Nick Churton of Mayfair International Realty visits New Canaan, Connecticut and falls under its unique spell.
For a home town an hour and a bit out of Manhattan, New Canaan ticks all the boxes for some very smart people who have not let their extremely busy, successful and diverting working lives get in the way of their number one priority – their families. New Canaan is known in all the best circles for its great homes but those who really get New Canaan understand that the attraction runs much deeper than that. The homes are not the real stars of the show. The residents’ families are.
Church, education, the arts, sport, retail and food all have their important role in the New Canaan community and each is well and eagerly supported by members of the population. Every year on Christmas Eve local residents – of various religious persuasions, or indeed perhaps none at all – gather to sing Christmas carols together on a grassy hill in the centre of town called God’s Acre. This is a tradition that has been going on for just about as long as anyone can remember and indicates a highly integrated, harmonious and inclusive society.
This attractive New England town has a great charm. At its heart is a pretty town centre with a real village feel. But look a little deeper. This is a very chic village, like few others. Smart boutiques compete for the best locations with the very highest quality cafes, bistros and restaurants. Perhaps the best site of all is taken by the small, but oh-so-beautifully-put-together Ralph Lauren shop. Its owner lives locally and thought he would like to have a store in his local town. If a town were ever to be judged by the type of designer company it keeps then New Canaan would take a lot of beating.
All this makes for a highly civilised place indeed. I met the mayor. He says so too – but then, some would say, he would. Yet I was left with the very strong feeling that this gentleman works very hard for, and is extremely proud of, the community he serves. On the day we met he had taken time out of a budget meeting. Like many mayors in early spring he was making difficult decisions. This time it was either making some cuts to education or the fire department. The kids won. In a study featured in Forbes magazine, entitled Best Cities to Live and Learn, New Canaan was ranked # 2 in the entire US among towns with a median home price of $800,000 or more. So there won’t be a shiny new fire truck this year in the engine house – but what the heck? The old ones are still very shiny, they still make a great deal of noise as they speed along, they still carry wonderful fire-fighters and they still squirt water at a fire-consuming rate. As long as there are no lives at risk, the kids come first in New Canaan.
There is order here. It runs deep in the community. It even runs on the railway. The much used railway station is at the end of the line. And a very fine station it looks too. There is an unwritten rule between the early morning business commuters that they make polite conversation for the first two stops and then it is heads-down silence for forty-five minutes of work as the train speeds non-stop to Grand Central.
So if you are looking for somewhere to truly belong, somewhere your children can grow with a great public education and with decent values – and, okay, with privilege – where you can discover a great home and where you can find a seat and a bit of peace on the train in the morning, then New Canaan is surely the place for you.