Living in Old Greenwich, Conn.:
A Yesteryear Feel,
With Today’s PricesNew York Times
AFTER seeing Jimi Hendrix play a 1969 concert at the Fillmore East, a few blocks from her building in the East Village, and living in the same tenement as the poet Allen Ginsberg, Elena Abrahams became enamored of her artsy, walkable neighborhood.
So in 1977, when her husband, Michael, suggested they move to Greenwich, Conn., where the counterculture was perhaps less obvious, she bristled. “I thought it might just be all green and pink ladies,” Ms. Abrahams said. “And I thought I might want to kill myself.”
But in Old Greenwich, a distinct section on Long Island Sound in the town’s easternmost corner, about 35 miles from Midtown, she found neighbors who, in addition to being transplanted New Yorkers, were writers, painters and musicians.
Further, both the pint-sized business district, known as “the village,” and a Metro-North train station, were just a short stroll from her front door, evoking the East Village of her younger days. “I thought, this is a really good, progressive place to be,” said Ms. Abrahams, who works as a substitute teacher.
But not many musicians, or at least the struggling variety, could afford the prices today, with single-family homes starting at around $500,000.
Indeed, Ms. Abrahams’s home, a four-bedroom 1929 colonial, with flower-pot cutouts in the shutters, cost $300,000 in 1984; she estimates it could sell for $2 million today, based on listings on her block.
A better bet for a starter home might be one of the neighborhood’s 400 condominiums, like the alcove studio bought in April by Laura Bennett, who runs a family jewelry store that has been in the village since 1945.
The unit, with 650 square feet and a terrace through sliding glass doors, cost $325,000, she said.
Next-door Stamford, where she also looked, didn’t have nearly the charm of Old Greenwich’s “quaint old-style street,” with many longtime merchants, said Ms. Bennett.
That street, Sound Beach Avenue, evokes an island resort town envisioned by Norman Rockwell, despite afternoon traffic that can snarl 20 cars deep in both directions. It has an ice cream parlor and an open-air restaurant, a barbershop with a checkered linoleum floor and a toy store with trucks in the window.
With the exception of a pharmacy, “we don’t have any chain stores,” Ms. Bennett said, “and we don’t want them.”
WHAT YOU’LL FIND
Measuring just over two square miles, with about 10,000 people, Old Greenwich is split in half by a one-two punch of Route 1 and Interstate 95.
Houses north of that noisy dividing line, which tend toward colonials, raised ranches and brick Capes, are about half the price of ones south of it, and smaller, too. Many examples are found in Havemeyer Park, a 1940s subdivision partly developed by the boxer Gene Tunney, where streets like MacArthur Drive, Halsey Drive and Nimitz Place, bear the names of World War II military leaders, apparently in a bid to appeal to returning soldiers.
The more coveted homes sit south, on Old Greenwich’s nearly eight miles of winding coastline, which encompasses coves, ponds and rocky points, close to named microenclaves like Lucas Point, Tomac and Shorelands.
Here, among traces of a late 1800s summer colony, sit hulking shingles and ornate Mediterraneans and eyebrow-dormered colonials; some seem to have been “Victorianized” with porches, fish-scale shingles and additions.
Along prestigious Shore Road, there is evidence of teardowns behind boxwood hedges, where builders have maximized what’s allowed under generally quarter-acre zoning.
Also, because this section is prone to flooding in severe northeasters, many homes have had to prop themselves up in recent years under federal law.
Condos, meanwhile, are scattered, though most are found in two complexes: Old Greenwich Gables, from the 1990s, and the Commons, from the 1970s, each with about 180 units, brokers say. Rental housing, few and far between, usually consists of sublet condos....Old Greenwich Community Profile
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