The Museum is located in the heart of the village's historic district. On the Connecticut shoreline, conveniently located between New York and Boston, Old Lyme is a dream destination. The artists who traveled between the two cities at the turn of the 20th century were looking for a beautiful place to visit far from the bustle of city life. They brought their friends and painting supplies and stayed at "Miss Florence's" boardinghouse (now the Florence Griswold Museum). They captured on canvas all the wonderful things they found here...rolling fields, rocky shores, graceful gardens, weathered barns, and classic New England architecture. Paintings of those views are now icons seen in museums worldwide. Today's visitors to Old Lyme still see what the artists did, with the added bonus of plenty of family activities, shopping, boat rentals, nature walks, and homemade ice cream!
» Download a Destination Old Lyme brochure to learn more!
Southeastern Connecticut offers something for every taste, from culture seeker to nature lover to maritime fanatic.
For more information about events and destinations in the area, visit Mystic Country.
Lyme Street offers a mile of exquisite shops, fine dining, cozy inns, and world-class cultural institutions just off I-95.
Next door to the Museum (at 90 Lyme Street) is the Lyme Art Association
. On August 6, 1921, the present Lyme Art Association gallery (built on land donated by Florence Griswold in 1918) opened. It was the first gallery in America built by a summer art colony. American Impressionist painters Gifford Beal, Louis Paul Dessar, Childe Hassam, and Willard L. Metcalf joined with Will Howe Foote, Henry Rankin Poore, Allen B. Talcott, and Carleton Wiggins in the early exhibitions of the Association. The Lyme Art Association continues today to exhibit the work of some of the region's finest and newest representational artists in its beautiful, historic gallery.
The Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts
(84 Lyme Street) was founded by professional artists in 1976, and is distinguished among the art schools of America for its focus on the history, tradition, principles and discipline of drawing, painting and sculpture. The Academy's gallery features year-round exhibits of fine representational art by students, alumni, and faculty.
Sandy Garvin Gallery
The Cooley Gallery (25 Lyme Street) is a nationally-recognized dealer of American art. On display are works from the mid-nineteenth century through the twentieth century.
(10 Lyme Street)
Visit local landscape artist Sandy Garvin at her studio.
The Diane Birdsall Gallery
(16 Lyme Street) adds a contemporary view to a town rich in traditional forms of art.
Places to Stay
There are two lovely inns within walking distance of the Museum. The Bee and Thistle Inn
is noted for its fine dining and romantic guest rooms. Enjoy special packages featuring Museum admission. The Old Lyme Inn
has 13 guest rooms.
The Inn at Harbor Hill Marina in Niantic, offers a beautiful waterfront setting only 20 minutes from the Museum and offers special packages.
The Copper Beech Inn in Essex is a 15-minute drive from the Museum and offers seasonal packages that includes admission to the Museum and other attractions. The Inn's renowned AAA Four-Diamond restaurant features snug, distinctive dining rooms and summer outdoor dining.
The Westbrook Inn offers nine lovely, antique appointed rooms plus a spacious cottage. Modern Conveniences such as WiFi, private baths, a/c, hair dryers, irons & ironing boards, cable T.V.
Captain Stannard House Country Inn is in Westbrook, about 15 minutes from the Museum and just one block away for the beach.
In Old Saybrook the Deacon Timothy Pratt House invites you to enjoy the splendor of this magnificent c.1746 center chimney colonial listed on the National Historic Register. Look for the many special offers.
Places to Eat
Café Flo is located on site. It is open 11:30 to 3pm Tuesdays through Saturdays, and Sundays 1-4 June into October.
The Old Lyme Inn
Across the street from the Museum. Casual dining.
Bee & Thistle Inn
Next door to the Museum. Dinner Tuesday thru Saturday evenings from 5:30 to 9:00pm.
Within walking distance of the Museum. Casual dining with a river view.
Old Lyme Ice Cream Shoppe and Cafe
Less than a mile from the Museum in the historic district. Soup, salad, and ice cream.
A short drive from the Museum.
A short drive from the Museum. Innovative American cuisine.
A short drive from the Museum. American cuisine.
Fine Jewels, Objets d'art, estate jewelry.
Other Things to Do
Take a hike.
» Download trails and maps from the
Old Lyme Trailbook
Rent a boat or canoe at:
Black Hall Marina
Connecticut Explorer's Guide
Take in a performance!
Musical Masterworks offers a series of concerts that feature world-class musicians performing masterpieces and rarely known treasures of the chamber music repertoire in the acoustically perfect setting of the First Congregational Church.
is an online newspaper covering Lyme and Old Lyme. It is updated daily (sometimes several times a day!) and often includes stories about Museum happenings along with a great deal more community news for the Lymes, including an especially useful Community Calendar. OldSaybrookNow.com
(covering Essex, Chester and Deep River) are full of community news for those towns.
A Brief History of Old Lyme
» Read more about the Old Lyme and the Colonial Revival
» Read more about Old Lyme on the Town's website
» Read more on the Old Lyme HIstorical Society website
In 1645, the first magistrate of the Saybrook Colony offered a sizeable tract of land on the eastern side of the river to Matthew Griswold (yes, an ancestor of Miss Florence), who named it "Lyme" after his ancestral home in the English town of Lyme Regis in Dorset. Soon, the English built several dwellings on the eastern side of the river and began to cultivate fields and import small herds of livestock.
Initially comprised of 80 square miles, Lyme was divided into smaller villages and towns. Salem in the north broke off in 1819, East Lyme in 1839, and Hadlyme to the northwest in 1842. The remainder of Lyme was split once again in 1855 when the southwest area established itself as the village of Old Lyme. Today, Lyme and Old Lyme together measure approximately 64 square miles.
During the decades immediately following the American Revolution, shipbuilding and commerce brought a great deal of wealth to the town. The population expanded quickly and near the end of the Revolutionary War, Lyme's inhabitants numbered 3,792, making it the fourteenth most populous town in Connecticut. Between 1784 and 1888, shipyards in Lyme and Old Lyme launched approximately 200 ships destined for coastal and foreign trade. Young men came to town and found work in shipyards, mills, lumberyards, and warehouses along the Connecticut River and its tributaries.
However, the need for such a workforce diminished as the shipping industry turned from wind power to steam. It was further impacted by the Civil War and the economic downturn that followed. By the end of the nineteenth century Lyme's population had declined to less than half of its former level. The town largely reverted back to farming and cottage industries.
By the 1890s Old Lyme was reachable by a combination of rail and ferry and was in the process of becoming a quiet summer retreat. Its one constant and defining feature was a landscape that combined meadows, marshes, ancient trees, and winding rivers with old New England buildings, humble dirt roads, well-tilled farmlands, and a gentle shoreline.
The late 19th century was a time of dramatic urban and industrial development, with new populations flooding America's cities from Europe. Noise and air pollution became commonplace. The health of city dwellers and the welfare of working children became national issues. The anxieties of a rapidly changing world contributed to a longing for a simpler past.
As a consequence, many Americans were drawn to the New England village with its older dwellings and traditional landscapes. Towns like Old Lyme harkened back to a Colonial past, and its landscape conveyed the sense of generations of history. Here was a locale the modern world had seemingly left behind, an "ancient and interesting town" ripe for rediscovery as a place of leisure at the dawn of the twentieth century.
With the arrival of Henry Ward Ranger in 1899, followed shortly thereafter by scores of other American artists, the village of Old Lyme became the locus for one of the largest and most significant art colonies in America. Drawn first by the town's natural beauty, they discovered an "old" New England setting that was, as one observer noted, "expressive of the quiet dignity of other days." Staying principally in the Griswold boardinghouse, these artists produced an impressive body of work that achieved renown in its day. They portrayed the earlier homes of the village, including Miss Florence's boardinghouse, and painted the Congregational Church at the head of the street. They explored views of the wooden-trestle Bow Bridge, the rustic mills, the old-fashioned gardens lined with boxwood, the groves of mountain laurel, and stands of mature trees, often during the colorful fall season.