Surrounded on three sides by water, this picturesque district of Norwalk, Connecticut, defines coastal living―and dreaming―at its best.

By Jennifer Chappell

"It's a great, unpretentious hometown," says Andy Rooney aboutwater-ringed Rowayton, Connecticut, where he's lived with his wifesince 1951.

But it wasn't the river, the coves, or the Long Island Soundthat attracted the 60 Minutes commentator to this community of about 4,000people. "I am oblivious to the water," he says with characteristicfrankness. It's the district's village-like atmosphere that's thebiggest draw, says Andy. "Rowayton has a special character."

In a place where you're likely to see more boats on Five MileRiver than cars on Rowayton Avenue, the water does have its allure."That's why I'm here," Kevin Conroy says, pointing to the riverfrom the deck of his eatery, Rowayton Seafood Restaurant. He's madeit his mission to help revitalize the community's small downtown,where some derelict buildings still stand.

Kevin opened a gourmet grocery store two years ago so residentswouldn't have to drive into Norwalk to buy groceries. A dock alongthe river allows boaters to pick up their goods waterside. "You canpull your boat up to load up," says Molly Ferm, who came here threeyears ago with her husband, David.

Molly and David moved here permanently after renting in thecommunity. "It has a lot of boating, sailing, in-line skating, andwalking. We like to do all of the above," she says. To renovate ahome on South Beach, the couple worked with local architect RogerBartels, who creates houses that suit their coastal settings.

Roger has designed numerous new homes and renovated old ones,blending Cape Cod's simple shingle-style design with fancifulcurves, turrets, and porches that take advantage of water views. Heemploys nautical elements, such as ship's railings, lighthouse-liketowers, and decks worthy of an ocean liner. "Over the past 10years, he has transformed the architectural face of the village,"says Lynn Julian, who once worked in Roger's office and now sellsreal estate in the area.

All residents are invited to join the Rowayton CivicAssociation, which supports aspects of the community, including thepublic Bayley Beach, three schools, a library, and an arts center.The group also sponsors a full calendar of annualevents―including an Easter egg hunt, the Father's Day Row,Art in the Park on Memorial Day, fireworks on the Fourth of July,and a River Ramble in August.

Newcomers and longtime residents such as Andy Rooney realize howfortunate they are to have discovered this place. "It has managedto remain quite unchanged," says Andy of the town where he and hiswife have attended the same New Year's Eve party with friends formore than 50 years. One reason for the unchanging quality, hesurmises, is that the homes here don't attract those in search oflarge homes at bargain prices. "It's more expensive for what youget," he says, adding that it's worth it.

While the real estate market is tough, with most homes rangingfrom $480,000 to several million, it's not just a house youpurchase. You buy a lifestyle. And though out of reach for many, ina place as idyllic as this, the price seems to be just aboutright.

(published 2001)

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