East Lyme Historical Society

The Lee House Compound

Thomas Lee House

Located in East Lyme, CT this house, still in a primitive state, is one of the oldest wood frame houses in the state.  The house is owned and maintained by the East Lyme Historical Society. It had remained in the Lee family until the end of the 19th century when it was sold to a neighboring farmer. who used it as a chicken coop and to store hay.  He was ready to tear it down in 1914 when the Historical Society found out and thought it worth saving. They had the noted architectural historian Norman M. Isham look the house over and he found it a house of extraordinary interest. With help from the Connecticut Society of Colonial Wars, the Society of Colonial Dames, and The Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities the Historical Society was able to purchase the property.

After a year of restoration, the house was open to the public on June 9th, 1915 with former President William Howard Taft as guest speaker.  His wife was a member of the Colonial Dames that had helped to save the house. The house has been open to the public ever since.  

Built in the late 1660’s the first structure was a lower and upper chamber with a spacious attic. The lower chamber would later be called the Judgment Hall as Thomas Lee III would hold court there.  Around 1709 an addition was added to the west, again with a chamber or parlor below and chamber above.  This addition is free standing on its own corner posts.

The last addition was around 1765when the lean-to kitchen and side rooms were added.  In order to do this the pitch of the roof needed to change and the rafters were cut and added to so the roof could be lowered for the saltbox shape.  It is probable at this time that the west lover chamber was paneled and the beam enclosed. 

In 1985, Cary Carson, from Colonial Williamsburg, along with a group of architects and historians, came and spent a week researching the house,  His thoughts and those of Norman Isham have been put into booklet form and are available for purchase on our Publications page. Both Isham and Carson came up with similar ideas on the construction, but also had some different ones.

Little Boston School

The first school in this area began in 1734 on land located between the houses of Thomas Lee and Quality Smith.  It was replaced by the current structure in 1803 which was located across the street from its present site near the entrance to York Correctional Institution on land of Elisha Lee. It became known as the Little Boston School due to the higher learning offered which included Greek and Latin along with surveying and navigation. The last class was held in 1922 and the building turned over to the Historical Society in 1926.  In 1931 the site was deeded to the state so the road could be straightened and the school moved to the Lee House grounds. It is open for tours with the Lee House.

Our Barn

Our Barn contains displays of East Lyme past. Included in our main barn are items from the Nehantic Indians along with their story.  There is also a display of Lyme in the Revolution with the story of Ezra Lee and his manning of the first submarine “Turtle” used during that war.  You will also see interesting artifacts of East Lyme past.  The west section of the barn contains 2 “wagons”.  The fire wagon “Our Pride” is the first pumper for the town.  It was built locally in 1890.  The second wagon is the RFD mail wagon from the early 1900’s.