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

The Beam is In!

   On July 17, 2014 the beam was lifted, put into place and final fastening, closing up and finishing work is in process as I write. The Lee House is most certainly deserving of the treatment by the best hands available. Our original feelings about Early New England Restorations have been confirmed. They are doing a masterful job. The memorial plates are also being fastened just prior to closing up of the walls.

   The Day was interested enough to do a nice article in the 7/21/14 publication (here).

   It was not surprising that rot was found in a couple of structural posts. This was cured, the corners strapped with steel plating and we can be confident that the house is stronger than before.

   This being our 100th Anniversary of the purchase of the Lee House we thought it fitting to schedule this installation this year as a demonstration of our commitment to preserve this Town treasure and window to history. Thank you to all the donators to this project, all those involved in past preservation projects and those ladies that had the foresight to purchase the Lee House for the East Lyme Historical Society 100 years ago

Sincerely,

Norman B. Peck III, President
The East Lyme Historical Society

For more photos and information about the beam project, please visit The Beam.

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.

Celebrating 100 Years of the Thomas Lee House Museum
1914-2014

   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!

News from Our Neighbors

Noank Historical Society

Wednesday, September 17th, 7:30 p.m.

Cape Horn Widows: Whaling Wives Holding Down the Home Front

   Whaling voyages were long, sometimes lasting 2 to 5 years! How did the women spend their time back home while their husbands were away? First-person interpreter and writer Jennifer Emerson will discuss the trials and joys of being a Cape Horn widow. Admission is free. Refreshments will be served. This program takes place at the Latham/Chester Store, 108 Main Street, Noank, CT. For more information, please visit:

Noank Historical Society


Chester Historical Society, Deep River Historical Society, and Essex Historical Society

Sunday, September 21st, 2:00 p.m.

Vintage Base Ball Game

   The Chester Historical Society is teaming up with the historical societies of Deep River and Essex to present a tri-town Vintage Base Ball game on Sunday, September 21st at Devitt Field in Deep River. Three teams–one from each town–have been formed. The teams will play by late 19th-century rules (such as no bunting or stealing) and customs to recreate the earliest days of America’s pastime, when courtesy prevailed on and off the playing field. There is no swearing, no spitting and no “ungentlemanly” behavior anywhere during the games. Ballists (players) will use replica equipment such as authentic reproduction wooden bats and hand-sewn hard balls. No gloves are worn. The teams will play two or three-inning games in a round-robin format. The public is encouraged to attend for free. Raindate will be Sunday, September 28th.  For more information, please visit:

Chester Historical Society


North Stonington Historical Society and Friends of Wheeler Library

Monday, September 22nd, 7:00 p.m.

Harriet Tubman

   Join the North Stonington Historical Society and the Friends of Wheeler Library as Adwoa Bandele-Asante brings life to the story of the great Harriet Tubman. This program takes place at the Wheeler Library, Main Street, North Stonington, and is open to all. For more information, please visit:

North Stonington Historical Society


Friends of Fort Trumbull

Thursday, September 25th, 7:00 p.m.

The Strategy for Economic Development for the Port of New London

   Captain Charles Beck (ret.), Connecticut Transportation Maritime Manager,will discuss the recent decision by the State Bond Commission to fund $5.8 million in improvements and engineering studies for State Pier in New London. Mr. Beck has said that the long-range plans include the possibility of upgrading the port to accommodate ships just under 1,000 feet long, up from the current 700 foot limit. Other improvements to State Pier will include better lighting, more efficient equipment, and more surface area to lay down cargo. The presentation will be at The Fort Trumbull Conference Center at 7:00 p.m. The public is invited, but seating is limited. New members are always welcome. Refreshments will be served after the presentation. For more information, please visit:

Friends of Fort Trumbull


Denison Homestead

Monday, October 6th, 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

3rd Annual Genealogy Conference

   Join the Denison Homestead the Mystic Hilton to learn about genetic genealogy research, overcoming road blocks in genealogy research, how handwriting analysis gives clues to your ancestor’s personality and other tools to look into your family’s background. Shellee Morehead, Ph.D., C.G., Michael Brophy, MBA, and Irene P. Lambert, MGA will give you the answers! For more information, please visit:

Denison Homestead


Smith-Harris House Museum

Tuesday, October 7th, 6:15 p.m.

A Toast to Our Textiles!

   The Smith-Harris House Commission and Friends of Smith-Harris House invite you to stop by and discover the dynamic changes happening within the House! View our just-installed textiles closet, along with a small display of 19th-century clothes, as well as two newly-designed historic rooms: a sewing room and Thomas Avery’s office. Enjoy sparkling cider and nibbles inspired by historic recipes. At 7:00 p.m., head over to the East Lyme Public Library for their program featuring the textiles and fashions of a century earlier! Admission is free. For more information, please visit:

Smith-Harris House Museum


Old Saybrook Historical Society

Wednesday, October 8th

Connecticut in the American Civil War

   Matt Warshauer, a professor of history at Central Connecticut State University and co-chair of the Connecticut Civil War Commemoration Committee, which develops programs and events commemorating the war’s sesquicentennial, will discuss the role of Connecticut during the Civil War.  Presented in cooperation with the Shoreline Civil War Discussion Group, this lecture is part of the Chapman Lecture Series. Chapman Lectures are sponsored by the Old Saybrook Historical Society in cooperation with the Acton Public Library. All presentations are open to the public and take place at the Acton Public Library in Saybrook. Admission is free. For more information, please visit:

Old Saybrook Historical Society


Friends of Prudence Crandall

Friday-Sunday, October 10th-12th, 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

"4 Seasons of Connecticut" Art Show and Sale

   The Northeastern Connecticut Art Guild hosts “4 Seasons of Connecticut” art show and sale at the Prudence Crandall Museum’s John Carter House, 5 South Canterbury Rd, Canterbury, CT. An opening reception will be held on Friday from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. and the public is invited. (RSVP please.) Song Swap led by SING! will take place from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. each day. Bring your voices! Additional music on mandolin and guitar by Mark Chuoke, Joshua Cleaver and Mack Johnston. For more information, please visit:

Friends of Prudence Crandall Museum


Lebanon Historical Society

Saturday, October 11th, 10:00 a.m.

Walk the Revolution

   Led by a member of Connecticut SAR's Color Guard, this walk features information on how Lebanon functioned as the State's "capitol" during the Revolutionary War. Meet at the town parking lot next to the Lebanon Historical Society Museum. This event is free and open to the public. For more information, please visit:

Lebanon Historical Society


Prudence Crandall Museum

Sunday, October 12th, 2:00 to 3:30 p.m.

Uncovering the Truth of Connecticut’s Black Governors: The Archaeology of the Quash and Roswell Freeman Homestead

   Join Professor Jerry Sawyer, Anthropology Department, Central Connecticut State University, for an illustrated talk on the work being done at the homestead in Derby owned at one time by Quash and Roswell Freeman, who were two of Connecticut’s 18th and 19th century Black Governors.  Program included in regular museum admission. The Prudence Crandall Museum is located at 1 South Canterbury Road, Canterbury CT. For more information, please visit:

Friends of Prudence Crandall Museum


Haddam Historical Society

Thursday, October 16th, 7:00 p.m.

The Logbooks: Connecticut’s Slave Ships and Human Memory

   The Haddam Historical Society will conclude its 2014 book series with Anne Farrow's new book The Logbooks: Connecticut’s Slave Ships and Human Memory. Published by Wesleyan University Press, Farrow's book examines a series of ships' logs for Connecticut slave ships, and the frailty of both human and historical memory. The lecture takes place at Brainerd Memorial Library, 920 Saybrook Road, Haddam, CT. For more information, please visit:

Haddam Historical Society


Stanley-Whitman House

Sunday, October 19th, 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.

Tour of Momento Mori Cemetery

   Join a walking tour of Farmington's ancient burial ground. Learn about the people buried here, the artwork on the stones, and work being done to preserve the headstones. There is a charge of $10.00 per person. For more information, please visit:

Stanley-Whitman House


Ledyard Historical Society

Sunday, October 19th, 2:00 p.m.

Historical Quests: How New England’s Past Comes Alive in Historical Societies and House Museums

   Author and independent scholar Katherine Dimancescu will be speaking as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations for Ledyard Historical Society. Ms. Dimancescu’s talk will focus on how history is brought to life for modern day visitors in house museums across Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. She will also talk about the important role town historical societies play in preserving both historical and genealogical records and making this information accessible to the general public. Ms. Dimancescu looks forward to sharing stories of how house museums can inspire curiosity and interest in colonial New England’s past that resonates long after one’s visit is over. She will also touch upon the vital role that small historical societies played in the creation of her book, The Forgotten Chapters: My Journey into the Past. Ms. Dimancescu’s ties to Ledyard date back to the mid-17th century when her ancestors first settled there. This talk takes place at the Bill Library Meeting Room, 718 Colonel Ledyard Highway, Ledyard, CT. It is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served after the talk. For more information, please visit:

Ledyard Historical Society

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!