July 29, 2021
An 84-acre area around the South Norwalk train station in Norwalk, CT, traditionally known as Springwood and Whistleville, has been officially added to the National Register of Historic Places (U.S. National Park Service).
The neighborhood along Lexington and Ely Avenues was nicknamed “Whistleville” because of the sounds of approaching train whistles. The South Norwalk train station area has been a busy commercial center since Norwalk became a stop on the New York to New Haven line in the mid-1800s. The neighborhoods around the station were largely made up of immigrants, mainly from Hungary and Italy, who worked in Norwalk’s factories. Through the early 1900s, Norwalk, Connecticut had a thriving textile industry, producing hats, corsets, and shirts, in addition to manufacturing locks. It was also the largest producer of oysters in the country. This commerce was fueled by the railroad.
Benefits of a National Historic District Designation
The main objective of designating “Whistleville” as a National Historic District is to preserve the historic character and buildings of the area by supporting and encouraging renovations and rehabilitation, as well as to enhance the quality of life for residents and businesses. Once an area is an official historic district, property owners are eligible for tax incentives and financial assistance programs from the State and the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency to help finance historic preservation projects and property improvements.
Almost all the streets in the district include wood-framed, single family homes built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, most built between 1880 and 1920. Some of the architectural styles found among them are Gable-front Vernacular, Wing Vernacular, Queen Ann, Italianate, and Colonial Revival styles. The exception is a commercial section along Ely Avenue with three-story brick commercial buildings from the same era. There are also two churches, one in the Gothic Revival style and one in the Romanesque style.
Whistleville joins several other districts in Norwalk, CT on the National Register including South Norwalk (SoNo), Wall Street, Five Mile River Landing, and the Norwalk Green.