Town emerges as potential buyer for $100M private island estate

Darien, Connecticut, to negotiate for 60-acre property

Great Island in Darien and Darien First Selectman Monica McNally (Google Maps, DarienCT.Gov)
Great Island in Darien and Darien First Selectman Monica McNally (Google Maps, DarienCT.Gov)

UPDATED, April 6, 2022, 3:45 p.m.: Finding a person with $100 million to spend on a private island estate is a tough task. Finding a town with that kind of money is slightly easier.

The town of Darien, Connecticut, has started negotiations to buy the 60-acre Great Island on the Long Island Sound, the Connecticut Examiner reported. The Board of Selectman voted unanimously to have one of its members, Monica McNally, begin talks.

William Ziegler, co-founder of the Royal Baking Powder Company, bought the island, which is actually a peninsula, in about 1900 to use as a summer hideaway. The estate has remained in the clan ever since and is owned by the Steinkraus family.

A couple of months ago, the sellers knocked down the listing price to $100 million, one of several drops since the property first listed at $175 million in 2016. The town will likely try to negotiate that down even more, but it is clear it covets the land.

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“There will never be another opportunity for the town to control this property’s destiny, or to add an asset to benefit all of us like this, for us and for generations to come,” McNally said, according to the Examiner.

It is the largest private island estate on the East Coast, according to Town & Country. Jennifer Leahy of Douglas Elliman has the listing.

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The estate’s centerpiece is a two-story, 13,000-square-foot stone manor overlooking the Long Island Sound. The 10-bedroom, eight-bathroom house was built in 1905 and includes a Prohibition-era wine cellar with century-old bottles of whiskey.

Another feature is an equestrian facility built by Rafael Guastavino, best known for contributing to Grand Central Terminal. The granite stable has 18 stalls, plus an indoor riding arena.

Other highlights of the estate include a guest house, caretaker’s cottage, farmhouse, seaside cottage, a polo field and riding trails for the horses.

According to the Examiner, the board has discussed potential uses for the property, but didn’t reveal what those could be. It has also hired an appraiser to evaluate the property. A purchase would need to be approved by the Board of Selectmen and other town entities.

This piece has been updated to include Jennifer Leahy as the agent with the listing. 

[CT Examiner] — Holden Walter-Warner