East Lyme to discuss purchasing historic house

The historic Samuel Smith House and property in East Lyme. Below, Chairman of the East Lyme Commission for the Conservation of Natural Resources Arthur Carlson, left, led a tour of the original 1685 section of the Samuel Smith House during an open house at the historic property in April.

East Lyme - The Board of Selectmen has scheduled an executive session at its meeting Wednesday night to discuss the possible acquisition of the historic Samuel Smith house and property at 82 Plants Dam Road. The meeting begins at 6:15 p.m. in Town Hall.

Recently, the town received the two appraisals on the 17-acre farm property, which it needs in order to apply for two preservation grants totaling $360,000.

While the preliminary appraisals have valued the house at $565,000, a purchase price has not yet been made available to the public. Selectwoman Rose Ann Hardy has said the appraisals were not so high that the town has lost interest.

The town, Commission for the Conservation of Natural Resources and the Historic Properties Commission could benefit from the economic and cultural value of the property while the house could be used for meeting space or as a tourist attraction.

"The property itself is very unique. There isn't another in the state that is essentially undisturbed," said Hardy. "The house has only been updated minimally. There's electricity, there's a heating system now, but other than that it's basically as it was in the late 1600s and early 1700s."

Archeologists in the area have studied the land and believe that, due to its untouched condition, the property might contain three Native American burial grounds.

Local historians believe that the Samuel Smith property, currently owned by Stephen and Carol Huber, will complete a link in the history of East Lyme.

Already located in the town are the Thomas Lee House from 1636 and the Smith-Harris House from 1869. They hope tourists will find value in the idea of being able to visit houses from the 1600s, 1700s and 1800s all in one day.

Because the property is so untouched by time, were the town to buy it, the house, which was built in 1685, could be converted to a historic landmark and tourist attraction almost immediately, according to Hardy.

The property, which is within 800 feet of Bride Brook, sits on seven acres of an aquifer that feeds the town's public water system.

Purchasing the property also could help protect the town's drinking water by allowing water to filter down slowly and naturally through gravel and sand.

This might not be the case if a developer were to purchase the land and subdivide it into housing lots, according to the East Lyme Commission for the Conservation of Natural Resources.

The group also says the addition of an impervious surface through development such as housing lots might contribute to water pollution and polluted runoff.



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