New Canaan, Connecticut
Town of New Canaan
Location in Fairfield County, Connecticut
|• Type||Selectman-town council|
|• First Selectman||Kevin J. Moynihan (R)|
|• Selectman||Nicholas R. Williams (R)|
|• Selectwoman||Kit Devereaux (D)|
|• Total||22.5 sq mi (58.3 km2)|
|• Land||22.1 sq mi (57.3 km2)|
|• Water||0.4 sq mi (0.9 km2)|
|Elevation||344 ft (105 m)|
|• Density||877.2/sq mi (338.7/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC−5 (Eastern)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−4 (Eastern)|
|GNIS feature ID||0213468|
New Canaan (//) is a town in Fairfield County, Connecticut, United States. The population was 19,738 according to the 2010 census. New Canaan is one of the wealthiest communities in the U.S; in 2008 it had the highest median family income in the country and was listed at #1 on CNN's list of "top-earning towns" in the United States.
About an hour's train ride from Manhattan, the town is considered part of Connecticut's Gold Coast. The town is bounded on the south by Darien, on west by Stamford, on the east by Wilton, on the southeast by Norwalk and on the north by Lewisboro and Pound Ridge in Westchester County, New York.
New Canaan is known for its wide range of architecture, as well as vast public parks such as Waveny Park, and a signature town center with classic boutiques. Residents carol on Church Hill every Christmas Eve, a town tradition since 1916. It is also known for its public school system, which in 2018 was ranked as the top public school system in Connecticut, and in 2008 the 3rd best in the country.
In 1731, Connecticut's colonial legislature established Canaan Parish as a religious entity in northwestern Norwalk and northeastern Stamford. The right to form a Congregational church was granted to the few families scattered through the area. As inhabitants of Norwalk or Stamford, Canaan Parish settlers still had to vote, pay taxes, serve on juries, and file deeds in their home towns. Because Canaan Parish was not planned as a town when it was first settled in 1731, when New Canaan was incorporated in 1801, it found itself without a central common, a main street or a town hall.
Until the Revolutionary War, New Canaan was primarily an agricultural community. After the war, New Canaan's major industry was shoe making. As New Canaan's shoe business gathered momentum early in the nineteenth century, instead of a central village, regional settlements of clustered houses, mill, and school developed into distinct district centers. Some of the districts were centered on Ponus Ridge, West Road, Oenoke Ridge, Smith Ridge, Talmadge Hill and Silvermine, a pattern which the village gradually outgrew.
With the 1868 advent of the railroad to New Canaan, many of New York City's wealthy residents discovered the quiet, pastoral beauty of the area and built magnificent summer homes. Eventually, many of the summer visitors settled year-round, commuting to their jobs in New York City and creating the genteel, sophisticated country ambiance that continues to characterise the community today.
Lewis Lapham, a founder of Texaco and great-grandfather of long-time Harper's Magazine editor Lewis H. Lapham, spent summers with his family at their estate that is now 300-acre (1.2 km2) Waveny Park next to Talmadge Hill and the Merritt Parkway.
In the 1890s, editor Will Kirk of the Messenger wrote an editorial in response to area editors who chided him and New Canaan as the "next station to hell." An alleged remark by a parched Civil War veteran marching in the Decoration Day Parade on an unusually hot day prompted the exchange. The remark was found untrue and Kirk, after enduring the comments of others, wrote about a "dream" of approaching the Pearly Gates in the company of his fellow editors. All others were turned away but he, Will Kirk, was welcomed, because he, in fact, was from the "Next Station to Heaven." Since then, the name has been controversial, with residents affectionately using the latter, and local critics of New Canaan still using the original nickname.
New Canaan was an important center of the modern design movement from the late 1940s through roughly the 1960s, when about 80 modern homes were built in town. About 20 have been torn down since then.
"During the late 1940s and 50s, a group of students and teachers from the Harvard Graduate School of Design migrated to New Canaan ... and rocked the world of architectural design", according to an article in PureContemporary.com, an online architecture design magazine. "Philip Johnson, Marcel Breuer, Landis Gores, John M. Johansen and Eliot Noyes – known as the Harvard Five – began creating homes in a style that emerged as the complete antithesis of the traditional build. Using new materials and open floor plans, best captured by Johnson's Glass House, these treasures are being squandered as buyers are knocking down these architectural icons and replacing them with cookie-cutter new builds."
"Other architects, well known (Frank Lloyd Wright, for example) and not so well known, also contributed significant modern houses that elicited strong reactions from nearly everyone who saw them and are still astonishing today ... New Canaan came to be the focus of the modern movement's experimentation in materials, construction methods, space, and form", according to an online description of The Harvard Five in New Canaan: Mid-Century Modern Houses, by William D. Earls.
The film The Ice Storm (1997) shows many of New Canaan's modern houses, both inside and out. The film (and Rick Moody's novel of the same name, upon which it's based) takes place in New Canaan; a mostly glass house situated on Laurel Road is prominently featured.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 22.5 square miles (58 km2), of which 22.1 square miles (57 km2) is land and 0.3 square mile (0.78 km2), or 1.56%, is water. New Canaan is the only municipality on the Connecticut Panhandle that does not border the coast. Such proximity to New York City proved worthy of its own connection to the New Haven Railroad, being the only town to do so. New Canaan station and Talmadge Hill station are both on the New Canaan Branch of the New Haven Line, and transfer is possible in Stamford south to Manhattan. Many New Canaan residents commute to New York regularly, with travel time to Grand Central Terminal approximately 65 minutes. New Canaan is also heavily served by the historic Merritt Parkway, as the third municipality when driving through Connecticut from New York City.
The downtown area consists of many fine restaurants, an old Bow Tie Cinemas movie theater, library, the Victorian train station, antique shops, a book store, a saddlery boutique and various fine clothing and interior decorating shops. In addition to the many local boutiques and businesses, many national chains stores can be found in the downtown area, including Ralph Lauren and Ralph Lauren Children, Ann Taylor, J. McLaughlin, Papyrus, Vineyard Vines, Le Pain Quotidien, and Starbucks, among others. There are also several churches in town (Catholic and various Protestant denominations) as well as the historic Roger Sherman Inn, established in 1740. Most major banks and many wealth managements firms have a presence in New Canaan, including JPMorgan Chase, Merrill Lynch, Wells Fargo, UBS, Citibank and Bank of America, among others. Several hedge funds are also based in New Canaan.
The town includes the following sections: New Canaan town center, Talmadge Hill, Ponus Ridge, West, Oenoke Ridge, Smith Ridge, and part of Silvermine (which extends into Norwalk and Wilton).
The New Canaan Volunteer Ambulance Corps (NCVAC) is a free, all volunteer ambulance corps with three ambulances plus two paramedic fly-cars. Founded in 1975, the unit is located at 182 South Avenue and offer regular EMT courses. EMTs are all volunteers, while Paramedic services are contracted to Norwalk Hospital.
The New Canaan Fire Department employs the professional firefighters of the New Canaan Fire Department, as well as the volunteers of the New Canaan Fire Company, No. 1. Founded in 1881, the New Canaan Fire Department is a combination professional/volunteer fire department that operates out of a fire station located near the center of town, with a fire apparatus fleet of engines and other vehicles. The New Canaan Fire Department responded to 886 calls for service in 2009.
The New Canaan Police (NCPD) are headquartered at 174 South Avenue. The Department has forty-five sworn officers, five full-time civilians and two school crossing guards. The primary mission of the New Canaan Police department and its Officers is the protection of all persons and properties within its jurisdiction. The New Canaan Police Department responded to 16,741 calls during the year of 2012.
Historically, New Canaan has been a Republican stronghold; however, Hillary Rodham Clinton became the first Democrat to win the town in 2016 since Lyndon B. Johnson carried the town in his landslide victory in 1964.
New Canaan was one of five towns in Connecticut that backed former Governor John Kasich of Ohio over Donald J. Trump in the 2016 Republican presidential primary. Kasich received 1,362 votes (47.84 percent) ahead of Trump who garnered 1,168 votes (41.03 percent). U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas finished third with 262 votes (9.20 percent).
|2016||52.59% 5,767||41.41% 4,541||6.00% 658|
|2012||35.02% 3,804||64.13% 6,966||0.85% 92|
|2008||46.61% 5,187||52.81% 5,877||0.58% 64|
|2004||38.32% 4,180||60.67% 6,618||1.01% 110|
|2000||33.93% 3,516||62.73% 6,501||3.34% 346|
|1996||32.37% 3,087||61.77% 5,890||5.86% 559|
|1992||30.72% 3,438||56.21% 6,292||13.07% 1,463|
|1988||27.14% 2,831||72.09% 7,520||0.77% 80|
|1984||23.66% 2,564||76.12% 8,249||0.22% 24|
|1980||19.87% 2,102||67.31% 7,120||12.82% 1,356|
|1976||28.17% 2,887||71.52% 7,329||0.31% 32|
|1972||29.50% 2,915||69.85% 6,903||0.66% 65|
|1968||31.96% 2,802||66.12% 5,796||1.92% 168|
|1964||52.50% 4,022||47.50% 3,639||0.00% 0|
|1960||27.95% 1,970||72.05% 5,079||0.00% 0|
|1956||20.33% 1,213||79.67% 4,755||0.00% 0|
|Voter registration and party enrollment as of October 29, 2019|
|Party||Active voters||Inactive voters||Total voters||Percentage|
|U.S. Decennial Census|
As of the census of 2000, there were 19,395 people, 6,822 households, and 5,280 families residing in the town. The population density was 876.5 people per square mile (338.4/km²). There were 7,141 housing units at an average density of 322.7 per square mile (124.6/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 95.27% White, 1.74% Hispanic or Latino, 1.04% African American, 0.04% Native American, 2.29% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.38% from other races, and 0.98% from two or more races.
There were 6,822 households out of which 41.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 69.2% were married couples living together, 6.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 22.6% were non-families. 19.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.83 and the average family size was 3.26.
In the town, the population was spread out with 31.2% under the age of 18, 3.3% from 18 to 24, 25.4% from 25 to 44, 26.6% from 45 to 64, and 13.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females, there were 91.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.7 males.
Per the 2000 Census, the median income for a household in the town was $141,788, and the median income for a family was $175,331. Males had a median income of $100,000 versus $53,924 for females. The per capita income for the town was $82,049. About 1.4% of families and 2.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 2.2% of those under age 18 and 2.2% of those age 65 or over.
The New Canaan Public Schools system is considered to be one of the best in Connecticut. It has also gained national recognition for its high performance; for example, a recent edition of Forbes magazine rated New Canaan as the third-ranked school district in the United States "for home value" for communities with a median home price of $800,000 or greater. In 2019, New Canaan High School was ranked the sixth-best public high school in Connecticut behind Darien & Weston, and one of the top in the nation.
In 2009, the district was the highest-performing school district in the state based on the frequency of top-tier performances on the Connecticut Mastery Tests (CMT), which are administered to all 3rd- through 8th-graders, and the Connecticut Academic Performance Tests (CAPT), which are given to 10th-graders. In 2008, the median SAT score (verbal, math and writing) for district students was 1804, the highest in Connecticut.
In its November 2009 edition, Connecticut magazine rated New Canaan's school system first among 29 towns with a population of 15,000–25,000. That category included Darien, Wilton, Ridgefield, Avon, Simsbury, Farmington, Southbury, Guilford and other high-performing districts. The ranking was based on 2007–2009 CMT scores; results from the 2007–2009 CAPTs; local SAT scores for 2006–2008; and the percentage of 2007 high school graduates who enrolled in college.
Twenty-two students in the New Canaan High School Class of 2009 were National Merit Commended Scholars. In addition, four students were National Merit Scholars, four were National Merit Semifinalists, and one was an Hispanic National Recognition Scholar.
Of the New Canaan High School graduates who enrolled in college in the fall of 2009, 30% did so at a college designated "Most Competitive" by Barron's magazine, 24% enrolled at an institution considered "Highly Competitive", and 26% entered a college deemed to be "Very Competitive."
The New Canaan High School Library was the recipient of the 2010 National School Library Program of the Year Award, given by the American Library Association. In addition to the Award, the High School also received a $10,000 prize donated by Follet Library Resources.
The New Canaan school system is also notable for its achievements in extra-curricular activities. In 2010, the New Canaan High School won the FCIAC Cup, given to the most successful athletic program among the 19 high schools competing in the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference. The New Canaan High School drama program won seven awards at the 2010 Connecticut High School Musical Theatre Awards.
New Canaan is one of the few school systems in Connecticut to offer foreign-language instruction to students pre-middle school, as a Spanish program exists for all grades to expose students to a foreign language earlier on in their lives. Grades 6–12 have language offerings including French, Latin, Mandarin Chinese and Spanish.
In June 2012, 24/7 Wall St. ranked New Canaan as the eighth-wealthiest school district in the United States.
New Canaan has five public schools:
New Canaan also has three private schools:
New Canaan Nature Center Fall Fair: The fair offers activities for all ages from hay mazes to Old Faithful Antique Fire Truck rides to apple sling shots.
All Hallows Eve (Halloween) Parade: No matter your costume, children of all ages and their dogs can receive a goody bag and march in the Parade led by Old Faithful Antique Fire Truck which is sponsored by the New Canaan Chamber of Commerce.
Holiday Stroll: Hosted by The Chamber of Commerce, downtown New Canaan celebrates with Christmas carolers, the lighting of the trees along Elm Street, the arrival of Santa Claus, and extended store hours.
Christmas Carolling on God's Acre. Since 1919 New Canaan residents have been gathering on God's Acre every Christmas Eve to sing Christmas carols with the New Canaan Town Band. The New Canaan town band was founded in 1831 and is the second oldest town band in the United States.
Easter Egg Hunt: At the Annual Town Easter Egg Hunt, sponsored by the Young Women's League of New Canaan, children are able to collect candy-filled Easter eggs, get their faces painted, take pictures with the Easter bunny, and many other festive activities.
Saint Mark's May Fair: carnival rides and May Fair's famous strawberry shortcake.
Family Fourth Fireworks: Town residents gather at Waveny Town Park for picnicking, live music, bounce houses, and fireworks.
Waveny mansion in Waveny Park
New Canaan is served by a town newspaper, New Canaan News. Two daily newspapers also serve the surrounding area: Connecticut Post and Greenwich Time. Moreover, Newcanaanite and the New Canaan Patch produce online news for residents.
In August 2018, two lunch ladies from the school were arrested and accused of stealing about $500,000 from the cafeteria over a five-year period. The school received nationwide attention for the arrests.
For more information, see List of people from New Canaan, Connecticut
Movies at least partially filmed in, or involving, New Canaan:
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