Southport is a section and census-designated place of the town of Fairfield, Connecticut, located along Long Island Sound between the Mill River and Sasco Brook (the Westport town line). As of the 2010 census it had a population of 1,585. Settled in 1639, the downtown area has been designated a local historic district since 1967 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 as the Southport Historic District. The historic significance of Southport is because of its harbor, churches, public buildings, and the homesteads of some of the first families in southwestern Connecticut.
The earliest recorded event in Southport's history was "The Great Swamp Fight" or "Fairfield Swamp Fight" of July 1637 (not to be confused with the later Great Swamp Fight of King Philip's War), an episode of the Pequot War in which English colonial forces led by John Mason and Roger Ludlow vanquished a band of about 80 to 100 Pequot Indians who had earlier fled from their home territory in the Mystic area and had taken refuge with about 200 Sasqua Indians who inhabited the area that is now Fairfield. The exact location of the battle is not known, but it is known to have been in the vicinity of Southport.
In the eighteenth century, Mill River village, a part of Fairfield, was a small hamlet of a few houses and a wharf at the mouth of Fairfield's Mill River. Farm products from the surrounding area were shipped from Mill River's small harbor to ports in New York and beyond.
By 1831 the village had changed its name to Southport and was a bustling commercial area with warehouses, churches, schools, stores and elegant houses. Before 1853, Southport had its own local government as a borough within the town of Fairfield. Southport became a leading coastal port on Long Island Sound, its ships carrying produce and goods back and forth to New York City. A measure of Southport's success is the fact that throughout the 1800s it possessed the only two banks in town. However, competition from steamboats and the railroad took its toll on prosperity. Resourceful shippers teamed with local farmers and businessmen to keep the port going; the Southport onion, a high quality onion, was developed and grown on Fairfield's hills and shipped in Southport market boats, keeping the harbor profitable until the end of the century. In the 1890s, 100,000 barrels of locally grown onions, carrots, potatoes, and other goods were shipped annually from Southport harbor.
Today, much of the old village area is part of a town historic district, first established in 1967, where buildings from three centuries are protected for future generations. The boundaries of the town historic district are the railroad on the north; the Mill River and Southport Harbor on the south; Church Street; and Old South Road and Rose Hill Road on the west and east, respectively, including all properties on both sides of the roads. Strict historic zoning regulations apply in the district and have been upheld by the Connecticut Supreme Court. The Southport Historic District is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The main village of Southport corresponds to census tract 606. As of the census of 2000, there are 2,201 people in the village, organized into 998 households and 606 families. The racial makeup of the town is 95.6% White, 2.3% Asian, 0.6% African American, 0.1% Native American, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.5% from other races, and 0.7% from two or more races. 1.6% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 998 households out of which 22.7% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.1% are married couples living together, 8.3% have a female householder with no husband present, and 39.3% are non-families. 33.1% of all households are made up of individuals and 15.8% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.21 and the average family size is 2.81.
The median income for a household in the village is $140,307, and the median income for a family is $183,023. Males have a median income of $131,695 versus $55,475 for females. The per capita income for the village is $66,432. 2.0% of the population and 1.1% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 1.5% of those under the age of 18 and 2.7% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.
Southport has had its own firefighting service since 1895. The Southport Fire Department was organized that year as a volunteer fire department after a large arson fire in the village. However, it is also protected by Fairfield Fire Department's Engine 4, out of the Southport Firehouse.
The community's public library is the Pequot Library, housed in a Romanesque building, designed by Robert Robertson and built in 1887, that is a contributing property to the National Register Southport Historic District. The library is reputed to have a large collection of old and rare books. The library's annual summer book sale featured more than 140,000 volumes on sale in 2007.
The neighborhood's ZIP code is 06890, whose scope extends further north from the historic village area to include the Mill Hill area.
Eagle Hill School-Southport, a private day school for children with learning disabilities, has been located since 1985 in the former Pequot School in Southport. The historic school building was earlier acquired by the Southport Conservancy to save it from demolition.
Southport is served by the Fairfield Public Schools. Southport is home to Mill Hill Elementary School, although children in some areas considered part of the Southport neighborhood but outside the census tract attend Timothy Dwight Elementary School. Both Mill Hill and Dwight Schools feed into Roger Ludlowe Middle School, Tomlinson Middle School (currently only grandfathered Southport students in 7th and 8th graders attend Tomlinson until the end of 2013) and Fairfield Ludlowe High School.
Commuter rail service to the community is provided at the Southport railroad station, a historic property that is included in the Southport Historic District and is separately listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The following are among the notable people who have lived in Southport:
- James Truslow Adams, historian and writer
- John Akers, former chief executive officer of IBM
- Anatole Broyard, author
- Samuel J. Palmisano, former chief executive officer of IBM
- Jason Robards, actor, producer and director
- Don Imus, Radio Personality
- Jack Welch, former CEO General Electric
- Ina Garten,Celebrity Cook and author
- Jeffrey Garten,Economic Adviser and author
Movies filmed in Southport
- Revolutionary Road (2007)
- U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Southport, Connecticut
- "Race, Hispanic or Latino, Age, and Housing Occupancy: 2010 Census Redistricting Data (Public Law 94-171) Summary File (QT-PL), Southport CDP, Connecticut". U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder 2. Retrieved August 11, 2011.
- History of the Town of Fairfield, Connecticut
- Charles, Eleanor. "If You're Thinking of Living in; Southport", New York Times, December 22, 1985.
- Gibbons v. Fairfield Historic District Commission, 285 Conn. 755; 941 A.2d 917; 2008 Conn. LEXIS 80
- An Enclave for One’s Inner Scarlett, New York Times, June 12, 2009
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- Abbreviated History of The Southport Fire Department, Southport Fire Department Corp. website, accessed June 17, 2009
- Economic Development & Affordable Housing, Congressman Jim Himes' website, accessed July 13, 2009
- "Calendar" section of The Norwalk Citizen-News, July 27, 2007, p. A35
- History, Eagle Hill-Southport website, accessed October 13, 2009
- Southport Conservancy website, accessed October 13, 2009
- District Maps, Fairfield Public Schools website, accessed September 1, 2010
- Governor Rell Announces Plan to Rebuild Southport Train Station; Demolition Unnecessary; Building Can Be Salvaged, Connecticut Department of Transportation press release, 2/20/2008
- The Southport Conservancy (organization for preservation and restoration of historic properties in Southport)
- The Southport Globe (a website focused on the community)
- The Southport Picture File (a collection of 800 historical photos compiled by historian V. Louise Higgins. Housed at Pequot Library and accessible online.)
- Living in Southport, Conn. (New York Times photo collection)
- Brilvitch, Charles. 1977. Walking Through History. The Seaports of Black Rock and Southport. Fairfield Historical Society.