If you want to know how Connecticut towns measure up, you can read about how they rate in Connecticut Magazine's November issue featuring "Rating the Towns." In previous years, Connecticut Magazine has organized results based on town population. This year, the magazine staff devised what they feel is a more relevant method to categorize Connecticut towns—by median home sale price—believing that people are more apt to make buying decisions based on criteria relative to what they can afford than by town population. With a median home sale price of $293,500, Durham ranks six in the median home sale price category between $225,000 and $299,999, measured against 40 other towns. Link to the article to learn more about the criteria used, and read my personal Top 10 below and why I think Durham should be number one.
1. City close, country fresh—Located in the central corridor of the state about halfway between Hartford and New Haven, Durham is land rich boasting 23.8 square miles with only 6,600 people or so. This small town ranks among Connecticut Magazine’s best small towns year after year. Residents love living near so many conveniences like shopping malls, grocery stores, and lots of great restaurants. But even better is having access to work and play without over-development in your backyard. Durham is hard to beat as a commuting hub with nearby I-91 and Rt. 9. From Durham, day trips to Boston and New York can be a reality and, as a bonus, you can drive to the beach in thirty minutes. Don’t forget the exceptional schools nearby including Yale, Wesleyan, Quinnipiac, Trinity and UConn, to name a few.
2. Sister town of Middlefield—With two towns functioning as one in many ways, Durham is lucky to share a border with Middlefield, a true recreational crossroads. Middlefield is home to three golf courses, Powder Ridge ski area (newly renovated and opening for winter 2013/2014), Lake Beseck, Wadsworth Falls, Lyman Orchards (offering a robust pick your own season from June through October and lots of seasonal events), and a skateboard park.
3. Top-notch school system—Regional School District 13 (RSD13) is beloved by all who live here. Families living in Durham and Middlefield can choose between two school programs working from the same rigorous curriculum standards. Depending on the needs and learning style of your child, students can enroll in either the Contemporary Program or the Integrated Day (ID) Program, both beginning with full-day kindergarten. Our accredited regional high school has approximately 580 students and boasts a student ratio of 11:1, better than neighboring towns Guilford and Madison.
4. Traditional Main Street—Dotted with antique homes, lovely Main Street is listed as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places and home to our quaint town Green, wonderful library, and renovated Town Hall. It’s also the parade route for our festive Memorial Day Parade. Stop by our farmer’s market held on the Green throughout the growing season on Thursday afternoons.
5. State-of-the-art athletic complex—Home to the Blue Devils, Coginchaug Regional High School sports a brand new stadium and track for great viewing and a spectacular home field advantage for football, soccer, and track and field.
6. State parks and trail network—If you like hiking, mountain biking, and walking in the woods, there are more than enough options in town and nearby: Mattabesett Trail, Wadsworth Falls State Park, Millers Pond State Park, Cockaponset State Forest, Mica Ledges, Field Forest, and Mount Pisgah.
7. Country fair—Held the last full weekend in September, the Durham Fair is the largest volunteer agricultural fair in New England. Since 1916 when Durham held its first fair on the Gren, The Durham Fair has evolved into a 4-day extravaganza with something for everyone. The fair celebrates our agricultural roots, and defines a close-knit community steeped in volunteerism. Community groups depend on the fair as a vital fundraising platform for their organizations.
8. Sense of community—In Durham, you’ll feel like you know everyone (and if you don’t know them, you’ll know their face). It’s hard to say why, but the people of Durham are uniquely compassionate and support each other in a variety of ways. For a small town, Durham has a surprising number of organizations for those who want to be involved. There are three churches, an activity center, town boards and commissions, and clubs for every interest. Top places to see someone you know: Lino’s Italian Market, Durham Library, athletic fields, Perk on Main, or at the gym on Main Street.
9. Great leadership—Durham is governed by an elected Board of Selectmen and Town Meeting style participation. Our town currently has a First Selectman who is both approachable and passionate. You’ll likely see her at just about any local event you attend. Her non-partisan style unites the community as does her capable, smart leadership. In recent years, Durham has progressively adopted and endorsed green living initiatives including participation in Solarize Connecticut, a residential solar pilot program. Durham is also proud of its Emergency Notification and Preparedness Programs that keep residents informed and safe. The Town Hall located on the original town Green is anything but stuffy and the friendly, professional local officials and staff will help you every time.
10. Stewards of the land—Simply a lovely place to call home, Durham is rural and beautiful with rolling hills and lots of green space. With open space and state forest land totaling close to 50 percent of Durham’s land, residents feel the breathing space that results when a town actively promotes thoughtful planning and land preservation. Combine this commitment to green spaces with a 2-acre minimum for new construction, and you have a recipe for happy residents and a beautiful community.