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

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

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. John O'Neill will be the featured speaker, discussing the history of the house, its construction and repairs that have been made to it over the years. Bring a main dish, salad, or dessert (and serving utensils) to share. There will be a social hour to kick off the evening (BYOB, setups provided), and plenty of good food and fellowship. We hope to see you there.

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.

It's Flea Market Season!

May 24th and 25th, 9:00 a.m.to 5:00 p.m.

July 5th and 6th, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

August 30th and 31st, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

   The grounds of the Thomas Lee House Museum will once again be host to a wide variety of vendors,offering antiques, crafts, collectibles and all manner of flea market finds. Be sure to stop by Saturday or Sunday of each summer holiday weekend. You never know what treasures you'll find!

   Our July 4th Weekend Flea Market features a special vendor: the East Lyme Historical Society has items for sale in the Barn. This sale is a major fundraiser for the Society, and donations of sale items are particularly welcome. As you do your spring cleaning, please keep us in mind: save your unwanted items, and bring them to the Barn July 1st through July 3rd, time to be determined.   If you need to have items picked up, contact us at [email protected]. (Sorry, but we cannot accept computers, televisions, or exercise equipment.) We are grateful for your donations.

   If you would like to be a vendor at any or all of our Flea Markets, you can find an application form here.

Connecticut Open House Day

Saturday, June 14th, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Thomas Lee House, Smith-Harris House, and Samuel Smith House

   East Lyme's three historic house museums invite you to discover the town’s rich history through the lives of the families who once called the East Lyme area home. Each historic house will be open for tours, along with special programs unique to each museum, including open-hearth cooking demonstrations, children’s games on the lawn, reenactors, farm animals, spinning demonstrations, and historically- inspired refreshments! Get your “Passport to History” stamped at all three museums to be entered in a drawing to win a gift basket.

   Connecticut Open House Day is a one-day statewide event designed to showcase Connecticut’s diverse world of history, art, and tourism, and is sponsored by the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, Offices of Culture and Tourism.

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

Mystic River Historical Society

Wednesday, April 23rd, 7:30 p.m.

Children of Neptune Then and Now: Yankee Sailors and Surfer Dudes in the American Imagination

   In Mystic, Connecticut seafaring and seafarers are embedded in the local culture and identity while surfing and surfers seem distant and marginal. By contrast, the world's multi-billion dollar surfing industry with its millions of practitioners is a central player in the popular imagination, while seafarers are marginalized. Historically, however the public perception of these very different sons (and daughters) of Neptune was, in fact, much the same. Dr. Glenn Gordinier's illustrated talk will examine how the public has often seen these two disparate groups through the same lens. Come and find out what the views of Jack Tar and Gidget have had in common.  This meeting is open to the public, with a suggested donation of $5.00, and takes place in the Parish Hall, Mystic Congregational Church, Broadway Street, Mystic. For more information, please visit:

Mystic River Historical Society


Old Saybrook Historical Society

Thursday, April 24, 7:00 p.m

The British Raid on Essex: The Forgotten Battle of the War of 1812

   Sometimes called “the forgotten battle of the forgotten war,” the burning of more than two dozen ships in Essex harbor during the War of 1812 was one of the most destructive maritime actions in Connecticut and U.S. history. This long neglected maritime loss will be the subject of a talk by historian Jerry Roberts at the Acton Public Library, 60 Old Boston Post Road, Old Saybrook. Author of The British Raid on Essex: The Forgotten Battle of the War of 1812, just released by Wesleyan University Press, Roberts will discuss this battle and share new information drawn from recent research and archaeological finds. Sponsored by the Old Saybrook Historical Society, in cooperation with Acton Public Library, the talk is open to the public without charge. For more information, please visit:

Old Saybrook Historical Society


Friends of Fort Trumbull

Thursday, April 24th, 7:00 p.m.

The Charles W. Morgan: Down to the Sea Again

   This summer, the Charles W. Morgan, the only surviving wooden whaling ship in the world, will again set sail. In honor of that restoration, Governor Dannel Malloy has proclaimed the 2013-2014 academic year The Year of the Charles W. Morgan.  The Friends have developed a 2014 program series called “The Whaling City and the Sea: Past, Present and Future”.

   The first speaker in the series, Matthew Stackpole of Mystic Seaport Museum, will discuss the ship’s history, its place in American whaling history, the five years of restoration, and the plans for its 38th voyage this year. Mr. Stackpole, who is one of the leading members of the team supporting the restoration, comes from a family central to the history of Mystic Seaport and whaling, and has had a varied career, serving as an American history teacher, an Island surveyor, and the executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Historical Society.

   The presentation takes place at the Fort Trumbull Conference Center, and is open to the public. For more information; please visit:

Friends of Fort Trumbull


Friends of Smith-Harris House

Saturday, May 17th, 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Annual Plant Sale

   Prepare your summer garden at the Friends of Smith-Harris House annual plant sale fundraiser, at 33 Society Road, Niantic.  From blossoms to bulbs, this sale is sure to have everything you need to stay in bloom until the leaves fall! Annuals, perennials, hanging plants, and vegetable starters are just a few of the types of plants available, and all proceeds will benefit preservation and public programs at the Smith-Harris House Museum. Is your thumb "heirloom green?" Then consider volunteering with the Smith-Harris House garden team, to help keep our historic-varietals garden at its best year-round! Sign-up sheets will be available at the plant sale.  For more information, please visit:

Smith-Harris House Museum

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!