The significance of the Southport Historic District in Fairfield

All you need to do is walk around Southport Historic District and it becomes obvious that Southport’s harbor was the reason many of the first Connecticut settlers chose this beautiful area in which to build their homes, churches and public buildings.  Settled in 1639, downtown Southport has been designated a local historic district since 1967 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1971

The Southport harbor offered employment and a way to ship local farm products to the waiting buyers in New York City, so the village prospered and continued to grow. By 1831 it was an active busy commercial area with schools and magnificent homes; wealthy villagers living in a beautiful setting.

But times did get rough when steamboats and the railroad took away some of the harbor’s shipping business, cutting into profits. The Yankee spirit kicked in and local farmers developed a new onion grown in the soil of Fairfield hills, and called it the “Southport” onion. A longer shelf life and a sweeter taste helped “Southport” onions became a major crop for exporters.

By the late 1890s, 100,000 barrels of locally grown “Southport” onions, and also carrots, potatoes, and other items were shipped from the busy Southport harbor annually.

Strict zoning regulations have kept this historic area from suffering the blight that many beautiful old harbor towns have had to endure. The wise Southport forefathers knew the value of the area and because of their strength and commitment to keep the area noncommercial and historic, future generations will be able to walk the streets and view the architecture of homes dating back to the early 17th century.

The Southport Conservancy has done much to keep Southport buildings restored and maintained. A non-profit organization, The Southport Conservancy was the first to see a serious threat of encroaching commercialism in the 1980s. They fought hard to keep the historic Pequot School, built in 1914, on its historic land and became incorporated during the fight to raise funds to buy the school. Heroes to the locals, they were able to purchase the school and keep the developers at bay.

For more information on the Southport Historic District, the Conservancy has published two books filled with facts and research, that can be purchased at Southportconservancy.org/

Southport, The Architectural Legacy of a Connecticut Village (224 pages; a fact-filled, meticulously researched history of our community; $35.00 plus 6% tax for Connecticut residents and $3.50 shipping and handling)

The Southport Packet-the First Ten Years 1987-1996 (bound issues of our quarterly publication replete with stories of yesterday and today; $29.50 plus 6% tax for Connecticut residents and $3.50 shipping and handling)*

* Book title and description taken from Southportconservancy.org/