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

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.

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!

News from Our Neighbors

Cromwell Historical Society

Monday, November 24th, 7:00 p.m.

Josiah Belden: A Native Son's Life of Adventure and Accomplishment

   Josiah Belden, for whom the Cromwell’s Public Library is named, was born in Cromwell. May 4, 2015, marks the 200th anniversary of his birth. He was a true Western pioneer, a member of the first wagon train of families headed for California. As a result of the Gold Rush, he became an important merchant and real estate developer in the San Francisco area. During his later years, he returned to the East Coast, and in 1888, he provided funds to help start the newly-formed Cromwell Library. Barbara Grotheer will discuss this man’s impressive life story and the history of his family. This presentation takes place in the Arch Room at the Cromwell Town Hall, 41 West Street, Cromwell. It is free and open to the public, with seasonal refreshments afterward. For more information, please visit:

Cromwell Historical Society

Mystic River Historical Society

Wednesday, December 3rd, 7:30 p.m.

Professor Laura Crow: New England Women's Dress in the Industrial Age

   New England’s industrial revolution began in the countryside. While Boston, New York, and other urban areas were the centers of the financial world, manufacturers seeking skilled labor and waterpower established textile mills across rural New England. Large centers like Lowell, Massachusetts, and more modest industrial towns like Willimantic and Manchester, Connecticut, grew up in this process, but much textile production also took place in many small factory villages and industrial settlements that were scattered across rural New England, including Mansfield, where the University of Connecticut now resides. Throughout the middle of the nineteenth century, thousands of rural women and children did domestic outwork, making hats, buttons, suspenders and other clothing items in their own homes for local merchants who paid them by the piece. The skills and fashion sense of these home workers were the focus of the exhibition, “Women of New England: Dress from the Industrial Age 1850 – 1900", which appeared in an abbreviated version at the Connecticut State House, and subsequently in its complete form at the Benton Museum of Art and then at the Gallery in the Jorgenson Center for the Performing Arts on the UCONN campus. By the end, over 13,000 people saw the exhibition.

   Laura Crow is the Director of Design and a Professor of Costume History, Design & Technology at the University of Connecticut’s Department of Dramatic Arts. She has designed costumes for Broadway, Off-Broadway and regional theaters, and represented the USA at the Prague Quadrennial five times. Among her awards are the Drama Desk, OBIE, American Theatre Wing, and Villager in New York City, Joseph Jefferson in Chicago, Bay Area Critics, three Drama-Logue awards and the Backstage West Garland Award for designs on the West Coast in LA and San Francisco, and four ZONIs from Phoenix.  She was included in the recent Lincoln Center Exhibition “Curtain Call: Celebrating a Century of Women Designing for Live Performance,” focusing on 100 women designers from the past 100 years. Professor Crow is Vice Head of the Americas for the Costume Working Group for OISTAT (the International Organization of Scenographers, Theatre Architects and Technicians) and acts as a Liaison for the Costume Commission and the International Commission of USITT (United States Institute of Theatre Technology). Professor Crow is proud to have been a Fulbright Senior Scholar exploring multi-culturalism in festival dress of the Philippines and has spent time researching Carnival costumes in Cuba, Trinidad, New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro. She has authored two chapters for Masquerade: A Panorama, due out in the spring of 2015.

   This program is open to the public, with a suggested donation of $5. It will take place at the Mystic Congregational Church's hall on Broadway Street, Mystic. For more information, please visit:

Mystic River Historical Society

Smith-Harris House Museum

Thomas and Elizabeth Avery's First Christmas Together: 1845

Friday, December 5th, 7:00-9:00 p.m.

Wreath Silent Auction

   Enjoy the Smith-Harris House decorated for the holidays and lit by candlelight as you bid on the prefect wreath for your home!  Wreaths decorated and donated by local businesses and patrons of the Smith-Harris House will be available for silent bidding. Performer Jennifer Emerson will entertain with harp music while refreshments inspired by historic recipes are offered. There is a $5 per person fee, and all proceeds benefit the Friends of the Smith-Harris House, for preservation and public programming.

Saturday, December 6th, 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m, Sunday, Decmeber 7th, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Annual Wreath & Greens Sale and Open House

   Deck your halls with an assortment of wreaths, swags, centerpieces, and arrangements in live and permanent greens at our annual wreath & greens sale! All proceeds benefit the Friends of Smith-Harris House, for preservation and public programming. Afterwards, on Saturday, stop by the Smith-Harris House, where it is 1845, and performer Jennifer Emerson portrays Elizabeth Avery welcoming holiday visitors to her home!  On Sunday, the Smith-Harris House will feature silhouette artist Elizabeth O'Brien (beginning at 11:00 a.m.). Silhouettes make beautiful, one-of-a-kind holiday gifts! Also on Sunday (from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m.), join the Montville High School Choir caroling in the House! Sample refreshments inspired by historic recipes, and purchase tickets for our ever-popular holiday drama performance, featuring Sally Mummey. Admission to the open-house is a non-perishable food item to benefit Care & Share of East Lyme, Inc. Admission to the Wreath & Greens Sale is free. Fee charged for silhouette.

Thursday, December 11th, 6:00-8:00 p.m.

An Evening with the Belsnickel

   Escape the frenzy of holiday preparations and join the Smith-Harris House for an evening of family-friendly festivities!  Children of all ages are welcome to make an old-fashioned holiday card, join musician Judy MacDonald around a cozy fire to sing carols, and meet our kindly Belsnickel! A "Belsnickel," or "St. Nicholas in fur," was a German folk tradition that preceded the modern Santa Claus, and our Belsnickel will share a winter's tale and hand out a treat to each of our young visitors! Afterwards, enjoy a sip of cocoa and gingersnaps. Admission is a non-perishable food item to benefit Care & Share of East Lyme, Inc.

Saturday, December 13th, Tour times: 6:30, 7:15, 8:00 and 8:45 p.m.

Holiday Tour Performance

   Join re-enactor Sally Mummey & Her Players as they return for our annual holiday performance! The Smith-Harris House becomes the stage for this year's play, "New Beginnings," and audience members travel from room to room as the drama-and delights-unfold! Sign up early-tours sell out quickly! Cost is $10 per adult, $5 for children 12 and under. Advance reservations and payment required. For more information, please visit:

The Smith-Harris House Museum

Avery-Copp House

Saturday, December 6th, 6:00-8:00 p.m.

A Dickens Parlor Christmas

   Spend an evening in Christmas past. Jennifer Emerson, historic interpreter and Dickens enthusiast, will entertain you with a dramatic reading of the classic, A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. Enjoy the beauty of a Victorian house decorated for the holidays.  Christmas cookies and punch will be served. For more information, please visit:

Avery-Copp House

Stanley-Whitman House

Saturday, December 6th, 5:00-8:30 p.m.

Candlelight Tours: Christmas in Connecticut

   Go back in time. This magical 1 1/2 hour program starts with a supper of soup, bread & cookies in the Whitman Tavern.  Then follow your costumed guide to see mini-dramas in the decorated 1720 historic house. Fee is $14 for the public, $12 for SWH members.  Snow date is Sunday, December 7th. Registration is required, and seating is limited, so register early. For more information, please visit:

Stanley-Whitman House

Leffingwell House Museum

Sunday, December 7th, 1:00-5:00 p.m.

Christmas in the Colonies

   Experience the history and tastes of Christmas celebrations in the early colonies. Listen to Winter Tales as related by a Mohegan Storyteller. This event is open to the public, and there is a fee of $5. We will also have a guided Lantern Walk around Norwichtown, from 5:00-6:30 p.m., for an additional fee of $2. For more information, please visit:

Leffingwell House Museum

Stonington Historical Society

Thursday, December 11th, 8:45 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

The Pequot War and the Founding of Fairfield, 1637-1639

   Join us on a fieldtrip to Fairfield to see one of Connecticut's earliest Puritan artifacts, the true sword of John Mason (from the Old Lighthouse Museum), currently the centerpiece of the exhibit, "The Pequot War and the Founding of Fairfield, 1637-1639" at the Fairfield Museum and History Center. Tour this new museum and archives with Dr. Elizabeth Rose, Library Director, and also visit their exhibit "Creating Community: Exploring 375 Years of Fairfield's Past," which features the portrait of Stonington's Mary Fish Silliman (1736-1818). Experience the magic of model trains winding around a winter wonderland in the museum's Holiday Express Train Show, before departing for a bistro lunch. After lunch we will have a tour of a private Gothic Revival cottage on the National Register. Space is limited, so please reserve as soon as possible> Cost is $125 per person. For more information, please visit:

Stonington 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!