Samuel Smith House Joins East Lyme’s Historic Treasures
—by John Stratton
East Lyme, Just Yesterday, 1685: The new home of a farmer was built on what was to
become Plants Dam Road just west of Bride Brook Road, which runs between Route 1 and Route 156. And as of April 25, that very Samuel Smith House, after more than 300 years in more-or-less-loving private ownership, became the latest property of the Town of East Lyme administered by the East Lyme Historical Society.
The house and its 17 acres, in remarkably close-to-original shape, went up for sale late last year, and was purchased with the aid of federal and state preservation grants and a vote by the town. The neighboring Niantic Sportsmen’s Club purchased nine of the acres to serve as an open-space zone.
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The society plans to maintain the homesite as a historic landmark, install walking paths, and conduct archaeological study on three Native American sites. The Smith home has been listed since 1979 on the National Historic Register of Historic Places.
The house was modified in its first hundred years or so; around 1730 an extension was
added and around 1812 an L-shaped wing was put on. A barn was added in the 1700’s. The area is rich in other history: notably on Bride Brook Road at Route 156 stand the Thomas Lee House (ca. 1660) and the Little Boston School House (ca. 1734); they were acquired by the East Lyme Historical Society in 1913 and 1926.
Bride Brook itself received its name, and legend, in 1647 when a couple from Niantic, then part of the Saybrook colony, wanted to be married. Problem: no Saybrook magistrate was available—because of a recent snowfall—to do the hitching. There was, however, the famous John Winthrop, but he was assigned to New London, then part of the greater Massachusetts Bay Colony. The brook marked the border of two colonies. So the accomodating Winthrop stood on the east bank of the brook in his proper jurisdiction, the happy couple took their vows on the west bank, and the marriage was approved.