Essex, Connecticut – The perfect small American town
It has been called the perfect small American town, and one look at Essex, and you'll see why. This town with 6,600 people sits on the shores of the Connecticut River and offers a lifestyle that you're sure to fall in love with as soon as you experience it.
Nearby, Deep River borders the town to the north, with Westbrook to the southwest, and Old Saybrook to the direct south. Its position close to Interstate 95 also makes it easy to head southwest to New York City or northeast to Boston, both of which are about two hours away.
History is everywhere in Essex, CT, as well, as there are numerous buildings from the mid-19th century still in use today, in addition to homes from the 18th century. If you're looking to buy a home in Essex, Connecticut, you'll have plenty of character-filled options from which to choose.
The three sections of Essex
Essex has three villages, each with a downtown area and a unique history.
Essex Village sits right on the Connecticut River, which provides direct access to Long Island Sound. This port was once home to the region's shipbuilding headquarters, and there are some large houses nearby that are remnants of that era. The harbor remains a focal point of local life to this day thanks to its restaurants and shops. You'll also find the town's government offices in Essex Village.
Centerbrook was initially an agricultural area but became residential in the middle of the 18th century when prominent business people built their houses. As a result, Centerbrook was considered the center of town during that time. Centerbrook is currently the town's central commercial hub and home of the Essex Steam Train's station.
Ivoryton is where you'll find the highest concentration of historic houses in Essex. The reason for the old homes is that Ivoryton was first populated by people who left Poland and Italy to work for piano key manufacturer Comstock, Cheney & Co. Because of the influx of new residents between 1890 and 1920, the company built hundreds of homes, with many standing to this day. A walk through Comstock Avenue or Oak, Chestnut, and Walnut streets provides insight into Ivoryton's past.
A look at Essex's history
Essex was first inhabited by European settlers in 1648 as part of the Saybrook township. The village, then called Potopaug, stayed part of Saybrook until 1852 when it was finally incorporated. The town then changed its name to Essex in 1854 because many of the first citizens hailed from Essex, England.
Essex has always been an influential site in Connecticut because of its shipbuilding. From the time the first pier was constructed in 1656, Essex became involved in international trade. Then, in 1733, the shipbuilding tradition started. These shipyards became the most vital in all of New England and brought great wealth to the region.
In fact, Essex was so important to New England that is one of the only American towns ever to be attacked by another country. In 1814, during the War of 1812, 28 ships were burned by British troops. A local festival is held every year to commemorate the attack.
Things to do in Essex, CT
If you're into spending time outdoors, you'll be happy buying a home in Essex, Connecticut. One of the top places to visit is the Canfield Woods, which is over 300 acres in size and features some of the region's best hiking trails. You can also put small boats in the water on Mill Pond, or take your large vessel into the Connecticut River from Essex Town Dock all the way to Long Island Sound. There are numerous marinas at which to store your boat, as well.
When spending time in town, you'll find some culture at the Essex Art Association Gallery, the Ivoryton Playhouse, and the Connecticut River Museum. Each village's downtown area has excellent bars and restaurants, and there are national historic sites like Pratt House, Essex Savings Bank, Essex Freight Station, and Benjamin Bushnell Farm, just to name a few.
Annual events like the Shad Bake, Burning of the Ships Day, and the Groundhog Day Parade gives locals something to look forward to throughout the year, as well.
Living in Essex
You'll never mistake Essex, Connecticut for Boston or New York, or even Hartford or Providence, but that's the way locals like it. We're seeing more people flee their hectic lives in these major centers to focus on raising their kids in the family-friendly environment that Essex provides.
Page Taft knows Essex better than anyone and can help make your dream of living in the perfect small American town a reality. When looking to buy a home in Essex, Connecticut, Page Taft is here to help. For more information on Essex, click here to view our This is Essex video.
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