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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fairfield: A Summer Playground

Fairfield: A Summer Playground
(Fairfield Mag - We’ve Got Answers column – July Aug 2011)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Q: Has Fairfield always been a popular summer destination?

Fairfield has long enjoyed a calling as a summer playground. In the 1830s, former town residents like Frederick Marquand and Jonathan Sturges, who had made their mark in New York, built summer resorts here. Their interest in the area drew other affluent individuals like Reverend Samuel Osgood, who, in 1850, built Waldsteen, an 18-room summer home.

To attract summer vacationers, entrepreneur John Steenbergen established Fairfield House, a hotel at the northeastern corner of Old Post Road and Beach Road. It featured a ballroom, vast dining room, barrooms, billiard tables and a nine-pin bowling alley.

The beach, of course, was a prime attraction, offering horseback riding, lawn tennis, boating, bathing and excursions on the Mill River. During the high season, wealthy families placed portable private shelters along the shorefront. Common folk used a public facility called Idle Hour Baths, which stood on the site of the Jacky Durrell Pavilion.

Select Fairfield families also enjoyed the Fairfield Beach Club, built in the 1890s. For swimming, female members wore black taffeta suits and black taffeta hats with black stockings while children wore button-down navy blue jerseys that stopped at the knee.

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