Darien is a town in Fairfield County, Connecticut, United States. A relatively small community on Connecticut's "Gold Coast", the population was 20,732 at the 2010 census. Darien was listed at #9 on CNN Money's list of "top-earning towns" in the United States as of 2011.
Situated between the cities of Norwalk and Stamford, the town is a bedroom community with relatively few office buildings. Most workers commute to the adjacent cities, and many also work in Manhattan. Two Metro-North railroad stations – Noroton Heights and Darien – link the town to Grand Central Terminal and the rest of the New Haven Line. For recreation, the town includes four small parks, two public beaches on Long Island Sound, four country clubs, a hunt club, and two yacht clubs.
The town name is pronounced (like "Dairy-Ann"), with stress on the last syllable, and has been referred to as such at least as far back as 1913. Residents say this is still the proper pronunciation, which in the local dialect is more precisely . "You can always tell when someone is not from here, because they do pronounce it the way it's spelled," Louise Berry, director of the town library, said in a 2006 interview.
According to early records, the first clearings of land were made by men from the New Haven and Wethersfield colonies and from Norwalk in about 1641. It was not until 1740, however, that the Middlesex Society of the Town of Stamford built the first community church, now the First Congregational Church of Darien (which stands on the original site at the corner of Brookside Road and the Boston Post Road).
The area became Middlesex Parish in 1737. It was incorporated as the Town of Darien in 1820. Tories (Loyalists) raided the town several times during the American Revolution, at one point taking 26 men in the parish prisoner for five months, including the Rev. Moses Mather, pastor of the parish. The Loyalist-Patriot conflict in Darien is the setting for the novel Tory Hole, the first book by children's author Louise Hall Tharp.
According to the Darien Historical Society, the name Darien was decided upon when the residents of the town could not agree on a name to replace Middlesex Parish, many families wanting it to be named after themselves. A sailor who had traveled to Darién, Panama, then part of the Spanish Empire, suggested the name Darien, which was eventually adopted by the people of the town.
Until the advent of the railroad in 1848, Darien remained a small, rural community of about 1,000. After the Civil War, the town became one of the many resorts where New Yorkers built luxurious, grand summer homes.
Darien has a well-established reputation as a former sundown town, having effectively kept out African American and Jewish families for decades through the exclusionary practices of realtors and the hostile behavior of individuals. The 1947 Academy Award-winning film Gentleman's Agreement by Elia Kazan treats Darien's exclusion of Jews and is based on the novel Gentleman's Agreement by Laura Hobson.