Fishers Island is an eight mile sliver, a mile or so wide, off the coast of Eastern Connecticut, and across the sound from our house. It’s been summer home to Eastern Establishment families since before the turn of the 20th century. Most of the early settlers built large, Victorian-style houses on large plots of land overlooking the sea, surrounded by flower gardens.
Bagley invited us to come over for a day—the day of the annual house and garden tour. Getting there is easy, by boat—a twenty minute ride from the boat yard in Stonington. We’ve enjoyed visits with Bagley in the past, and quickly accepted.
On a sparkling, sunny day we and three friends went to sea in Wanderer, our boat, and to Fishers. Bagley met us at the yacht club, and off we went to our first stop—the Armstrong house and garden.
Tom Armstrong, former director of the Whitney Museum, died not long ago. He and his wife Bunty bought one of those Victorian houses on a bluff some years ago, but it caught fire and was destroyed. They replaced it with a large glass house, wide open to views. It is filled with colorful abstract art and sleek modern furniture, all easily seen through the glass walls. Tom was a committed gardener, and created one of the most beautiful on the island. It’s elegantly laid out and full of many types of flowers, trees, and plants with multi-colored leaves. He did it almost by himself, not just pointing and telling others where to put a plant.
After a delicious lunch at Bagleys, we set off on the house tour. The homes we visited on the tour ranged from the traditional grey-shingled “cottage” (typically four or more bedrooms, multiple public rooms) to even larger houses. One of the grandest was just completed after seven years of construction. Huge, made of multi-materials, notably dark wood inside on walls, ceilings and floors, unusual as a waterfront house,unusually for a beach house, but much admired by some of our group. All of the gardens were flourishing, with roses, hydrangea, and day lilies. A most enjoyable day.