2014 Lecture Series
Sermons in Stone: The Stone Walls of New England and New York
Sunday, March 23rd, 2:00 p.m.
Susan Allport, award-winning writer specializing in science, travel and food, will discuss her book Sermons in Stone: The Stone Walls of New England and New York, on Sunday, March 23rd at 2:00 p.m. at the East Lyme Police Station, 278 Main Street, Niantic. The public is warmly invited to attend this lecture, part of the East Lyme Historical Society’s 2014 Lecture Series. Admission is free, although donations are always appreciated.
Sermons in Stone is an illuminating history of stone walls. As the landscape was tamed and divided into individual holdings, there was a need to establish boundaries. The Ice Age had left the much of New England and New York with a ready supply of stones suitable for walls. The record shows that many of these walls were built by slaves, Native Americans, indentured servants, and children. Allport tells this story in a fascinating and sprightly style. The book has recently been reissued by Norton.
To learn more about our upcoming programs, please visit our Calendar of Events.
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:
Save the Date: Spring Pot Luck Supper, May 2nd
Join us at the Niantic Bay Yacht Club, 8 Shore Road, Niantic, as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Thomas Lee House Museum. Details soon!
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!
Volunteers Needed for Fifth Grade Hands-On Program and Connecticut Open House Day
Planning is currently underway for two major spring events, and volunteers are needed to help bring those plans into being. You are welcome to join us for either event, or both, if you want!
On Thursday, May 1st, there will be a hands-on program for East Lyme's fifth grade students, entitled "Daily Work, Building a Life". Everyday chores on a colonial farm will be demonstrated, such as food preparation, candle making, textile production from sheep shearing to shawl making, woodworking, tin smithing, animal tending, hunting and trapping, and weapons skills. A similar program will be offered for Connecticut Open House Day, Saturday, June 14th.
Organizers are looking for people to teach/demonstrate candle dipping, butter churning, and furs and trapping, as well as tend the farm animals, portray an old fisherman, and ring the school bell between sessions. They also need an old pushcart that can be used by an itinerate peddler and period costumes, particularly for men. Please contact Janet at [email protected], or Nancy at [email protected] for more information.
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
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
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
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
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
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:
Mills and Factories: Another Part of East Lyme History
Have You Any Family Stories or Old Photos to Share?
The Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation is spearheading the development of a complete survey of Connecticut mills and factories. This will become an initial phase in efforts to preserve, re-use, or memorialize what have been important parts of the state's history.
Ours are gone, but over fourteen sites are identifiable within our town. Most were "village mills" servicing local needs. Several played special roles in the textile industry. All tell stories of what we were in the 18th, 19th centuries and early 20th centuries. Some of the local ponds, lakes, streams, and the river still have remnants of a variety of these past structures.
Your help is needed! What do you have that would help East Lyme memorialize this segment of our past? Does your family have stories? Are there photos of the mills and factories, or their workers in your albums? Is there someone to be interviewed?
To start, please contact us at [email protected] by March 17th. We'll be happy to contact you!
Many thanks for your help.
News from Our Neighbors
Old Lyme Historical Society
Sunday, March 9th, 1:00-4:00 p.m.
Check you attic and bring your treasures to the Old Lyme Town Hall to be appraised! Appraisals are $5 per item, with a limit of three items per person. Professional appraisers will be returning to evaluate books, coins, jewelry, and general antiques. All proceeds benefit the Scholarship Fund. For more information, please visit:
Lebanon Historical Society
Sunday, March 9th, 2:00 p.m.
From Hula Hoops to High Fashion: G. Fox in the 1950s
Please join the Lebanon Historical Society for this fascinating program on Connecticut's premier and much beloved shopping destination. Refreshments will be served. Admission is free for Lebanon Historical Society members; $2.00 for non-members. Co-sponsored with the Connecticut Historical Society. For more information, please visit:
Custom House Maritime Museum
Wednesday, March 12th, 7:00 p.m.
Founders Day Celebration
We are combining our annual Founders Day Celebration with a concert to raise money for New London Harbor Light. NLMS past-president Ben Martin, who had the vision to acquire Harbor Light, will be honored. The concert, featuring Mustards Retreat with music described as "folk from the heart", will benefit the New London Lighthouse Fund and specifically the restoration of Harbor Light. Tickets are $20, $15 for NLMS, WICN and Friday Folk members, seniors, and students. Audience is limited to 45, per fire marshal, so reservations are required. For more information, please visit:
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:
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!