The Town that Shellfish Made

Oysters and Norwalk, it’s like peanut butter and jelly or beer and pretzels, they just go together. It fits very naturally with it’s nickname “Oyster Town”.

Norwalk,  Ct is located in Fairfield County on Long Island Sound about 45 miles northeast of New York City. Like most of Connecticut,  it was settled early in the 17th century and given its location on the Sound it was natural that the water would play a play heavily in its development.

Oysters have been a part of the eco-system of Long Island Sound for hundreds perhaps even thousands of years. It was no secret to the Native Americans of the area that there were rich beds located very close to the shore. In Norwalk that means along, around and through the Norwalk Islands that form a six mile long barrier between the harbor and the sound. In the early days, these oysters were just a local delicacy to be savored and enjoyed and to supplement the other food that could be grown in the area.

As cities began to grow the need for fresh foods also grew and with it a new industry came to the area.

On Long Island,  the oyster industry grew rapidly but in Ct, Norwalk moved to the forefront . Connecticut recognized early the value of the oyster to its economy and passed legislation to protect the beds and the fishermen. In recent days of course pollution has been something that has damaged the industry throughout the sound but efforts are underway to clean up Long Island Sound and make the oyster king again.

The oyster industry in Norwalk,  peaked late in the 19th century. Today, Norwalk is the largest oyster producer in the state of Connecticut. The largest oyster company in the country has their home plant in Norwalk. Tallmadge Brothers has over 22,000 acres of oyster beds and have been in business in Norwalk for over 130 years. It was during the heyday of the oyster industry, when to people in the United States the oyster was as popular as the hamburger is today, that the town acquired its nickname of “Oyster Town”. In many ways that nickname still fits today.

For three days every September for the last 32 years the city of Norwalk embraces its Oyster heritage with an Oyster Festival to beat all Oyster Festivals. Over 100,000 people will flock to the Seaport to partake of Oysters, browse the craft fair, tour the tall ships, watch the oyster shucking contest and cruise the harbor. At the end of the day however it is about eating oysters in as many ways as possible.

So how did Norwalk get the nickname Oyster Town? By being one of the best places to sample oyster; not only in New England but in the whole country.