Natural Setting and Town Origins
Click on the map for a
The lands comprising present day New Fairfield and
Sherman were granted by the Connecticut General Court
early in the eighteenth century to families from Fairfield.
In 1724, a dozen citizens of Fairfield met with Squantz,
Chief of the Schaghticoke Indians, and agreed on terms
of purchase for this 32,000-acre tract, for the equivalent
of 300 dollars.
A long and narrow triangular tract, approximately
6-miles wide at its base along the northern boundary
of Danbury, the new grant extended northwesterly about
15-miles to an apex at the New York and Kent, Connecticut
two miles wider, the territory had been narrowed by cession
from Connecticut to New York in a boundary accord of 1683.
Due to its great length, the Town was divided roughly in half
in 1802 when the northern portion separated to form the Town
The total land and water area of 16,038 acres now comprising
New Fairfield are rugged, semi-mountainous terrain. Small
areas of glacially created upland ridges are interspersed
among lower mountains in various areas, especially in the
southwestern section. These areas of better land attracted
early settlement and remained agricultural until well into
the twentieth century.
Dominating the eastern third of the Town is Lake Candlewood.
This beautiful and much-indented lake, Connecticut's largest,
was created in 1927-29 by the Connecticut Light and Power
Company as a pumped storage reservoir for a hydroelectric
plant on the Housatonic River in New Milford. The Lake, about
2,800-acres of which lie in New Fairfield, divides this portion
of the Town into many bays, coves, islands and peninsulas.
Photo courtesy of Rick Gottschalk.
The principal "insular" land areas are Vaughn's
Neck, a 2-mile long peninsula in northeastern New Fairfield,
accessible by land only from Sherman and New Milford, a large
peninsula east of Squantz Pond accessible by the causeway
of Route 39, and Candlewood Isle, accessible only by private
causeway. A fourth water separated peninsula, Candlewood Shores
and Arrowhead Point, was transferred to the Town of Brookfield
OVERVIEW OF NEW FAIRIFELD, CT
The highest elevation in New Fairfield is about
1,210 feet at the extreme norwest
corner of the Town. Then the low point is near 430 feet for frontage on
Candlewood Lake. See the full context for New Fairfield's
terrain on the regional
More than half of Lake Candlewood's eighty mile shoreline
lies in New Fairfield. Prior to construction of the Lake,
the impoundment area was a sinuous valley drained northward
by Wood Creek, originating in northern Danbury, and by Rocky
River which flowed southward from Sherman and then north to
the Housatonic at New Milford.
There are two other lakes of note. Ball Pond, a natural body
of water, lies in the southwestern section of New Fairfield
and is surrounded by small lot residential development. The
northern half of Margerie Lake, a City of Danbury water supply
reservoir, extends into south central New Fairfield.
See the map
of watersheds and aquifers in New Fairfield,
these aquifers related to glacial deposits (see
also glacial deposits map). (See also early
research on glaciers and drainage development in Greater Danbury).
A series of small streams drain the Town's upland areas. Ball
Pond Brook and Short Woods Brook converge before discharging
to Lake Candlewood, and Worden Brook in the north reaches
the Lake directly. Gerow and Quaker Brooks join near the Patterson,
New York line on their course westward to the Croton River
in New York.
Central and northern New Fairfield is distinctly mountainous
in character. There are a number of peaks well over 1,000
feet in elevation, including Beaver Bog Mountain, 1,178 feet,
Pond Mountain, 1,200 feet, and several others of 1,200 feet.
Efforts to retain this special community character are
on going by the New Fairfield Land Trust.
New Fairfield Development:
Beginnings to 1950
When the first settlers arrived in 1724, they found that much
of their domain north of the first mile or two above the Danbury
bounds was a rough mountain country of steep slopes, thin
soils and bogs. The southerly and southwesterly part of the
grant, although hilly, offered good arable soil for farming
and was closer to the nearest settlement at Danbury. An added
advantage was proximity to the confluence of Ball Pond and
Short Woods Brooks, offering a potential mill site or sites.
Thus the heart of the first settlement was established in
a small valley near the meeting of the brooks, about a mile
north of the Danbury line. Paths, later roads, radiated out
from this central settlement to outlying lands taken by settlers:
west toward Ball Pond, north toward the Beaver Bog section,
east toward good land beyond Wood Creek, and south along the
ridge toward Danbury.
Scattered farms in areas of good soil prospered and the Town,
which then included Sherman, reached a population of 1,573
in 1790. Small scale rural enterprises harnessed water power
for saw and grist mills, and other trades developed. Population
increased slowly but steadily until 1840. When the town was
divided in 1802, there were an estimated 750 inhabitants in
the south, or New Fairfield part; its 1840 population registered
But the Town's capacity for growth was limited. By the mid
nineteenth century all of the suitable land was under cultivation,
the limited water power offered by the small streams had been
tapped and the resources of wood for timber, fuel and charcoal
were being rapidly depleted. Railroads being built at mid-century
followed the valleys, bypassing hill towns like New Fairfield.
Moreover, the superior farm lands of the west and job opportunities
in growing towns were beginning to draw residents away.
At its mid-century peak of population, there were several
saw and grist mills, two carriage and wagon factories, a grocery
store and post office, a comb shop, a tannery, a blacksmith
shop and three churches, one at New Fairfield Center, one
at Beaver Bog and one at Ball Pond. Economic activity was
centered around the area between the present center and the
crossroads now known as "Candlewood Corners".
In common with other hill towns, New Fairfield's population
declined steadily each decade for eighty years, reaching a
low of 434 persons in 1930. A table of census
population by decade for New Fairfield in this
period is available.
All of the small shops and factories had passed from the scene
by 1900, and marginal farmland had been gradually abandoned
to encroaching forest so that by the 1920's, much of the Town
was once again forested.
Following World War I, hard-surfaced roads began to reach
into rural areas. By 1930 a two-lane State highway had been
built through the Town from Danbury to Sherman. Route "136",
now Route 37, passed through the center of New Fairfield where
it intersected another State route leading eastward, Route
"194", now Route 39, then improved only as far as
the Saw Mill Road corner.
In the early twenties, two natural lakes about a half-mile
apart became accessible by automobile. Putnam Lake, just across
New Fairfield's western border in Patterson, New York, and
Ball Pond in New Fairfield were attractive for seasonal cottages.
Lakefront and intervening acreage between the two bodies of
water was subdivided into small lots and many summer cottages
were built during the 1920's and 1930's. By 1940, there were
about 30 dwellings along the lakefront road which ringed Ball
Pond, and two dozen others in close proximity, virtually all
By the later twenties, the Connecticut Light and Power Company
completed acquisition of the thousands of acres of land required
for its hydroelectric reservoir in the Wood Creek - Rocky
River valley. About 20 homes, several farms and a few seasonal
cottages at the four natural ponds in the area, Neversink,
Barses, Creek and Squantz, were displaced.
Land clearing and construction of dikes and dams began in
1927, and were completed by early 1928. Flooding of the valley
commenced in February 1929, and by September of that year
Candlewood Lake was completed with its water level near the
"440 elevation" taking line.
The natural beauty of the mountain rimmed new lake, its great
size and extensive shoreline, and its accessibility from various
public roads launched an immediate real estate boom. Candlewood
Knolls, on the lake's west shore off Route 39, was subdivided
into lots for a vacation community complete with roads and
a water system in 1929.
from New Fairfield across Candlewood Lake looking
east towards Brookfield. Photo courtesy of Rick Gottschalk.
did New Fairfield's neighborhoods look like in 1934? Check
them out on this highly
detailed aerial photograph.
You will see a lot of farm land, for according to the U. Conn
Dept. of Agriculture in 1935 there were 92 agricultural businesses
in New Fairfield occupying 56% of the Town's total area.
By 1930, a private development
corporation had acquired all of Candlewood Isle and began
construction of a causeway, roads and a seasonal home community
throughout the narrow two mile long island. In 1937 a zoning
commission and zoning regulations were established by the
Seasonal home communities continued to develop: Knollcrest,
Bogus Hill, Joyceland and Hollywyle Park. In the 1940's development
began on a large peninsula of former farmland on the east
side of the Lake, now separated from the "mainland"
of New Fairfield by a wide expanse of water.
Candlewood Shores and Arrowhead Point rapidly developed with
more substantial homes following World War II. Because of
the area's isolation from New Fairfield and accessibility
from Brookfield, the two Towns agreed on a transfer of jurisdiction
and the 333 acre peninsula was officially annexed by Brookfield
The construction of summer homes and addition of seasonal
residents, many of whom were from New York City and its suburbs,
brought an aura of prosperity to the erstwhile rural town.
Many of the more substantial lakefront dwellings became year
round retirement homes. The Town's permanent population increased
slowly through the 1930's and more rapidly during the late
1940's, reaching 1,236 persons in 1950.
Other changes had taken place between the two World Wars.
Acquisition of forested mountain land in northern New Fairfield
began by the State of Connecticut, and the Pootatuck State
Forest exceeded 1,000-acres by the mid-1940's. Old farmhouses
were remodeled and new homes built in scattered locations
as New Fairfield's countryside became desirable for artists,
writers and those whose work required only occasional trips
to urban centers. At mid-century, New Fairfield was more a
seasonal and rural residential retreat than the backwoods
farming community it had been a few decades earlier.
New Fairfield Development:
1950 to 2000
The general prosperity of the postwar years, the attractiveness
of Lake Candlewood residence, and the robust economic growth
of New Fairfield's southern neighbor, Danbury, combined to
produce rapid residential growth for the Town after World
War II. Hundreds of formerly seasonal dwellings were converted
for year-round occupancy and intensive subdivision began throughout
the southern part of the Town. Population exploded during
the 1950's to 3,355 persons, and during the 1960's to 6,991
persons, a 465% increase in only twenty years.
Twenty years later, in 1990, the Town's population had increased
to 12,911, or ten times its 1950 population at the beginning
of the building boom. A large proportion of current residential
development is in subdivisions adjoining Lake Candlewood and
Ball Pond, and many of these areas are developed with lots
of one-half acre or less. The majority of land in southern
and central New Fairfield has now been subdivided, mostly
in two acre and larger lots.
an overview of the extent of land development in New Fairfield,
CT near 1950, a review of 1946-55
USGS Topographic Maps for New Fairfieldwill
be of interest (sample above).
More intensive one acre lot residential subdivisions, many
developed in the 1950's and 1960's, are located in the southern
part of the Town, east and west of the Margerie Reservoir,
west of Route 39 in the Ball Pond vicinity, and east of Route
39 in the Squantz Pond vicinity.
It had always been intuitive
to shape New Fairfield's development to natural features of
the underlying landscape. These are "constraints on development"
due to soil, slope and flood plain.
But as planning and zoning modernized, consideration of these
limiting natural features became more formalized in local
land use regulations, this trend due in part to newly available
federal and state natural resource maps.
the four basic categories above
displayed on a townwide map of New Fairfield.
of the four categories.
HVCEO as the regional planning agency for New Fairfield
was formed in 1968, the word "Housatonic" in its
title having its source in an old
The year 1970 saw the first municipal sewer study and additional
local and regional sewer studies thereafter.
Areas of near wilderness remain in the northwest, north central
and northeast sections as a result of the extensive land holdings
by Wesleyan University, Pootatuck State Forest and Squantz
Pond State Park, and Connecticut Light and Power (Vaughn's
After the arrival of Connecticut's 1973 wetlands protection
law, development potential in New Fairfield was significantly
reduced as the approximately 8% of municipal land area defined
as wetland was largely excluded from development.
small commercial center has developed in recent years from
the nucleus of the original Town center at the crossroads
which is now the intersection of Routes 37 and 39. A shopping
center, service businesses, restaurants, playhouse and post
office all lie in close proximity to the Town Hall, library
and fire house. A smaller commercial center, comprising offices,
a marine service business and other uses is located at "Candlewood
Corners" less than a mile eastward on Route 39.
Both of these small centers have evolved from the historic
locations of early stores, mills and other enterprises. Commercial
areas grew from 17 acres in 1950 to 52 acres in 1990. A small
light industrial park was created in the 1980's on the north
side of Saw Mill Road, restoring a historic industrial base
lost since the nineteenth century; several small enterprises
totaling 9-acres have been built there.
The Town's school complex, comprising a high school, junior
high and elementary schools has been constructed adjacent
to the original Consolidated School just west of the center
on high ground north of Gillotti Road.
Zoning regulations, dating from the early postwar period,
have designated most of the older subdivided area as Residential
R-44 (one acre lots) and other area as R-88 (two acre lots).
Provision has also been made for the two commercial centers
and the small industrial park.
Scene at Town Hall. Photo courtesy
of Rick Gottschalk.
Reflecting the dramatic growth of the Town, land in residential
use increased from 1,156-acres in 1950 to 5,207-acres in 1990.
Institutional uses, such as schools and other public buildings,
increased to four times the 1950 area over the same period,
not including the extensive Wesleyan tract in the northwest
corner. There was a small gain in recreation land and committed
open space, a large proportion of which is State park and
forest land, from 1,192-acres to 1,365-acres.
New Fairfield's zoning patterns on full regional map
New Fairfield's population reached 13,881 in 2010.
New Fairfield has succeeded in creating a pleasant residential
character with views of spectacular scenery on all sides.
Of interest is the New
Fairfield Center Beautification Study. For
a logical path for New
Fairfield's future land use to follow, the
HVCEO Regional Development Plan presents sound advice.
the future: the New Fairfield Plan of Conservation and Development
is found by scrolling far down to "Planimetrics Report
in PDF Files" at the New
Fairfield Public Library web site.