Fairfield County town nears purchase of private island for over $100M

Darien officials are in contract to buy Great Island, a 60-acre parcel last sold a century ago

Darien First Selectman Monica McNally and Great Island in Darien, Connecticut (Darien Republicans, Google Maps)
Darien First Selectman Monica McNally and Great Island in Darien, Connecticut (Darien Republicans, Google Maps)

Just how much are 60 acres of mostly undeveloped land on Connecticut’s Gold Coast worth? Darien taxpayers are about to find out.

The Fairfield County town is in contract to purchase Great Island (technically a peninsula) on the Long Island Sound for somewhere north of $100 million, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Town officials began negotiations last month with descendants of William Ziegler, a 19th-century industrialist who bought the parcel 120 years ago as a summer getaway.

The Steinkraus family, who descend from Ziegler’s granddaughter, listed the property for $175 million in 2016, then dropped the price to $100 million earlier this year.

Great Island, which has beaches and a deepwater dock along its mile-long coastline, is one of the area’s largest undeveloped parcels, according to Darien town officials. Douglas Elliman’s Jennifer Leahy has the listing.

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The centerpiece of the estate is a two-story, 13,000-square-foot stone manor. The 10-bedroom, eight-bathroom home was built in 1905, complete with a Prohibition-era wine cellar with century-old bottles of whiskey.

An equestrian facility built by Rafael Guastavino features vaulted, tiled ceilings reminiscent of one of Guastavino’s better-known projects, Grand Central Terminal. The granite stable has 18 stalls and an indoor riding arena. The estate also has a guest house, a caretaker’s cottage, a farmhouse, a seaside cottage, a polo field and riding trails.

Other bidders vied for the property, according to Leahy, including developers and would-be residents. It’s not clear how the town intends to use the land, and the deal will need “several layers” of approval from Darien officials, Monica McNally, the town’s First Selectman, told the Journal.

“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 at a Board of Selectmen meeting last month, when talks began.

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[WSJ] — Holden Walter-Warner