If you have wandered off the interstate and driven on the side streets and back roads of Southeastern Connecticut you have witnessed America in it´s youth. While New London and it´s neighbor to the north Norwich have been the major population centers since the 1600s southeastern Connecticut is dotted with other smaller population centers including modern day Old Lyme which in the 18th century numbered more than 2200 people and many concentrated off the Old Boston Post Road (center) but other smaller centers like the 2nd society (East Lyme) had a small village in East Lyme with more than a dozen houses over toward the Waterford line where shipbuilding was a way of life as was running a tavern such as the Samuel Douglass Tavern, Tabor Tavern, Calkins Tavern all within 1 mile of each other.
Surrounding New London were villages with active business districts. Remember back in the 18th century most people never ventured more than 7 miles from their house. Here men and boys went off to sea on ships from New London and Lyme, some never returned, others became tremendously wealthy. One thing in common was their burning desire for freedom and liberty.
Located in Niantic off the old Shore Rd (156) the Thomas Lee House is one of the finest examples of 17th century architecture in the state of Connecticut if not the United States. Moving forward to its Revolutionary history, a relative of Thomas, Ezra who lived in nearby "Lyme" (Old Lyme) captained the first submarine, the Turtle out of New York in 1776. Elisha Lee, was a Lt. in the Continental Army as ran this house during the war.
Originally built by Samuel Tinker, the oldest part of the building dates to 1680.Merchant and patriot John McCurdy (one of the colonies wealthiest men) ran a store there in the 1750s, and the tavern was known as a site for handing out clothing, food and supplies during the Revolutionary War. It also was the center of Son´s of Liberty leading up to the war in 1775. An unusual feature of the tavern is the second-floor ballroom, which may be divided into smaller rooms via an ingenious partition swung down from the ceiling. Local legend says that Washington and/or Lafayette may have danced upon this floor. Located on Rt 1 and Sill Lane in Old Lyme.
The 1660 Calkins Tavern was a favorite spot of travelers for nearly 200 years. It was located on Rt 1 (Boston Post Rd) and Chesterfield Rd. in East Lyme. Known as a center for the local Son´s of Liberty the tavern witnesed George Washington in 1776 as he stopped with his troops for lunch. His men rested under the willow trees at the nearby brook. Marquis de Lafayette visited the tavern again in 1826 on his return to America.
The Joseph Smith House was later rented out to Elisha Beckwith . Beckwith was a known Tory and was said to have "gone off with the British on Sept 6, 1781". Beckwith was later captured along with several other "visiting" Long Island and Middletown, Ct. tories in November 1781 by the local Sea Coast Guard lead by Andrew Griswold and Noah Lester. Beckwith was tried and send to Old Newgate Prison and later sent to Nova Scotia. The house still stands on East Pattagansent Rd. in Niantic, Conn.
The Andrew Griswold House stood across the street from the Thomas Lee House in Niantic. Andrew joined the army in 1775 and served until the end in 1783. He participated in the relief of Boston (Lexington Alarm), Dorchester Heights, Battles of New York, White Plains, Monmouth and more. His house was torn down for a motel (Rocky Neck).
Built in 1801 by Richard Douglass, a Captain in the Army during the Revolution. Richard served from 1775 to the end of the war and suffered "depredations" by the British when they burned his house and property in 1781. He was given western land grants and his children (some) later removed to New York, Ohio and Tennessee. The gambrel style was common in New London during that time and is located on Green Street in New London. Douglass was a cooper and helped organise a local church and served as Deacon. More can be read here
Much of the area was laid out in 1786-7 from the Timothy Green property. His print shoppe still stands on State Street. In his backyard these streets were laid out as New London began to grow again after years of suffering from the burning in 1781. Green Street counts The Richard Douglass House (1801), Next door at 102 Golden Street was Richard´s workshop / cooperage. Across from the Douglass House in the 1740 "mistress" house. Said to have been the home of the mistress of Timothy Green. At Green´s Alley is 1793 Rev. Samuel West House. The "Dutch" Tavern has not been dated but many claim it is a 1700s building. If you look down Green Street from State Street you will see the tight / small street - a true Colonial "urban" gem.