Commissioned in 1932, Route 53 originally extended from Route 57 in Weston to US 202 (now Route 302) in Bethel, for a length of 13.96 miles. Its original route, from south to north:
- Georgetown Road (today's Route 57) from Route 57 (Newtown Turnpike) to Redding Road in Georgetown. Three blocks to the west is US 7. However, Route 53 did not intersect it.
- Redding Road (today's Route 107) to Hill Road (where today's Route 107 continues)
- Redding Road and other local streets, all part of today's Route 53, to end at Route 302 in Bethel
Here are the older highways that later formed today's Route 53:
- In Norwalk: locally maintained
- Chestnut Hill Road, Wilton, from Norwalk town line to 2.13 miles north of Route 33: this route, with two free ends, was called Route 103
- Cedar Road and Northfield Road: locally maintained
- Weston Road and Newtown Turnpike: part of Route 57
- Glen Road: locally maintained
- Redding Road and north: part of original Route 53
Swap with Route 57
In 1954, Route 53 and Route 57 were redefined. The Georgetown Road segment was taken from Route 53 and given to Route 57. Route 53 now started at US 7 in Georgetown, and then followed Redding Road to the north as before. Route 53 was now 10.25 miles long.
Bigger plans for Route 103
In 1963, as a result of the statewide Route Reclassification, Route 53 was relocated again. However, short-lived changes in 1962 made the area look, for a short time, quite different. Here's what happened in 1962:
- Sharp Hill Rd and Hurlbutt St (part of today's Route 106 east of US 7) was designated SR 747
- Cedar Rd and Norfield Rd (part of today's Route 53, from Route 106 to Route 57) was designated SR 741
- Route 103 was extended north to SR 747, and south to US 1. In other words, Route 103, not Route 53, leading to Norwalk.
In 1963, Route 53 was extended south as we see today, Route 103 was replaced, and Route 106 was extended to Route 53.
Takes over part of US 202
On May 1, 1974, US 202 was moved north to its current alignment through New Milford and Torrington. Route 53 was extended north over old US 202 to its current terminus at I-84 in Danbury.
All-American Road? No thanks
A 2.3-mile stretch of the Route 53, between Route 107 and the Weston town line, was nominated in September 1997 by the Housatonic Valley Tourism District for the All-American Road and National Scenic Byways Program, sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration. Locals attribute the road's beauty to strict land-use regulations and tracts of open space (portions owned by The Nature Conservancy and the Redding Land Trust, among others).
Two other Connecticut highways -- the Merritt Parkway and Route 169 -- are likewise honored. Some federal funding is available for maintaining such roads.
However, the Redding Planning Commission declined the nomination in October 1997, reasoning that national recognition would lead to increased traffic and road widening, eventually detracting from the town's rural charm. Said chairman Diane Taylor: "We do not desire to be recognized on a national scale."