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.
Preserved by The East Lyme Historical Society
Come celebrate with us the 100th Anniversary of the opening of the Lee House to the public.
In 1915 a crowd of 500 people, including former President William Howard Taft, gathered at the House to celebrate its salvation.
Thanks to a handful of ladies with the help of the Connecticut Society of Colonial Wars, the Society of Colonial Dames, and the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities.
May 9, 2015
Niantic Bay Yacht Club
8 Shore Road, Niantic, CT
$45.00 per Person incl. a complimentary drink & hors d’oeuvres
Special Guests: President & Mrs. William Howard Taft (to arrive in his favorite automobile)
Help us continue to preserve this Historic Treasure, the Thomas Lee House.
Funds to be put toward structural and roof projects planned for the
next 5 years. All donations are tax deductible as the
ELHS is a 501c-3 Non-Profit Organization.
To make reservations or to become a sponsor, please click here.
You can read more about the work done to preserve the Lee House 100 years ago here.
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.
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
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
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:
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.
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!