Darien encompasses 12.9 square miles within its boundaries, with many miles of shoreline on Long Island Sound. The city is nearly self-contained with five elementary schools, one middle school and one senior high school. There are three hospitals in neighboring communities: Stamford Hospital, Norwalk Hospital and Greenwich Hospital. There are three country clubs -- Wee Burn and Woodway Country Club, both with attractive beach Clubs on Long Island Sound, and the Country Club of Darien. In addition, Tokeneke Beach Club, Noroton Yacht Club, Middlesex Swim Club and Ox Ridge Hunt Club are located in Darien. Other recreational facilities include an indoor ice-skating rink, indoor tennis facility, six parks, two beaches with picnic areas, tennis and paddle courts, youth facilities, plus a YMCA and YWCA.
Darien is mainly a residential community with no industry, although the financial services industry plays a big role through local banking interests. In the early years, Darien's businesses were primarily located at Ring's End Landing on Goodwives River and Loading Rock on Five Mile River. Today, several convenient shopping areas include Goodwives Shopping Plaza, stores along the Post, Tokeneke, and Heights Roads, plus Noroton Heights Shopping Center.
The first planters, as they were called, took title to the land in 1640, when the New Haven Colony bought from the Indians a tract of wilderness where the Rippowam River met the waters of Long Island Sound. The Indians in the Stamford area at that time were a generally peaceful tribe of Siwanoys - "the south people" - who lived in small villages of bark-covered wigwams, and who spent their lives fishing, hunting and tending their corn fields.
The eastern boundary of the Rippowam purchase was Pine Brook, or Goodwives River, as it is called today. Only four years after their arrival, the colonists felt that they would soon need more land for their growing town. Their original group of 28 families had increased to 59 by the end of 1642. For four coats and some tobacco, a tract between Pine Brook and Five Mile River was bought from Piamikin, the chief of the Roatons. Roaton, meaning "the creek almost dry at low tide, " included the Tokeneke section of Darien, whose owners in the twentieth century chose the name of a Norwalk chieftain for their real estate development.
Settlement truly began about 1700 when the first roads were cut "in the woods". Most houses were built near the harbors on the Sound or along the Country Road, whose course roughly corresponded to the present Post Road from the Noroton River as far as Stony Brook, thence along Old King's Highway to the Norwalk line at Five Mile River. By 1772 the Country Road was so improved that a stagecoach schedule was established between Boston and New York.
During the American Revolution, Middlesex Parish was frequently raided by local Tories who had fled to Lloyd's Neck on Long Island. The Tories disrupted services at the meetinghouse on July 22, 1781, captured Dr. Moses Mather, the minister, and forty-seven other men, and transported them across the Sound. Dr. Mather, with twenty-six of his parishioners, suffered five months in British prisons in New York City before those who survived their confinement were exchanged and returned to their homes.
In 1848, the New Haven Railroad's first scheduled line came through Darien. General business activity soon shifted from the harbor by Gorham's Mill, where the market boats had anchored for 150 years, to a new center by the railroad station at the Post Road crossing. Until the advent of the railroad, Darien was a small, rural community of about one thousand farmers, shoemakers, fishermen, and merchants engaged in coastal trading. A gradual increase in population then occurred with the arrival of immigrants from Ireland and later from Italy.
At the end of the Civil War, security and economic prosperity in the North brought a building boom. What had once been farmland and open space was divided and residences for prosperous businessmen and affluent local merchants blossomed on major streets including Brookside, Prospect, Mansfield, Noroton and Middlesex. A number of well-to-do New Yorkers discovered Darien's picturesque shoreline and built summer homes in Tokeneke, Long Neck Point and Noroton. In 1897, the Stamford Street Railway inaugurated trolley service through Darien. (This service was discontinued in 1933.) Darien was still a small town of a few thousand people in 1914, even though there were already a few hardy commuters here who taxied by surrey from home to station.
After World War II, new streets and developed areas sprang up. The town center grew steadily along with the population. By the mid-1950s the Connecticut Turnpike came through the town. General prosperity and growth continued until the population leveled off around 20,000 by 1970.
Today, Darien is a suburban community with an active town center, excellent schools, and involved residents. It offers unspoiled land and clear waters. Those who have come to live here have been careful stewards of its architectural and natural heritage while enjoying the resources of a modern community.
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