A woman who amassed a collection of small islands off the Connecticut coast is selling two of them.
Christine Svenningsen, a widow of a party-goods magnate, is selling Belden Island for $3.95 million and Jepson Island for nearly $2 million, her real estate agents said. They are part of the Thimble Islands off Branford, which have attracted celebrities and the wealthy for generations.
"For anybody looking for privacy it's got great appeal yet it's very close to the mainland," said Clint Rodenberg, an agent at William Pitt Sotheby's in Madison, where listing agents Margaret Muir and Tony Nuzzo are handling the sale.
Svenningsen, an artist who has restored many of the properties, spent around $33 million to buy about 10 islands in Long Island Sound.
"They're like little pieces of art. I get to put my brush to them," Svenningsen said in 2006.
She does not plan to sell the other islands she owns, Rodenberg said.
"She's looking for someone who will respect them and enjoy them as much as she does," Rodenberg said. "She's simplifying her life somewhat."
The houses are seasonal and rely on gas lights and solar power, Rodenberg said.
Jepson Island is a little over one-quarter of an acre and has a 1,100-square-foot house with a wraparound deck. Belden is slightly over an acre and has a 1912 colonial with about 2,100 square feet and clam beds.
Of the hundreds of Thimble Islands, about 25 are considered habitable. Tour boats have taken sightseers among the islands for generations, while treasure hunters have combed them for Captain Kidd's buried riches.
Houses on the islands have long served as social gathering spots for the wealthy and famous, as well as summer vacation sites for families of more modest means. President William H. Taft and actor James Earl Jones were among the visitors, while "Doonesbury" cartoonist Garry Trudeau and his wife, newscaster Jane Pauley, own an island home.
Svenningsen's late husband, John, bought a home on the islands in the late 1970s. After he died in 1997, she began to buy more islands.
She bought the house where circus star Tom Thumb courted "Miss Emily." Local legend has it that his boss, P.T. Barnum, ordered Thumb instead to marry "Miss Livinia," another of his performers.
Tom and Emily's names remain etched in a rock near the house.