Woodside a pioneer among Stamford’s bustling housing developments
Updated 6:13 pm, Thursday, March 16, 2017
STAMFORD — Long before Harbor Point and downtown high-rises stood Woodside Village, believed to be the city’s first major apartment complex.
Longtime Stamford resident Ralph Bounty never saw anything like it when the complex — stretching along Bridge Street from Summer Street to Washington Boulevard — was built in 1939.
Top-notch materials were used to build the two giant buildings — now called Woodside Green — with a cinder block skeleton and red-brick face.
The buildings, which housed 177 apartments, were arranged in a horseshoe around an open green space, leading to Washington Boulevard and looking out over Scalzi Park — known then as Woodside Park.
“They were built to be luxurious,” said Bounty, a 90-year-old who grew up on the other side of Summer Street near Sixth Street. “It was a very high-end resident who would end up there.”
Bounty made several friends in the complex, but said his fondest memory of Woodside Village was during its construction.
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“I remember as a young boy, I would climb to the third floor while it was under construction and walk the planks,” he said.
Woodside Green’s neighborhood was still fairly rural for most of the 1930s, Bounty said.
“Summer Street was still a dirt road then,” he said, remembering what his neighborhood looked like in the early 1930s before Woodside. “So that shows you how remote it used to feel.”
After Woodside Village was completed and occupied with residents in the 1940s, construction began for other developments, including the first iteration of the Ridgeway Shopping Center.
’Very big deal’
The complex was given new life in the 1980s, when it was rebranded as condominiums and renamed Woodside Green. An advertisement in a 1984 issue of The Advocate called the complex “Stamford’s newest condominium...45 years in the making.”
The advertisement promoted new air conditioning and heating appliances in each unit, updated kitchens with GE appliances and “convenient entry-phone lobby intercom systems” — all considered amenities in the early 1980s.
However, the complex’s origins appeared to have been lost amid the many development booms.
“I don’t even have a single story about that building,” said Renee Kahn, founder of the Historic Neighborhood Preservation Program.
But Bounty has plenty of memories.
“It was probably the biggest complex that had been built in Stamford at that point,” he said. “It was a very big deal to us.”
The complex is now overshadowed by the neighborhood’s more recent developments.
Ridgeway Shopping Center is now home to several big-box retailers, a Starbucks and an LA Fitness. It’s also a stone’s throw from the towering apartment complexes that now line the bustling Summer Street and Washington Boulevard corridors.
That’s what enticed Frank LaFauci to purchase a one-bedroom unit in 2013 as an investment property. He knew it would be easy to rent a unit in that prime location.
“At first, I was interested because I would drive by and think, ‘Wow, those places look so cool,’” said LaFauci, who also owns a rental apartment on Bedford Street. “It’s not quite in the middle of downtown, but you’re within walking distance of anything you need ... Stop & Shop is right there, for the young people, there’s LA Fitness.”
’A different feel’
LaFauci even persuaded his 24-year-old daughter to purchase a Woodside unit. That two-bedroom is available for $2,000 a month, listed by William Pitt Sotheby’s.
Listing agent Barbara Hickey doesn’t often handle rental listings, but said the recently updated Woodside unit was an exception.
“Usually, rentals are a lot of work, but this will go quickly,” she said. “It’s all about the location.”
Woodside Village was in some ways ahead of its time. After nearly falling out of fashion before its 1980’s rebranding, it offered everything new developments — like the hip Harbor Point neighborhood in the South End — are now trying to recreate.
“The common areas like the green spaces at Woodside Green far outshine those anywhere else,” LaFauci said. “It’s not just a building or a courtyard. It’s vast. There’s lots of space between buildings. There’s a beautiful gazebo. People can walk their dogs.”
He says that makes for a better sense of community in Woodside.
“It’s more than a place you head to at the end of the day and close the door,” he said. “People there know each other. They say ‘hi,’ they open the door. It’s just a different feel than anywhere else.”