Thimble Islands Stony Creek CT

Thimble Island CTThe Thimble Islands Stony Creek CT are a chain of 100-365 small islands that lie off the shore of the lovely community of Stony Creek in Branford Connecticut.
They are made up of Stony Creek pink granite rocks, ledges and outcroppings ranging in size from small rocks to 17 acres full of local tradition and a wealth of history.

While they are said to be named for the thimbleberry which is in the family of the black raspberry and once grew wild on them, it is a plant that is rarely seen in the area now and is more notable in the northern New England area.  

Thimble Islands
The Thimble Islands were first discovered by Adrian Block in 1614 who also discovered Block Island and were a favorite spot of the Mattabeseck Indians as a summer camping ground. During the 18th century in 1716 the colonists acquired land grants of the islands.
Because Branford was known as a farming community, there was little value found in the islands except as a source of seaweed which was used as a fertilizer and pasture for sheep during the summer on the larger islands.

In 1846 when William Bryan of Branford built a hotel on Pot Island and then renamed it for Captain Kidd the famous pirate, he created the legend that holds to today of possible hidden treasure.

The islands and drew lobstermen and commercial fishermen to the area who found a very profitable harvest in the waters.   During the 19th century oyster farming thrived and produced a great source of wealth and by 1870 the area was booming with hotels, boarding houses and the building of summer cottages on the islands and on the shore.

Between 1890 to the start of World War I the Thimble Islands flourished.  A public dock was built for the accommodations of the islanders. Yachting grew tremendously and The Thimble Islands became the favorite spot to drop anchor or to enjoy a long cruise.  

Many changes have come to the islands since World War I. The hotels are gone and you’ll see more water boats and water skiers on the waters now and fewer sailboats and rowing races.   Many of the islands have been bought and sold over the years but there are still many families who from generation to generation continue to come back to the islands year after year.

The Thimble Islands especially during the summer months is a favorite location of residents and vacationers for swimming, kayaking and boating. One of the more popular attractions are the Thimble Island Cruises aboard The Sea Mist, Volsunga IV or The Islander for a tour of the 25 inhabited islands. Some of the more notable and largest Thimble Islands are:

Bear Island – Originally called “Goat Island” for its community of Swedish immigrant quarry workers for the goat herds they kept for milk.  Formerly home to a granite quarry which shipped the high quality pink granite for the construction of the Grant’s Tomb, Lincoln Memorial and for the base of the Statue of Liberty.

Davis Island– Was the “Summer White House” of President William Howard Taft.

Governor Island – It has 14 residence with one of the oldest houses that was built in 1880 and still holds the original family name Simpson.  

Horse Island – Owned by Yale University and by Yale’s Peabody Museum of Natural History which maintains an ecological laboratory.  It is also one of the largest of the Thimble Islands at 17 acres.

Money Island – Named after the famous pirate Captain Kidd, legend has it the he buried his treasure on this 12 mile island that has an entire village of 32 houses.

Rogers Island – Sold in 2003 for $22.3 million , this 7.75 acre island has a 27-room Tudor mansion, basketball courts, tennis courts and a caretaker’s residence.

West Crib Island – In 1976 it was sold for $131,500 to John Svenningsen, a party goods magnage whose widow Christine has since bought more several other Thimble Islands.

 

There have are many current and past well-known residents of  the islands including General Tom Thumb on Cut in Two Island East, President William Taft on Davis Island, Actor Frank Converse, showman Billy Rose, Garry Trudeau, the Doonesbury cartoonist and Jane Pauley, television journalist. The Thimble Islands are included in the Stony Creek-Thimble Islands Hisotric District and listed in 1988 as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places.

Thimble Islands Map

 

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