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The Griswold House: Outside the Boardinghouse

 

The Griswold House

The Griswold House, originally the William Noyes House, was designed and built by Samuel Belcher (1779-1849) of Hartford. It was one of the largest houses in Old Lyme and was situated towards the north end of the village. Late Georgian in style, the house featured four imposing columns with ionic capitals, a grand pediment, fan lights over the door as well as in the pediment, and wooden quoins in the corners of the main building. It was one of three buildings in Old Lyme built by Belcher. He also designed the John Sill House (now the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts) and the Lyme Meeting House (now the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme).

The Griswold House is a “very large, commodious, elegant old house [that] is cool in summer, thoroughly warmed in winter, and very pleasantly and delightfully situated in large grounds, on a branch of the Connecticut River, near its mouth.”

~ From the broadside advertising the
Griswold Home School, c. 1885

Willard Metcalf (1858-1925)
May Night, 1906
Oil on canvas
Courtesy The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

 


Griswold House, 2006
Photograph by Joseph Standart

Thomas Nason (1889-1971)
Florence Griswold House
Woodcut on paper

 


Christmas card showing Griswold House

 

From Mansion to Museum

The house changed owners and uses several time over its nearly 200 year history. Originally built for the Noyes Family, it was purchased by the Griswold Family in 1841. During the 1880s, the Griswolds converted some rooms into classrooms and ran a finishing school for girls. By the late 1890s, the family needed money and began renting rooms. By 1910, the wood siding was painted yellow, the trim white with yellow insets, and the shutters a rich green. The Griswold boardinghouse was in operation in varying degrees of occupancy until Miss Florence’s death in 1937. It remained unoccupied during the Second World War in the early 1940s, but opened as a local history museum beginning in the summer of 1947. It housed the collection and exhibitions of the Florence Griswold Museum for the second half of the 20th century.

In the summer of 2006, the first floor of the house was reinterpreted as the boardinghouse for the Lyme Art Colony, circa 1910. The rooms on the second floor are used for a long-term installation that documents the Lyme Art Colony in photographs, artifacts, and paintings.