1800s: Life's a Beach
Fairfield’s location on the coast has always shaped the rhythm of life here, but it wasn’t until the late 1800s that people started to use the beach primarily for enjoyment. Some of Fairfield’s more affluent citizens formed what became the Fairfield Beach Club in 1886, offering bathhouse facilities on a private part of the beach. As time went on, pavilions like Boyle’s Beach Casino, with its lively dance hall, provided a place for those who took the trolley from Bridgeport to use the beach for the day. Philanthropist Annie B. Jennings donated her beachfront land to the town when she died in the 1930s, creating Jennings Beach.
The first structures on the beach were shacks that could be dismantled each fall and put away until the next summer. In the 1890s, the first group of cottages on the beach was built by people from Danbury looking for inexpensive summer homes. Reef Road was built to connect this settlement to the town. This “Little Danbury” settlement was soon joined by Little Bridgeport, a cluster of inexpensive cottages at Pine Creek.
Swarms of mosquitoes, dangerous storms, and lack of roads were some of the obstacles to living on the beach. Swampy areas were drained to get rid of mosquitoes, and roads were built, but the storms remained. After the hurricane of 1938 destroyed dozens of cottages along the shore, flood protections were put in place that enabled more permanent development, and larger houses started to be built.