Thursday, September 21, 2017

New England Villages: Chester CT

As noted in recent posts, I have been working on a project which looks at the viability of using historic New England village centers as a framework for supporting 21st rural development.  The idea is that the village model can be updated to support sustainable development in the countryside and to serve as a counterweight to large-lot, exurban sprawl.  I did some field visits recently and thought I would share some highlights.
Chester CT is a town of about 3700 (1500 in the center), some 12 miles north of Old Saybrook, in the Connecticut River Valley.  The village center is notable mainly for its collection of art galleries, craft shops, and boutiques along Main Street in the valley of the Pattaconk Brook.  It’s about a 20-minute drive to the Old Saybrook train station on the growing Shore Line East commuter rail line (there is also a bus, which takes twice as long, with two-hour headways).

Chester may not have much to teach us about village form, but it definitely shows that the right, picturesque setting can attract a vibrant arts community and the tourists that that brings.  What economists call the “agglomeration” effect can be seen in villages as well as cities.

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