Written By: Bill Syken

The 1950s and ’60s are the decades in which the suburbs really took off as a feature of the American landscape. So LIFE was catching the early part of the wave In 1949 when it devoted 11 photo-rich pages to Fairfield County, Connecticut. LIFE deemed Fairfield County as the hot new locale for people who wanted to work in New York City but also sleep in a place were you could hear crickets outside your window. Old farmhouses were being bought up and renovated into country homes for successful New Yorkers.

Here’s how LIFE described the phenomenon, noting that Fairfield County was not the first place that New Yorkers had taken over, looking to build lives that combined the best aspects of city and country living:

Because of its distance from New York, Fairfield County is chiefly reserved for well-to-do commuters. So thousands of successful New Yorkers, attracted by the rolling hills, the leisurely life and other New Yorkers, have flocked to towns like Greenwich, Darien, Westport and Redding. A similar migration took place near the turn of the century to Long Island’s swank North Shore and after World War I to Westchester County, New York, now overcrowded. Today it is in Fairfield County that New Yorkers sail their boats, ride their horses, drive around in their station wagons and lead a luxurious rural life.

LIFE staff photographer Nina Leen captured the mix of lifestyles to be found in Fairfield County as the newly arrived businessmen mixed in with farmers and also artsier types such as magazine illustrators and classical music conductors. (As so often happens, the bohemians had discovered Fairfield County decades earlier, thus paving the way for the arrival of the executive class.) One photo of a boy on horseback looks like it could have been shot it Colorado. Meanwhile another, of a lawn party in which the men are wearing suits and bring brought drinks by a butler, is a reminder that the city is not far off.

The signature photos of the set are the ones Leen shot at the Darien train station, where a wife and her young children waited for the man of the house, an insurance executive, to return from his job in the city. The train was set to arrive at 6:26; the children, ages 3 and 2, were in their pajamas because they were going to be put to bed as soon as dad got home.

The photo of the wife greeting her husband with a kiss echoes one of the most famous images in the history of LIFE: Alfred Eisenstadt’s iconic V-J Day Kiss shot of a solder celebrating the end of combat in World War II. Four years later, this insurance executive had his homecoming every day.

The daily commute, the story noted, could be a grind. “The commuter’s day revolves around the 7:43 to New York in the morning and the 5:16 out at night. But for the New Yorkers who can—or think they can—afford a country home, Fairfield County is probably the best—and the newly fashionable—place to have it.”

All these decades later Fairfield County remains popular, though it is inevitably less bucolic. Today the county is home to four of the seven largest cities in Connecticut.

Chemical executive H.S. Richardson (center) enjoys cocktails with his family in Fairfield County, Connecticut, 1949.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

At the Fairfield County, Conn., home of chemical executive H.S. Richardson, children played, under watch of a nurse, on sand that was brought in to a naturally rocky shoreline, 1949.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Franklin P. Adams, a newspaper columnist and radio personality, stood beside his 17 year old, air cooled Franklin, which he said he liked because it did not freeze when left at the train station on a winter’s day, Fairfield County, Connecticut,1949.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A boy riding the only horse in the neighborhood in Fairfield County, Connecticut, 1949.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Printing executive Nelson Macy hosted neighbors on his property in Fairfield County, Connecticut, 1949.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Noted musical conductor Fritz Reiner moved to Fairfield County, Connecticut, in 1938; when he was conducting at the Met he stayed at his apartment in New York City.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A new arrival to Westport, 37-year-old executive James Donovan (left) exemplified the suburban growth in Fairfield County, Connecticut, 1949.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Socialites getting ready for a barbecue picnic in Fairfield County, Connecticut, 1949.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

From a 1949 story on Fairfield County, Connecticut.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

(left to right) Robert T. Vanderbilt, David S. Starring, Frederick T. Bedford and Charles S. Munson played golf at the Country Club in Fairfield, 1949. When this photo ran in LIFE it was annotated with the long list of boards each man served on.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

James Earle Fraser and his wife wheeling massive pieces of the sculpture onto an outside platform at their Fairfield County home; Fraser was the designer of the buffalo nickel.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Stevan Dohanos, who had drawn many cover illustrations for The Saturday Evening Post, painting in Westport, Connecticut, 1949; the man to his right is George Weising, who Dohanos frequently used as a model.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Helen Hokinson, a cartoonist for New Yorker magazine, in Fairfield County, Connecticut, 1949.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Actress Eva Le Gallienne relaxed on the property on her 15-acre farmhouse in 1949; at the time of LIFE’s story on Fairfield County she had been a resident there for 22 years.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Eddie Dowling (center) and Meg Mundy (behind him), rehearsing the community theater production `Time of Your Life’ in Westport, in Fairfield, Connecticut, 1949.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Walter P. Jacob, who also worked as a management consultant in New York, operated a sheep farm in Fairfield County, Connecticut, 1949. The farm was at that point a money-loser, largely because the land was so expensive.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Walter P. Jacob holding two of his pedigreed sheep in Fairfield County, Connecticut, 1949.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Daphne Jacob feeding the pheasants on her father’s farm in Fairfield County, Connecticut, 1949.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Kids swimming in Walter P. Jacob’s stone swimming pool in Fairfield County, Connecticut, 1949.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A gentleman farmer showing the ladies the hornless cows in Fairfield County, Connecticut, 1949.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A large Mount Vernon type home running along the Gold Coast in Fairfield County, Connecticut, 1949.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

From a 1949 story on the Fairfield, Connecticut.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

From a 1949 story on Fairfield County, Connecticut.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

From a 1949 story on Fairfield County, Connecticut.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A cobbler’s bench, from a 1949 story on Fairfield County, Connecticut.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

An old window pane showing the irregularity in the glass, from a 1949 story on Fairfield County, Connecticut.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A split-rail fence, from a 1949 story on Fairfield County, Connecticut.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A bottle of Kant-Burn, standing amidst a pile of fire proofed hay, from a 1949 story on Fairfield County, Connecticut.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

From a 1949 story on the Fairfield, Connecticut.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A beagle, from a 1949 story on Fairfield County, Connecticut.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

From a 1949 story on the Fairfield, Connecticut.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

The sun shining on the highest peaks of the large stone mansion in Fairfield County, Connecticut, 1949.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Dark green bushes and trees surrounding a stone mansion in Fairfield County, Connecticut, 1949.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A new Ford Station wagon, from a 1949 story on Fairfield County, Connecticut.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Wealthy businessman playing cards in the club car during the ride in the New Haven railroad, 1949.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A wife waited with her children for her commuter husband to come home at the train station on Darien, Connecticut, 1949.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A husband returns home from his commute at a railway station in Darien, Connecticut, July 1949.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

A family reunites on a train station platform in Darien, Connecticut as dad returns from his job in New York City, 1949.

Nina Leen/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

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