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The History of Stony Creek’s Thimble Islands

Happy Town Tuesday everyone! We hope you are all well and staying safe. This week, we are discussing Stony Creek’s Thimble Islands! The Thimbles are an archipelago of 365 small islands off the coast of Branford, Connecticut. Did you know they were originally called the “Hundred Islands”? The size of the islands vary greatly, the majority of them being just small rocks that can only be seen during low-tide. 

a tree covered in snow

Photograph of the Thimble Island House on Pot Island, 1888, Stony Creek, CT – Branford Historical Society

In the early 1700s, they went largely unnoticed as they provided little-to-no value to local residents, given the lack of adequate farming land. That changed in the mid-1800s, as local entrepreneur William Bryan built the Thimble Island Hotel on Pot Island. Bryan attracted tourism to the area with his tales of treasure, claiming that Captain Kidd had buried his riches somewhere on one of the islands. Soon enough, residents of nearby cities came to the islands which had become an outlet to escape city-life.

a large ship in a body of water

Photograph of a steamer which serviced the Thimble Islands – Branford Historical Society

While activity declined during the Civil War, soon after, tourism boomed again and many residents built summer homes and hotels on the islands. In fact, steamers began to ferry people to the island multiple times a day and by the late 1800s, the islands were attracting many members of the upper class from New York and New Haven. Since the early 1900s, the islands have become largely privatized. Now, they are primarily residential but continue to offer day-trips to this day. 

To learn more about Stony Creek’s history, refer to this article published by ConnecticutHistory.org, this article by The New York Times, this article by ThimbleIslandHouse.com, or visit the Branford Historical Society website.

Article by Nick Lorenzo, Histoury Marketing and PR Intern