Fairfield County town closes on $85M island purchase

Darien acquired Great Island, a 60-acre parcel of undeveloped land

Darien First Selectman Monica McNally; 19 Great Island (Google Maps, Getty, Darien, Connecticut)
Darien First Selectman Monica McNally; 19 Great Island (Google Maps, Getty, Darien, Connecticut)

The town of Darien is the new owner of an island — well, technically, a peninsula — off Connecticut’s Gold Coast.

The town closed on the $85 million purchase on Friday afternoon, according to a release. 

Town officials started negotiating for the property more than a year ago, discussing a sale with the descendants of 19th-century industrialist William Ziegler, who bought the island as a summer getaway 120 years ago.

The Steinkraus family, descended from Ziegler’s granddaughter, put the property up for sale in 2016 for $175 million. Last year, however, the price was dropped to $100 million, which was around the price Darien was reported last year to have agreed to pay for the property.

In March, the town announced that the price was down to $85 million, though criticism remained about the size of the purchase when stacked up against the town debt and its bond ratings, the CT Examiner reported. At the time, the Board of Finance chairperson said the purchase wouldn’t affect the town’s bond rating.

Douglas Elliman’s Jennifer Leahy had the listing.

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Great Island on the Long Island Sound is made up of 60 largely undeveloped acres. One of the area’s largest undeveloped parcels, there are beaches and a deepwater dock along the mile-long coastline.

There’s also a massive estate on the land, a two-story, 13,000-square-foot manor. The 10-bedroom, eight-bathroom home was built in 1905 and has a Prohibition-era wine cellar. The estate has an equestrian facility built by the same architect of Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal; the granite stable has 18 stalls and an indoor riding arena.

The estate also includes a guest house, a caretaker’s cottage, a farmhouse, a seaside cottage, a polo field and riding trails.

It’s not clear what the town is planning to do with the property, which officials were trying to preserve from intensive development. The town planned to start widening roads, creating parking and addressing safety concerns as soon as it closed. 

A June plan reported by the Connecticut Examiner showed the town has floated a museum, youth camps, pickleball and a community pool among options for the land. 

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