first house in the village Before it was developed. The house still stands. Several of the houses are the original barns. Later my grandfather who passed on buying the whole parcel and only bought the caretaker house he raised his family in, gave his daughters land on Elizabeth Drive, just over the stone wall between the village and Old Road . Mom chose the parcel with the pony barn which my Dad and his Uncle turned into their home. It’s seems to have been remodeled a lot but, it’s still the original barn.

  11. Liza Swenn Martin

    Post Script:My Aunt and Uncle, the Fratino’s originated the block party l o n g before you had to pay$35 ( is it still $35 ?) to party with your neighbors.

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