Christine Svenningsen and her husband Edmund H. Stoecklein, whom she married in 2015, are seeking to sell an extraordinary collection of Thimble Islands, eight in all, plus a Victorian mansion on Prospect Hill road with a private dock providing easy access to the islands. The islands are part of an archipelago in Long Island Sound, located not far from the Stony Creek harbor.
The eight islands are now priced at $50 million, $28 million less than when they first went on the market a year ago. The islands may also be purchased separately, their realtor says, an indication the Island Lady is serious about selling.
The islands include the largest one in the collection, Rogers Island, a 7.75-acre hideaway with a 27-room Tudor-style mansion built in 1902, along with a golf putting green designed by the great golfer Jack Nicklaus, according to the listing. (See top photo) In her past life, Svenningsen married John G. Chiarella, Jr., her landscaping entrepreneur, at her Rogers Island home on June 26, 2010. They were divorced in 2014.
Sometime in 2015, Svenningsen, now 59, married Stoecklein, now 64, and soon after, on June 22, 2015, eight of the nine islands and other properties and oyster beds Svenningsen owned were jointly listed on the town’s land deeds. Stoecklein is a former architect and a New York state realtor. Besides their Connecticut properties, the couple owns homes in Stanwood, Washington, and Katonah, New York.
Not all of Mrs. Stoecklein’s Branford properties are for sale. It appears she and her husband may be keeping West Crib Island, the first island John and Christine Svenningsen purchased in 1976. There are two more properties on Prospect Hill Road and a third on Linden Point Road. The Island Lady is now known as Christine Stoecklein.
In 2008 Svenningsen, who owns nine of the Thimble Islands plus five land parcels — roughly $30 million-plus worth of property in and around Stony Creek — was listed as the town’s top residential taxpayer. (The top combined commercial and residential taxpayer according to the Oct 1, 2007 Grand List was businessman and developer Alex Vigliotti.) In 2016 she remains the top residential taxpayer with Vigliotti remaining the first along with his commercial properties.)
Islands Drop in Price
Melissa Frank Lutz of Douglas Elliman Real Estate, the listing agent for the islands, said in a recent article that “We will soon be also offering each island for sale separately as well.” Ms. Frank Lutz could not be reached for comment yesterday. She did observe in another article that “this unique offering is priced to sell,” noting the $28 million reduction in price.
The $50 million price tag includes Rogers Island, a.k.a. Yon Comis Island, Wheeler Island, Jepson, and Reel Islands, Cut in Two East Island, Cut in Two West Island, East Crib Island, Belden Island and one of the on-shore waterfront property on Prospect Hill Road.
A year after John Svenningsen died, in 1998, Christine Svenningsen purchased Wheeler Island for $520,000. From 2003 to 2007, she went on an island-buying spree. In 2003 she purchased Rogers Island, the largest one, for a whopping $22.3 million. That year she also purchased Jepson for $1.4 million and Cut in Two East for $3.4 million. In 2004 she purchased Reel Island for $100,000. In 2005 she purchased Cut in Two West for $2.4 million and in 2006 she purchased Belden Island for $2.770 million. In 2007 she bought East Crib for $3.15 million.
Keeping West Crib
One island the couple apparently intends to keep is the one she and her first husband, John Svenningsen, purchased back in 1976, when they first came to Stony Creek. That is West Crib Island, which they purchased back then for $121,000.
Christine and John Svenningsen had just married when they purchased the West Crib Island. He went from running his business out of a garage in 1960 to becoming chairman and CEO of Amscan in Elmsford, N.Y., one of the world’s largest suppliers of party goods, including hats, paper plates and balloons. She worked for the company as a young artist.
He died of cancer in 1997 at age 66 and she inherited his fortune one year later. He was 27 years her elder. They had five children together and adopted an infant from China a year before his death. One year after John Svenningsen’s death, his widow bought Wheeler Island and she kept on buying islands. She made her ninth purchase, East Crib, from a New Haven family who had owned it for generations. She also bought her own fleet of workboats to ferry employees and material to the islands herself, each island flying a distinctive flag.