Norwalk (population 82,951), located on Long Island Sound, was first settled in the 1640s. During the Revolutionary War, the town was burned by Hessian and British forces. After the war, the citizens of Norwalk rebuilt the town, adding coastal trade, manufacturing, and shipbuilding to their farm businesses.
By the mid-19th century, Norwalk had become a major schooner and steamboat port as well as a thriving manufacturing center, producing clocks, watches, paper, pottery, nails, and hats. Oystering was and continues to be an important economic generator. Typical of many cities, the city's urban core deteriorated during the decades immediately after World War II.
But in the 1970s, Norwalk became a pioneer in the preservation of historic downtowns, and much of the decline has been reversed through redevelopment based on adaptive use of historic properties.
Considerable redevelopment has occurred in South Norwalk, or SoNo, and two projects illustrate the city's commitment to preservation. The Lock Company Building, a mid-19th century industrial building, has been transformed into the Lock Arts and Technology Center, providing retail space and office space for firms in the creative technology fields.
On a much smaller scale, the city also worked to ensure that the Dr. Robert Wolfe House was relocated rather than demolished and successfully incorporated into a rental housing development.
Norwalk works with neighboring communities to attract heritage tourists through the Coastal Fairfield County Convention and Visitor Bureau. An annual draw for visitors is the Norwalk Seaport Association's Oyster Festival, which celebrates the city's maritime heritage.
Designated a Preserve America Community in June 2005.