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, March 22nd, 2:00 p.m.

Old Sturbridge Village Historian Tom Kelleher
"Old Mills and Water Power"

   The third lecture of our winter series will focus on the important role mills played in the development of communities.   This program will be held at the Niantic Community Church, 170 Pennsylvania Avenue, Niantic, in the lower level meeting room. Parking is available on-site and admission is free. Donations gratefully accepted.

Save the Date!

Saturday, May 9th, 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.

Celebrating 100 Years

   Join the East Lyme Historical Society in celebrating 100 years of preservation of the Thomas Lee House. Enjoy cocktails and hors d'euvres, mingle with spirits of the past (President and Mrs. William Howard Taft, along with other members of the Colonial Dames, will be joining us!), meet descendants of the Lee family, and celebrate the scores of volunteers who have helped to preserve this treasure over the last century. The festivities will take place at the Niantic Bay Yacht Club, 8 Shore Road, Niantic. More details will be announced soon. Help us ensure the future of this historic East Lyme treasure!

   You can read more about the work done to preserve the Lee House 100 years ago here.

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

Smith-Harris House Museum Accepted into
Statewide Standards and Training Program

   The Smith-Harris House Museum has been selected to participate in StEPs-CT, a statewide 26-month integrated program of professional development for smaller cultural organizations. The program is based on the national Standards and Excellence Program of History Organizations (StEPs). Since its debut in 2009, StEPs has helped 585 institutions nationwide, including 27 in Connecticut.

   StEPs-CT is a program of Connecticut Humanities and the Connecticut League of History Organizations, in partnership with the Connecticut Historical Society, based on a curriculum of best practices developed by the American Association for State and Local History. Support and training comes via curriculum-based workshops, coaching from a dedicated mentor, and access to a Connecticut Humanities grant fund earmarked for initiatives related to achieving StEPs-CT program standards. Over the course of the program, the Smith-Harris House will work to achieve certificates in six areas of museum practice.

   “We’re thrilled to participate in the StEPs-CT program,” said curator Joanie DiMartino. “The Smith-Harris House is a valuable asset to the residents of East Lyme, and our involvement in StEPs-CT will help us continue to develop stronger ties with the community we serve which will also be in line with current museum practices.”

   This is the second offering of the StEPs-CT program. From 2012-2014, two dozen Connecticut organizations completed the program.  They received some $45,000 in grants and earned 116 StEPs certificates-more than 40% of the total certificates earned by all participating organizations nationwide. Connecticut’s program was the first to integrate the national StEPs curriculum and is viewed as a model for similar programs across the country, according to Scott Wands, manager of grants and programs at Connecticut Humanities.

   The Smith-Harris House was one of 23 organizations recently accepted into the program after a competitive application process.  Other institutions participating in StEPs-CT are: Avery-Copp House (Groton), Cheshire Historical Society, Colchester Historical Society, Connecticut Valley Tobacco Historical Society (Windsor), Cornwall Historical Society, Danbury Railway Museum, Deep River Historical Society, Denison Society (Mystic), Dudley Foundation (Guilford), Essex Historical Society, Groton Public Library, Guilford Keeping Society, Naugatuck Historical Society, New Britain Industrial Museum, Newtown Historical Society, Salisbury Association, Stonington Historical Society, Wallingford Historic Preservation Trust, Weston Historical Society, Westport Historical Society, Wilton Historical Society, and Wood Memorial Library (South Windsor).

   Connecticut Humanities, a nonprofit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, provides opportunities to explore the history, literature, and vibrant culture that makes our state, cities, and towns attractive places to live and work. The Connecticut League of History Organizations (CLHO) builds connections among those who preserve and share the stories and objects of our past. The Smith-Harris House Museum is owned by the Town of East Lyme and operated by the Smith-Harris House Commission and the Friends of Smith-Harris House.

   This is exciting news for all who are interested in preserving and sharing the history of our community. We look forward to seeing our sister museum blossom.

News From Our Neighbors

Cromwell Historical Society

Monday, February 23rd, 7:00 p.m.

Less than Obvious: The Origin of the Name "Cromwell" and his Neighbors

   Was the town of Cromwell really named after the Lord Protector of the English Commonwealth? Is Middletown simply the middle of the state? And, even though they are pronounced differently, is there a connection between Berlin, Connecticut and Berlin, Germany? These and many more questions about the names of our towns will be answered in this program presented by members of several historical societies from Cromwell, Middletown, Berlin and more. This discussion will take place in the Arch Room, Cromwell Town Hall, 41 West Street, Cromwell. The public is welcome, and light refreshments will be served. For more information, please visit:

Cromwell Historical Society

New London Landmarks

Tuesday, February 24th, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Annual Forum on Endangered Buildings

   Join us as we learn about the resources available to protect endangered properties. Panel discussion moderated by Alan J. Plattus of Yale School of Design, with a panel of experts who will discuss preservation ordinances, village district zoning, endangered building lists, revolving funds, circuit riders, historic tax credits, and blight ordinance. Breakout sessions to follow.  Lunch included. The forum takes place at the Fort Trumbull Conference Center, 90 Walbach Street, New London. For more information, please visit:

New London Landmarks

Mystic River Historical Society

Wednesday, February 25th, 7:00 p.m.

Cape Horn Widows: Whaling Wives Holding Down the Home Front

   Whaling voyages were very long, sometimes lasting 2-5 years. We know what their husbands did, but how did the women spend their time back home? Join Jennifer M. Emerson, author and first-person interpreter, as she discusses the trials and the joys of being a Cape Horn Widow. This program open to the public with a suggested donation of $5. Doors open at 7:00 for refreshments and the program begins at 7:30 in the Parish Hall of the Mystic Congregational Church. For more information, please visit:

Mystic River Historical Society

Old Saybrook Historical Society

Thursday, February 26th, 7:00 p.m.

The Logbooks: Connecticut's Slave Ships and Human Memory

   Anne Farrow, co-author of Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged and Profited from Slavery, will discuss her latest book at the February edition of the Chapman Lecture Series, sponsored by the Old Saybrook Historical Society in cooperation with the Acton Public Library. All presentations are open to the public, without charge. For more information, please visit:

Old Saybrook Historical Society

Stonington Historical Society

Thursday, February 26th, 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.

The 38th Voyage of the Morgan

   Steve White will discuss the recent, and likely last, voyage of the Charles W. Morgan at the LaGrua Center, 32 Water Street, Stonington. The public is invited to this program. For more information, pleaes visit:

Stonington Historical Society

Lebanon Historical Society

Sunday, March 1st, 2:00 p.m.

Bonnets to Bell Bottoms: A Century of Connecticut Fashion

   Karen DePauw, of the Connecticut Historical Society, will discuss Connecticut fashion. This presentation is free and open to the public, and takes place at our museum on the historic Lebanon Green, 856 Trumbull Highway, Lebanon. For more information, pleaes visit:

Lebanon Historical Society

Denison Homestead

Sunday, March 1st, 3:00 p.m.

Passionate Puritans:Tales of Love and Marriage in Colonial New England

   Come enjoy traveling back in time for an unforgettable afternoon full of tales of love, marriage, and tragedy in southern New England. Join writer and independent scholar Katherine Dimancescu as she offers an intriguing look at colonial courtship and marriage.  Her engaging presentation will also highlight local and regional colonial history blended with true stories of intrepid couples who were among New England's courageous early settlers. Seating is limited, so reservations are recommended. Denison Homestead is located at 120 Pequotsepos Roadd, Mystic. For more information, pleaes visit:

Denison Homestead

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!