Outer Island History

Outer Island was shaped tens of thousands of years ago by glacial erosion and deposition. As the Wisconsinan glacier retreated about 15,000 years ago, if exposed the granite bedrock and deposited large erratic boulders on the surface. These large rocks are still easy to identify on the island.

The Mattabesic Native Americans who lived in Stony Creek occupied the Thimble Islands during the summer when fishing was easy. They called Outer Island "Two Tree Island" after the two towering pine trees that were visible landmarks. Now the trees are gone, but the tall chimney rising from the main house serves as a landmark on nautical charts for mariners.

Addison Verrill, the first Professor of Zoology at Yale, bought the island in 1889 and summered there with his family for forty years before a fire destroyed the house. All that remained was the house's original large stone fireplace and the prominent chimney that were incorporated into the present building.

Elizabeth Hird with her husband, Basil Rauch, Professor of History at Columbia University, purchased the island in 1964 as a summer retreat. Then in 1995, Elizabeth donated the island in her deceased husband's memory to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge) to ensure that the island's natural recourses would be protected and that access for educational and research would be continued. Outer Island remained her summer home until she died in 2002 at the age of 87. Today the Refuge and the Connecticut State University System work in partnership to conduct education and research programs, fulfilling Elizabeth Hird's desires for Outer Island.

Since the island's dedication as a wildlife preserve in 1995, the US Fish & Wildlife Service along with the Connecticut State University System, and the Friends of Outer Island have conducted research and education programs for the public. Guided tours of the island are especially valuable for educators who wish to connect their teaching to the wonders of the natural world, and the uniqueness of Long Island Sound.

Memorandum of Agreement Between The CT Department of Environmental Protection, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, INC., and The Connecticut State University System (PDF).

- - - - - -
of Connecticut
in the House of Representatives
Friday, November 22, 2002

Ms. DeLAURO. Mr. Speaker, it is with a heavy heart that I rise today to pay tribute to one of the most generous and giving community members I have had the pleasure of knowing. In life, Elizabeth Hird was beloved by all of those whose lives she touched--a true community treasure.

An artist, community leader and active conservationist, Elizabeth was a pioneer in the local efforts for environmental preservation and education--dedicating her time and energies to ensure that our natural resources would be protected for future generations to enjoy. A founding member, and later, director and president of the Killingworth Land Conservation Trust, Elizabeth worked hard to make the public aware of all nature could teach them. She was instrumental in the creation of the Platt Nature Center for environmental education which offers programs throughout the summer to young children. Through these programs, children are able to participate in a variety of activities where they learn to identify the wild flowers and wild life of the area. At part of the last days activities, children were invited to Outer Island, one of the Thimble Islands off the Connecticut coastline, where Elizabeth and her late husband, Basil Rauch, owned a home. Elizabeth hosted the event and children were encouraged to explore the island and the many creatures which call the island home. A unique experience for so many, children of all ages looked forward to this special opportunity.

In 1995, in honor of her husband, Elizabeth donated Outer Island to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to become an environmental research and education center and part of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge. Today, students of all ages, from elementary to graduate school, have access to the island and the endless lessons it provides. It was just over one year ago that I joined Elizabeth to announce the establishment of the Outer Island Endowment Fund--a renewed commitment to the preservation of Outer Island, its diverse wildlife, and educational opportunities for our community's young people. In speaking to Elizabeth that day, I knew that her dream for Outer Island had been realized and I was proud to join in the celebration of her vision.

I am honored to stand today in memory of Elizabeth Hird and express my deepest thanks and appreciation for all that she has given to our community. Elizabeth was truly a unique individual who has left an indelible mark on our community. Hers is a legacy which will continue to inspire many for generations to come.

Memorandum of Agreement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Connecticut State University System (PDF).

Members of the Outer Island Executive CommitteeAn Outer Island Advisory Committee has been established as outlined in the Memorandum Agreement between the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, Inc., and the Connecticut State University System to monitor the performance of the programs offered on the island and to make suggestions to the Foundation regarding the distribution of funds.  Funds in support of Outer Island programming originate primarily from a $250,000 restricted grant from the CT DEEP and the estate of Elizabeth Hird.  Funds may be used to support instructional, research, and public outreach programming regarding Outer Island.  The earnings may also support maintenance of facilities on Outer Island essential for public access.

The educational facilities on Outer Island have been renovated over the years with funds obtained by the Friends of Outer Island and funds from the Community Foundation of Greater New Haven, Inc. The newly constructed pavilion provides a covered outdoor space with picnic tables for visitors and students. The renovated laboratory space provides an area for students to examine organisms and test water quality in a comfortable, flexible teaching environment. Basic laboratory and field monitoring supplies and equipment are stored on the island and are available for use during scheduled group visits.