On July 11, 1779, Norwalk, Connecticut was burned by the British Tories under Governor William Tryon. A committee of the General Assembly estimated the losses to the inhabitants at $116,238.66. The Continental Congress granted an area in the Western Reserve of Ohio as compensation for those established losses.
On May 30, 1800, the United States ceded the land titles to the "fire sufferers" and the representatives of the Western Reserve transferred the political jurisdiction to the general government. The Indian title was extinguished by treaty on July 4, 1805, on payment of $18,916.67; and in 1806, thirteen men arrived to make the first survey of the Firelands.
On November 9, 1808, a group of prominent citizens from Ridgefield, Norwalk, New Haven, Greenwich, and Fairfield met at the courthouse in New Haven, Connecticut, as the Board of Directors of the Proprietors of the half-million acres (2,000 km²) of land lying south of Lake Erie, called the "Sufferers Land." They passed a resolution naming many of the townships in this area known as the "Fire Lands of Ohio."
Between 1806 and 1810, many families made the trip to look over land they had purchased in the Firelands. During the War of 1812, the fear of British and Indian raids caused settlement of the Huron County area to come almost to a standstill. With the war's end, Platt Benedict of Danbury, Connecticut visited and examined the present site of Norwalk in 1815. He returned to Danbury and purchased 1,300 acres (5.3 km²) of land with an eye toward establishing a town.
In July 1817, Benedict returned to Norwalk with his family and established a homestead. This was the first permanent residence established within the limits of Norwalk Village. In May 1818, the county seat was successfully removed from the now-defunct frontier settlement of Avery to Norwalk, and by 1819 a census showed a population of 109 residents. Platt Benedict, the founder of Norwalk and its first mayor, died in 1866 at the age of 91. He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.
Though few of the early settlers of Norwalk and the surrounding area were actual fire suffers, most did come from Connecticut and nearby states. They brought with them not only the customs, but also the architecture of New England. Many of their homes are still standing today.
In 1881, Norwalk's population reached the required minimum entitling her to incorporate as a city and the City of Norwalk dates from April 12, 1881.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 8.6 square miles (22.2 km²), of which, 8.3 square miles (21.6 km²) of it is land and 0.2 square miles (0.6 km²) of it (2.92%) is water. The city of Norwalk is bound by Norwalk Township in each direction and a small portion of the west side is bound by Ridgefield Township. The city is located approximately 11 miles south of Lake Erie.
There were 6,377 households out of which 34.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.9% were married couples living together, 12.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.6% were non-families. 28.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.49 and the average family size was 3.06.
In the city the population was spread out with 27.9% under the age of 18, 9.1% from 18 to 24, 28.9% from 25 to 44, 19.8% from 45 to 64, and 14.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 91.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.1 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $37,778, and the median income for a family was $45,789. Males had a median income of $36,582 versus $22,165 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,519. About 6.8% of families and 8.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.1% of those under age 18 and 6.0% of those age 65 or over.
The U.S. federal highways that run through Norwalk include Route 20 (part of the Norwalk bypass on the south side of town), which connects Fremont (via Bellevue) from the west and Elyria from the east; and Route 250 (known locally as Whittlesey Avenue, League Street, and Benedict Avenue), which connects Sandusky from the north (west) and Ashland from the south (east).
The state highways that run through Norwalk include Route 13 (multiplexed with Route 250), which connects Huron from the north and Mansfield from the south; Route 18 (multiplexed with Route 20 on the bypass), which connects Bellevue from the west and Medina from the east; and Route 61 (known locally as Main Street), which connects Shelby from the south and Berlin Heights as well as Lake Erie from the northeast.
Furthermore, State Route 601 is an alternate two-lane highway that bypasses Norwalk and U.S. Route 250 to the east, running from State Route 113 in Milan to State Route 18 a few miles east of Norwalk, next to Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park. Rumors exist which have State Route 601 being extended from State Route 18 south to U.S. Route 250 in Olena along Huron County's Greenwich-Milan Townline Road.
Due to city annexations and previously determined school district boundaries, Norwalk is served by four public school districts. The majority of the city is served by the Norwalk City School District. Northern portions of the city, including areas north of Gallup Avenue, are located within the Berlin-Milan Local School District. Extreme western portions of the city, beyond the Sycamore Hills development, are located within the Monroeville Local School District. Also, extreme eastern portions of the city are within the boundaries of the Western Reserve Local School District. Residents of Norwalk who live in school districts other than the Norwalk City School District have the option to send their children to Norwalk City Schools because of open enrollment. Furthermore, Norwalk Catholic Schools and Saint Paul High School add to the educational options in Norwalk.