Many of us know Island Beach as a quick destination that gives us the feel of a mini-vacation. Located just 2 miles south of Greenwich Harbor it’s far enough to “get away” but close enough to not require a lot of planning and taking time-off from work. Just hop on the ferry for an easy, breezy escape.
What I didn’t know is that Island Beach is a Greenwich destination that is steeped in history.
Island Beach, formerly known as Little Captain’s Island, opened as a pleasure resort in 1911 by a syndicate of Greenwich businessmen. Island Beach Corporation opened an amusement park on the island featuring a merry-go-round (the canopy of which still exists today), shooting gallery, booth games, goldfish tank, a dance hall, a restaurant and more. Its advertisements called it “The coolest place between Labrador and the West Indies”.
Story continues below the photos... (click any image for a larger view)
WWI hastened the demise of the Island Beach amusement park.
After the RTM rejected an offer to purchase the land, George Lauder (cousin and partner of Andrew Carnegie) bought the property. It was then donated to the town of Greenwich in 1918 in memory of George Lauder, Jr. who passed away from influenza two years prior at the age of 37. An engraving at the base of the flagpole remains today and tells of this gift.
Two Meads Point residents, Mrs. Wilks and Mrs. Campbell donated money for a ferry. The first one sailed in 1920. The fee to ride was 10-cents, children rode for free. It wasn’t long before people started coming by train from New York City, prompting the city to institute the use of beach passes that is still in effect today.
Over the years, the island was hit by several hurricanes. The Great Hurricane in 1938 knocked the bungalows off their foundations, the dock was ruined by a windstorm in 1955, storms in 1980, 1992 and more recently Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc with the structures there.
Today Island Beach is well preserved and ready each day to receive visitors. There are grills, picnic tables, a playground, restrooms, a snack bar and 1000 feet of sandy beach and wonderful views.
To see the ferry schedule or for more information, visit greenwichct.org.
Writing by John McShea.
Photos by Pam Grunow.