National News

A Quiet Town Where Full-Timers Mix With Weekenders

Posted December 1, 2018 4:43 p.m. EST

In August 2016, a month before their wedding, Sara and Greg Grant sold their condominium in Danbury, Connecticut, and began looking for a house. “We wanted to start our life together as husband and wife in a home with a lot of land and privacy,” Sara Grant said.

And they wanted that home to be in Sherman, a 23.4-square-mile town in the northernmost corner of Fairfield County.

Sara Grant, 28, works as an accountant in Shelton, Connecticut; Greg Grant, 31, is an IT manager in White Plains, New York. Both grew up in neighboring New Milford, so they knew the area, and they had spent time in Sherman visiting Sara Grant’s sister and brother-in-law and their two young children. They were drawn to the town by the strong reputation of its school, its proximity to the Metro-North Railroad and its hometown feel.

In May 2017, they found their house: a 3,066-square-foot, four-bedroom saltbox, built in 1983 on 4 acres, for which they paid $475,000.

“Sitting on our deck, breathing in the fresh air, hearing only the sounds of nature,” Grant said, “we realize this town offers us what we always wanted: peace and serenity.”

Sherman’s peace and serenity were part of what appealed to John C. Ferris and his husband, J. Daniel Parra. In August 2017, they paid $390,000 for a 2,677-square-foot, two-bedroom, 1992 Cape Cod-style house, set on 1 acre in Candlewood Lake Estates. Their neighborhood is one of several lakeside associations with private beaches and docks along Sherman’s portion of the 11-mile-long Candlewood Lake.

Ferris, 64, is a real estate agent with Corcoran in New York City; Parra, 47, works in development at the Metropolitan Opera. Their purchase concluded a three-year search for a getaway from their Upper West Side rental. “We wanted a weekend house with the potential to be a full-time residence,” Ferris said.

The two couples represent different facets of Sherman’s population of roughly 3,600, which is primarily white, but a medley in other ways.

Don Lowe, the town’s first selectman, said full-timers mix easily with weekenders, whom he estimated constitute about a third of Sherman’s residents. “We’re not a seasonal town,” he said. “Some of our weekenders are the people you’ll see most regularly around here.”

The town includes young and old. More than a quarter of the population is 65 or older, Lowe said, and that proportion is projected to rise. Ferris was pleased to find “lots of older folks like me,” he said, “so I’m not sticking out.” The Grants, on the other hand, chose Sherman because of its younger demographic. “We knew there were families raising kids here,” Sara Grant said. “We felt we would fit in.”

There is also a socioeconomic range. “We have white-collar and blue-collar professionals,” Lowe said. “We have educators and state and local workers. We have farmers and farmhands. And we have an artist community. People are mistaken when they think we are not a diverse place.”

— What You’ll Find

Sherman’s southeastern corner is pierced by the northern tip of Squantz Pond and a northern finger of Candlewood Lake, creating 9 miles of shoreline. Farther north, the Naromiyocknowhusunkatankshunk Brook meanders, its 29-character name recalling the native Algonquins who once lived in the area.

In the town center, a half-mile stretch of 18th- and 19th-century homes and buildings was designated a historic district and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Today, in addition to a handful of working farms, the predominantly residential Sherman has approximately 1,800 single-family homes, many on 2-acre to 5-acre lots. There are no multifamily homes or condominium, cooperative or rental complexes.

— What You’ll Pay

Irit Granger, a broker associate with William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty, said houses in Sherman typically start at around $300,000, with waterfront properties selling for $650,000 to $2.5 million. “You pay a premium for the water,” she said.

The waterfront is the attraction for many of Granger’s clients, most seeking weekend homes. “We have a buoyant second-home market,” she said.

Sherman’s overall residential market activity has accelerated over the past two years, said Kathleen A. Harrison, a broker and an owner of Fazzone & Harrison Realty. “We’re up in sales 15 to 20 percent,” she said. “People are buying.”

Data from Connecticut’s SmartMLS indicated that as of Nov. 18, there were 54 homes on the market, ranging from a four-bedroom, 2,409-square-foot colonial on 2.19 acres, built in 1846 and listed for $205,000, to a five-bedroom, 4,113-square-foot colonial, built in 1900 on 47.25 acres, for $7.999 million.

The median sales price for a single-family home during the 12-month period ending Nov. 18 was $415,000, down slightly from $432,000 during the previous 12 months.

— The Vibe

With its rolling hills and pastoral beauty, Sherman has more in common with adjacent Litchfield County than with its Fairfield neighbors. “We are not suburbia,” Harrison said.

Commerce is minimal. Exceptions include the popular American Pie Co. bakery and restaurant and the Sherman IGA, where residents mingle in the grocery aisles. Shopping and dining options abound in nearby towns.

As for culture, there are performances by the Sherman Players in the historic Sherman Playhouse and concerts by the Sherman Chamber Ensemble. The JCC in Sherman hosts a roster of programming, as does the Sherman Library. White Silo Farm and Winery holds wine tastings, art exhibitions and other events. History buffs can visit the Sherman Historical Society’s Northrop House Museum and, across the street, the Olde Store Gift Shop and Museum. Candlewood Lake offers year-round recreation, from swimming and boating to ice skating and ice-fishing. The Naromi Land Trust (which takes its name from the aforementioned brook) maintains 1,500 acres of open space.

Residents gather for annual events like the Memorial Day celebration and the Sherman Volunteer Fire Department’s Fireman’s Ball.

The community is a caring one, said Michael Luzi, who has owned the IGA for 33 years: “We watch out for everybody, to be sure everybody in town is OK.”

— The Schools

Sherman is served by the Sherman School, attended by roughly 300 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, with prekindergarten available for those willing to pay tuition. The school has a 5-1 student-to-staff ratio.

For high school, students can choose to attend New Fairfield High, New Milford High or the Shepaug Valley School, in nearby Washington. They can also opt for Henry Abbott Technical High School, in Danbury, or the Ellis Clark Regional Agriscience and Technology Program at Nonnewaug High School, in Woodbury.

Data from the Connecticut Department of Education’s EdSight portal indicated that of the seventh-graders who took the 2017-18 Smarter Balanced assessments, 81.5 percent were proficient in English and 68 percent were proficient in math; statewide equivalents were 55 percent and 44.1 percent.

Keri B. Snowden, director of curriculum, instruction and innovation at the Sherman School, reported that mean SAT scores tracked for former Sherman students in the high school graduating class of 2019 were 550 in evidence-based reading and writing, and 528 in math; statewide equivalents were 516 and 503.

— The Commute

For commuters to cities like Danbury, Hartford and White Plains, Sherman is approximately 15 miles from Interstates 684 and 84.

Commuters to Manhattan, about 70 miles southwest, can drive into New York to catch the Metro-North Railroad’s Harlem line. Direct trains to Grand Central Terminal from the Harlem Valley-Wingdale station, about 7 miles from northern Sherman, take 103 to 110 minutes; monthly fare is $521. Direct trains to and from Pawling, about 8 miles away, take 95 to 103 minutes; monthly fare is $475. Peak trains to and from Southeast, about 20 miles away, take 80 to 93 minutes; monthly fare is $422.

Those who prefer to drive all the way can expect a rush-hour trip of a couple of hours. — The History

In 1743, a young Roger Sherman moved with his family to an area then known as New Dilloway, now the northern tip of Sherman. He lived there only a few years, but that was enough for the farmer, shoemaker and statesman to become Sherman’s namesake when the town incorporated in 1802, nine years after his death. Sherman was the only Founding Father to sign each of four significant documents: the Continental Association, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution of the United States.

In 2009, the Sherman Historical Society dedicated the Roger Sherman Cobbler Shop, a reconstruction using original timbers from Sherman’s New Dilloway barn. And in June, the organization opened the Roger Sherman Learning Center, which traces Sherman’s achievements.