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

   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.

   For the past few years, we have been preparing for the installation of a hand-hewn beam in the second floor East room of the house, to replace the original, but badly deteriorating, one. To learn more about this project, and what you can do to help, visit

The Beam

   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

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, and is open for tours on weekends throughout the summer, or by appointment the rest of the year. You may contact the museum by phone at 860.739.0761 or email at [email protected].

   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

2015 Lecture Series

Sunday, January 11th, 2:00 p.m.

Walter W. Woodward
The Cost of Battles Not Fought: Wars and Rumors of War in Early New England

   Our 2015 Lecture Series will begin with Connecticut State Historian Walter W. Woodward, who will discuss the role rumors played in the early wars between the English settlers and the native people whose land they occupied. The focus will be on the first and most shocking of the regional conflicts, the Pequot War of 1636-37. This talk will lead reflection on the toll of violence, real or imagined, then and now, posing the argument that rumors, rather than actual conflict, account for the greatest expenditure of time, resources and psychic energy in most human confrontations.

   Due to the growing participation in the 2014 series, this event will be held in a new location, the Niantic Community Church, 170 Pennsylvania Avenue, Niantic, in the lower level meeting room. Parking is on-site and admission is free. Donations gratefully accepted.

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.

Second Annual Preservationist Dinner

Friday, January 9th, 6:00-8:00 p.m.

Niantic Community Church, 170 Pennsylvania Avenue, Niantic

   The East Lyme Agribusiness Sub-committee will host the East Lyme and Niantic Land Conservation Trust, East Lyme Business Organization, East Lyme Conservation of Natural Resources Commision, East Lyme Historic Properties Commision, East Lyme Historical Society, Friends of Oswegatchie Hills, Friends of the Samuel Smith House, Friends of Smith-Harris, and the general public for a pot luck supper. With the intention of acquainting all interested parties with the activities of each group, and fostering greater communication, brief presentations will be made by each group, providing an overview of current and future projects. Please contact Mark Christensen at [email protected] or 860.442.1292 (leave message) if you plan to attend.

Loving Parting: Commemorating 350 Years

   In 1631,Robert Rich, the Earl of Warwick, gave to several friends a deed, or patent, granting them lands at the mouth of the Connecticut River. These friends included Viscount Saye and Seal, Lord Brook and Colonel George Fenwick. These worthies chose John Winthrop the Younger as governor of the territory and hired Lion Gardiner to build a fort and lay out a town, which he did in 1635. When Governor Winthrop arrived, he named the town Saybrook, in honor of Viscount Saye and Seale and Lord Brook.

   In 1637, George Fenwick, the only patentee to come to the colony, became governor. In 1648 outlying areas were divided into quarters to be granted to prospective settlers. The third quarter, on the east side of the river included today’s Old Lyme, Lyme, East Lyme and part of Salem. When the settlers on the east side of the river had reached “a competency of land to entertain thurty familyes” they petitioned the Connecticut General Court for permission to call their own minister and to establish their own town. A minister, a young man named Moses Noyes, was located in Massachusetts and permission was granted to establish a new town covering the area described above. To complete the process, an agreement was signed by representatives from both sides of the river on February 13, 1665 in an event known as “The Loving Parting” due to the amicable nature of the affair. The name Lyme was attached to this new town in 1667, the name coming from the community of Lyme Regis in England, a town to which some of the settlers had ties.

   Signers for the east side were: Matthew Griswold, William Waller, Reynold Marvin, John Lay Sr., Richard Smith and John Comstock.  For the west side, signers were: John Westall, William Pratt, Robert Lay, William Parker and Zackariah Sanford.

   The historical groups from Saybrook, Lyme, Old Lyme, East Lyme and Salem are working together to commemorate this event.  As more information becomes available, we will post it here. You may also learn more about upcoming events at each of their webistes:

Old Saybrook Historical Society

Lyme Public Hall

Old Lyme Historical Society

Salem Historical Society

Celebrating 100 Years of the Thomas Lee House Museum

   The year 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the purchase of the Thomas Lee house by the East Lyme Historical Society in order to protect and preserve it for future generations. The Society will be recognizing this anniversary with several events over the coming months. As details are confirmed, we will be sure to share them with you. Until then, we will be posting photos of the house as it looked at the time of purchase, and as the needed repair work was undertaken. We will also post some news articles that were written about the house at the time of the purchase. The first few of these can be found on our new page:

100th Anniversary

   In her account of the origins of the Thomas Lee House Museum, given on June 9, 1915, Miss Celeste E. Bush, Secretary of the East Lyme Historical Society, also spoke about the fundraising efforts (reported in The Day, June 10, 1915):

   "The hoped for help came; we applied to the chairman of the old house committee of the Society of Colonial Dames, who recommended us to the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities. Their secretary, Mr. Appleton, came on and saw the house and pronounced it well worth saving. Mr. Seymour of the Society of Colonial Wars, engaged Norman W. Isham, the great authority on colonial houses, to examine and report on the house, and his report being favorable, these three societies gave us $200 each. Other contributions, largely from Lee descendants, brought the sum in hand up to $1,000, which was ready well within our 90 days' option.

   "The $500 in excess of the cost price was so nearly enough for the necessary repairs that it seemed wise to contract a small debt, about $100, which we hope either by our own efforts or the generosity of friends who have not as yet contributed, to meet at an early date. And we are anxious to relay the old well, which has begun to cave in and to build a protecting fence against the destructive forces of the souvenir hunters who dig out the flowers from the lawn.

   "We do not call this begging; we are offering a share in the best we have. We have not saved the old house for ourselves, but for the state, the nation and posterity. We do not welcome you to our house, but to your house.  Here you may come as freely as we to meditate on the quarter-of-a-thousand years in which this house has been contemporary."

   This is an exciting year for the East Lyme Historical Society. To have been able to save such a wonderful building, and to have maintained it in nearly-original condition for 100 years, is an achievement we owe to the support and hard work of our members and the community around us. We look forward to celebrating this remarkable anniversary, and hope that you will join us!

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!