Feb 6, 2012
08:36 AMDiscover Connecticut
Connecticut From A to Woodstock: Ansonia
The second stop in our new series takes me a little closer to home.
Ah, Ansonia, one of the jewels of the Naugatuck River Valley, where it's been said, "If God isn't a Chargers fan, then why is the sky blue?" My wife grew up in Ansonia and her parents still live there, so I've spent a fair amount of time in town, and certainly know it better than Andover (the first town profiled).
Where is it? Ansonia is about 11 miles west of New Haven, near the border of Fairfield County.
What's it like? Ansonia is a vibrant member of The Valley community, somewhat densely populated—better than 19,000 people packed in about 6.2 square miles. The Naugatuck River flows through the town, which is a mostly urban mix of multifamily homes and small businesses. Remnants of the city's proud manufacturing past still remain, while the recent economic downturn has hit the area hard. However, community efforts to infuse new life and vitality are beginning to show results.
Brief history The area had long been part of Derby until 1844, when industrialist Anson Greene Phelps purchased land on the east side of the Naugatuck to expand his business. It was chartered as a borough of Derby in 1864, and then officially became an independent entity in 1889. The town's fortunes have followed the state's manufacturing history, peaking in the early 20th century and then slowly declining as businesses have moved to other places. The name "Ansonia" was chosen in honor of Phelps, as it's a form of his first name.
Don't miss Ansonia High School football is life itself in town, with the Chargers having won the state Class M title 17 times, five times in the last decade alone, including in 2011. In one of the longest-running high school rivalries in the nation, Ansonia has annually been playing Naugatuck High School since 1895; the game now takes place on Thanksgiving Day and can draw crowds of close to 10,000.
Most famous resident A rite of passage for Ansonia school children is a field-trip visit to the home of Revolutionary War hero Gen. David Humphreys, the personal aide-de-camp of George Washington who also served in the state legislature. The house showcases his story as well as life in Colonial times, with hands-on activities and deomonstrations. Technically, the Humphreys house was built in Derby, but was in the area bought by Phelps and became part of Ansonia when the town was declared its own entity.
Out and about The city recently put the finishing touches on a new riverwalk, which was dedicated in October 2011 (read about it here in the Valley Independent Sentinel). The Ansonia stetch along the Naugatuck River is about .67 miles, and connects to the existing 1.7 miles of the Derby Greenway, which has been incredibly popular with walkers, joggers and families.
If you're hungry Although there are a few good restaurants in town, it's hard to beat Crave on Main Street. It's a small, bright, open space with brick walls and a Mediterranean feel. They describe their cuisine as "eclectic Caribbean fusion," although I would say that after eating there multiple times, it's simply delicous.
Local color Although there's only a stone monument to mark it, the town played a key role in 1777 during the American Revolution. It was during that period that the British, under the command of Gen. William Tyron, were in the area and looking to raid American stores. To thwart the British and protect precious supplies stored near the river in Derby—including pork to feed the American army—the supplies were moved to a spot in the woods and buried, which turned out to be a successful strategy. The British never found them and as we all know, the well-fed American forces eventually prevailed. That area, off of Wakelee Avenue, is now known as Pork Hollow.Connecticut From A to Woodstock: Ansonia