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Former Lindbergh property rich in history

Updated 6:53 am, Tuesday, May 27, 2014

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  • View of the private beach on 53 Contentment Island Road in Darien, Conn., which is for sale. It was once Charles Lindbergh's land. May 19, 2014. Photo: BK Angeletti, B.K. Angeletti / Connecticut Post freelance B.K. Angeletti
    View of the private beach on 53 Contentment Island Road in Darien, Conn., which is for sale. It was once Charles Lindbergh's land. May 19, 2014. Photo: BK Angeletti, B.K. Angeletti

 

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Land Lindbergh still remembers running around on the property his parents -- famed aviator Charles and Anne Lindbergh -- purchased at 53 Contentment Island Road from John Sherman Hoyt just after World War II. The scar on his knee is still visible from landing on a sharp rock while he ran along the water's edge.

"It was a wild and rocky place, overgrown with old trees and heavy undergrowth, open to the waters of Long Island Sound and the violent storms that came through on occasion, which is why they loved it," Land Lindbergh wrote in an email.

There was, he said, a small one-room "writing studio" on the property, but it had no running water and was destroyed during a hurricane. The Lindberghs never lived on the property; instead, they resided on Tokeneke Trail in Darien.

There were plans to build a home on the empty lot, but it never happened. The property includes 3 acres with 800 feet of waterfront, 8 acres of the Fish Islands and 34 acres of oyster beds.

Then along came Theodore Rousseau, one of the original Monuments Men who strived to recover plundered artwork during World War II. He purchased the property and built the 2,800-square foot eight-room home that stands there today.

Rousseau, who was a curator for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, knew what he was doing when he built the home, said Holly Hawes, a real estate agent with Halstead Property.

The Colonial house has a view from every window. Long Island Sound even can be seen from the chauffeur's room behind the detached two-car garage. Every day, the sunrise and sunset over the water can be seen from the property.

The property, which has had a short list of owners but plenty of history, was placed on the market May 13 for the first time in 40 years with a listing price of $19.9 million.

Judith and Edward Felder purchased the home in 1974 for $275,000 following Rousseau's death in 1973. Edward died in November 2013 and Judith in February.

"It's absolutely a little gem," said Robyn Kammerer, executive director of communications at Halstead Property, which is handling the listing. "Once you uncover it, you don't want to leave."

Hawes and her husband, David, who are representing the seller, were friends with the Felders while they were alive. Often, Holly said, Judith would invite her over to swim and float in the water off their private beach. The beach, much like the property, is a rarity. The sands are fine grain, unlike that found along the rest of Connecticut's coast. Sand never was trucked onto the property.

Up a small stone path and into the small gardens full of perennial flowers and plants is the entrance to the kitchen. The large floor-to-ceiling windows and wide sliding doors welcome guests into the dining room that is adjacent to the kitchen.

The St. Charles kitchen is a collectible, Kammerer said. The metal cabinets and drawers are in "remarkable condition."

While the three-bedroom home is a rare purchase, the property is the true sight to behold.

Along the water's edge in front of the house is a small rock wall that curves along the cliff's edge, reminiscent of Cliff Walk in Newport, R.I., but with a much shorter drop.

The Fish Islands stand between the home and the rest of Long Island Sound.

For as long as the Felders owned the property, the islands were made available to boaters, kayakers and anyone else out in the water, according to Holly and David Hawes.

David Hawes recalls Edward Felder saying how much he enjoyed sharing the property and the Fish Islands with people. As David spoke about the Fish Islands, an oyster-farming boat slowly made its way though the water.

"It's a national treasure," David said.

But the water off the Contentment Island property also has a bit of interesting history.

In June 1781, during the Revolutionary War, the Loyalists planned to capture one of southwest Connecticut's most influential Patriots: the Rev. Moses Mather, of the Middlesex Parish -- the land that once was part of Stamford and would become Darien, according to "The Story of Darien, Connecticut."

The Loyalists were from Middlesex and New Canaan and knew the area, which made navigation easy on a moonless night. They made their way to the Middlesex shore via the Fish Islands and onto land where they surrounded the parish.

In the afternoon, once the parish was full, the Loyalists took it captive -- 50 men and 40 horses. The Loyalists marched their captives along Old Kings Highway to the Fish Islands and across the sandbar at low tide. Following an exchange of gunfire with the Patriots, the Loyalists loaded the prisoners and horses aboard a ship and set sail across the Sound to Long Island.

It would take five months for all of the captors to be set free. Mather was one of the last to reclaim his freedom after being released on Dec. 27, 1781.

"The property has great personality," Holly Hawes said.

At one time, the property served as inspiration for world-renowned artist John Frederick Kensett, who painted the landscapes at the Contentment Island Road property. Some of Kensett's work is displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

"People appreciate the naturalness of the property," Holly said.

"Someone can create their dream home or this can be their dream home," Kammerer said.

mspicer@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6583; @Meg_DarienNews