Smith-Harris House, c. 1845
Thomas Avery House
(Smith-Harris House)

   East Lyme is also home to the Thomas Avery House, a c.1845 Greek Revival farmhouse on the National Register of Historic Houses. Also known as the Smith-Harris House, the house is located at 33 Society Road, Niantic.  You may contact the museum by phone at 860.739.0761 or email at [email protected].

   The Smith-Harris House Museum opens to visitors in June for the summer season. It will be open Friday through Sunday, noon to 4:00 p.m., through August. (Closed July 4th weekend.) Tours are every hour on the half-hour, starting at 12:30 p.m.; last tour at 3:30 p.m.  A 45 minute guided tour of the farmhouse demonstrates the family and agricultrual lives of the Avery, Smith, and Harris families through the 1840s and into the mid-20th century. Discover what East Lyme was like around the time of the Civil War and afterwards. Suggested donation of $5.

   For more information, visit:

The Smith-Harris House Museum

82 Plants Dam Road, East Lyme
Samuel Smith House

   East Lyme’s most recent historic acquisition, located at 82 Plants Dam Road, East Lyme, is recognized on the National Register of Historic Houses as the Samuel Smith House, c.1685, with additions in 1735 and 1812. It is currently being developed as a living museum of the 17th century. For more information, visit:

Samuel Smith House

East Lyme Cemetery Listings

   In the fall of 1934, under the auspices of FERA and the WPA, and with support from the Connecticut State Library, the inscriptions of each East Lyme cemetery were copied and included in the Hale Collection of Cemetery Inscriptions.  We have posted the inscriptions, by cemetery, at:

East Lyme Cemetery Records

   Listings for veterans, through the Spanish American War, may be found at:

East Lyme Veteran Burials

President's Message
President William Howard Taft, Mrs. Nellie Taft, and Norman B. Peck III
President William Howard Taft, Mrs. Nellie Taft, and Norman B. Peck III

   Thanks to all those who put on and supported our May 9th fundraiser, celebrating 100 years of preservation and public access to the Thomas Lee House.

President and Mrs. Taft arrive by Model T
President and Mrs. Taft arrive by 1915 Model T

   Catered by Pasta Vita with a cash bar run by Divine Wine Emporium, and featuring a special appearance by President William Howard Taft arriving via ca. 1915 Model T with his wife by his side, the evening provided our guests an enjoyable couple of hours.

   A visit and brief speech by Carl Nold, current president of Historic New England of Boston (formerly the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities) ended with a surprise donation of $500 to the cause.

President and Mrs. Taft with Carl Nold
President and Mrs. Taft with Carl Nold
President, Historic New England

   The event was sponsored by Randall Realtors, Smith Insurance, Inc., and Martha and Robert Stead, members and Lee descendants from San Diego.

   With Niantic Bay as a back drop the Yacht Club offered a pleasant place for such an event.  We thank them.

   A small committee chaired by Luane Lange with Betty Murphy, Liz Kuchta, Janet Carlson, Bruce and Mary Cathrine Solomkin and Norm Peck were pleased with the results, raising approximately $4,000 for the preservation of the Lee House.

President and Mrs. Taft are greeted by Selectwoman Rose Ann Hardy
President and Mrs. Taft are greeted by East Lyme Selectwoman Rose Ann Hardy

   East Lyme High School's three volunteers from Mrs. Rose Ann Hardy's Contemporary Issues class volunteered to help serve hors d'oeuvres.

   You should know that because of the $830 donations from members toward the "matching funds challenge" the anonymous donor matched it "and then some".

   Many non-members attended, donated and had a good time.

   Other special guests included State Representative Ed Jutilla, State Senator Paul Formica, East Lyme Selectman Mark Nickersen, and Board of Selectmen members Holly Cheeseman and Rose Ann Hardy.

   We hope to see you at the Annual Meeting on June 5th.

Best regards,
Norman B. Peck III
President

Annual Meeting

Friday, June 5th, 6:00 p.m.

   The 117th Annual Meeting of the East Lyme Historical Society will be held Friday, June 5th at 6:00 p.m., on the grounds of the Thomas Lee House Museum. Bring a picnic dinner, and enjoy visiting with friends. Also take a moment to see the replacement beam in the upper east chamber of the house, which was installed last year.

   The Annual Meeting will take place after dinner, with President Norman Peck III presenting a review of the past year and plans for the year ahead. This will be followed by the election of Officers and Board Members for the coming year, and a vote on the budget for the year 2015-2016. There will also be presentations by committee chairs.


Volunteers Needed!

   Looking for a great way to meet interesting people and get a behind-the-scenes look at the Thomas Lee House Museum?  We're looking for folks to assist as tour guides Wednesdays through Sundays between the July 4th and Labor Day weekends. You don't have to be an expert historian. Just bring a positive attitude and a willingness to share some of your time and we'll provide the rest!

    Contact Rod McCauley at 860.460.0433 or [email protected].

Connectcut Open House Day

Saturday, June 13th, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

   Big plans are afoot for the Thomas Lee House during the statewide Open House Day on Saturday, June 13th!

   Visitors will be able to tour the Lee House, learn about life in colonial times from trapper George Finch and firearms expert Bob Nucci. Weaving will be demonstrated by Vicki Forrer, and there will be pet baby goats brought by Melissa Miko.

   To commemorate the Historical Society's 100th anniversary as steward of the Thomas Lee House, there will be a display of items that are 100 years old, children's games from that era and a return visit from President William Howard Taft and his wife Nellie.  They will be visiting from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. that day.

   Please join us for this annual event-and be sure to visit our fellow East Lyme historic houses, the Smith-Harris House Museum and the Samuel Smith House.

It's Flea Market Season!

   Our annual July 4th Weekend Flea Market fund raiser will be held on Saturday and Sunday July 4th and July 5th on the grounds of the Thomas Lee House Museum.

   Now is the time to check your cupboards and basement for donations. We will be accepting items at the Lee House Barn on Thursday, July 2nd from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. and Friday, July 3rd from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Please: NO TV's, computers or clothing.

   If you have any questions or would like to help please contact Liz Kuchta at 860.739.6651 or [email protected].

   Be sure to stop by: you never know what bargains you'll find!

   If you are interested in participating in any or all of the Flea Markets as a vendor, please contact Betty Murphy at [email protected] for more information. Or click here to reserve a space.

Our Mission

The purposes and objectives of the Society shall be:

   1. To engage in educational, archival, research and exploration activities and to support such activities that will increase knowledge of and engender appreciation of the history of the Town of East Lyme and its heritage.

   2. To encourage the preservation and restoration of the town’s historical assets, such as houses, structures, burying grounds, early artifacts and other things associated with the town’s origin and history.

   3. To determine and develop year round historical programs and implementation of same. These programs and activities shall include the period of colonial history and may include all periods of American history and other history.

   4. To cooperate and participate with other organizations for similar purposes and objectives, both within and without the town.

   5. To establish the Thomas Lee House Preservation Committee to ensure the protection and preservation of the Thomas Lee House as an American heritage, wherein books, documents, pictures, furniture, tools, implements, artifacts and other articles associated with the history of the Thomas Lee House and the family are housed.

Thomas Lee House
Dedication of the Thomas Lee House, 1914
Dedication of the Thomas Lee House, 1914

   The Thomas Lee House (c. 1660) is one of the oldest wood frame houses in Connecticut still in its primitive state.  The Lee House is listed on the National Register of Historic Houses, and is open for tours during the summer months. Learn more about the Lee House at

About Us

Take a Virtual Tour of the Lee House.

   Several of our volunteers work to maintain the East Lyme Archives, a collection of documents and photographs in the East Lyme Room of the East Lyme Public Library. If you would like to know more about this program, you can read about it at

East Lyme Archives

Little Boston School House
Little Boston School House

   The first record of a school in the area of the Lee House dates to at least 1734. The present building was erected on land donated by Elisha Lee. In use until 1922, the building was eventually moved to its present location, next to the Lee House. It was donated to the East Lyme Historical Society in 1926. Learn more about the Little Boston School House at

About Us.

   Anthropology students from East Lyme and Ledyard High Schools, under the direction of James Littlefield and Dr. John Pfeiffer, conducted an archaeological study of the site of the original Little Boston School House. Their results can be found at:

Anthropology @ ELHS

News from Our Neighbors

East Lyme Historic Properties Commission

Friday, June 26th, 1:00-3:00 p.m.

Public Workshop: State Register of Historic Places

   Join the East Lyme Historic Properties Commission in attending this public worshop, presented by the Connecticut Historic Preservation Office/Department of Economic and Community Development. If you live in or own a home or site that has an historic past, this is an excellent opportunity to learn about the processs and benefits of having the property listed on the State Register of Historic Places.

   Having a designated Historic House/Place is a recognition that you have something especially valued in the history of our state. These houses and special places can be associated with an historic event or activity, or an important person, are distinctive in design or physical characteristics, or have potential to provide important information about history. Such a designation does not prevent the owner from altering a property, and can assist in preservation efforts with tax assessment credits. In some instances it can support that the exterior appearance of a building is to be preserved and maintained, or to prevent infringements by other entities.

   The workshop will take place at the State Historic Preservation Office, One Constitution Plaza, 2nd Floor. You can contact the ELHPC at [email protected] for more information.


Smith-Harris House Museum

Wednesday, June 10th, 7:00 p.m.

Novel History: The Civil War in Literature

   Join the Smith-Harris House and the East Lyme Public Library as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. We'll take a detailed, chronological look at how the Civil War has been portrayed in American literature since the 19th-century, and how these books both represented current historical scholarship and impacted the literary landscape. Meet authors and guest lecturers, enjoy a special tour of the Smith-Harris House, and participate in discussions about great books. Free, with refreshments provided.

   In June, the discussion will cover Native Guard (2006) by Natasha Trethewey. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in poetry, Trethewey's breathtaking collection reflects her relationship with her mother, whose marriage to a white man was illegal in Mississippi in the 1960s. Trethewey also gives voice to forgotten African American soldiers who served the Union in the Louisiana Native Guard in this haunting conversation between personal experience and national history. Independent poet and scholar Kate Rushin will lead this discussion. No previous experience in poetry necessary! Smith-Harris House Barn, 33 Society Road, Niantic.

Saturday, June 13th, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Connecticut Open House Day

   Enjoy historic games on the lawn, tours of the House, and historic-inspired refreshments. Meet and chat with Mrs. Elizabeth Avery Henderson, Thomas Avery's widowed sister, who shared the house with her brother's family in the 1860s.

Sunday, June 28th, 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon Honey Tea

   When Thomas Avery's son William died, four beehives were listed as part of his estate. Inspired by this information, the Smith-Harris House Museum will present an Afternoon Honey Tea. Local apiarist Steve Dinsmore, President of the Connecticut Bee Association, will be on hand, there will be a honey tasting, the opportunity to make beeswax candles, and a tour of the Museum. There will also be a delicious tea, and honey-infused treats to enjoy! Admission for this event is $15. For more information, please visit:

The Smith-Harris House Museum

Your Support is Important!

   The East Lyme Historical Society owns and maintains the Thomas Lee House and Little Boston School House, offers educational programs to the community throughout the year, works to provide access to historical materials through its publications, archives, and website, and is always ready to work with other groups to help foster understanding and appreciation of the history of our town.

   And we do it all as volunteers!

   The generosity of our town and our members is greatly appreciated. Time, energy, and dollars donated are put immediately to work.

   If you are currently a member, THANK YOU! If not, please consider joining us. You may download the Membership Form here, or print the Membership Form page here, and mail either one to us, or you can contact us at:

[email protected]

   Donations are always welcome.

   And please remember: all of our programs are open to the public, free of charge. We welcome your participation!

BUSINESS OWNERS: Become a Business Member of the East Lyme Historical Society for only $50 a year. Members receive a free listing on our Business Directory page, with a link to their own sites, as well as being mentioned in our newsletters. Our website is currently attracting over 700 unique visitors and 10,000 hits each month, from all over the country, and from around the world. Many of them are in the process of planning trips to our area, and would be interested in the services you provide. Local residents will recognize your generosity, as well.

INTERESTED IN BEING A VOLUNTEER? The Society is busy year-round, with a calendar full of events to plan and execute, and a substantial property to maintain. We are always looking for people to get involved. If you have ideas, would like to help organize future activities, or want to be a more active member of the society, let us know. We'd be thrilled to hear from you!