Florence Griswold opened her timeworn family home
to artists searching for a quiet country retreat where
they could rejuvenate their spirits and find sources
of inspiration. The group was known as the Lyme Art Colony
and Miss Florence's boardinghouse became the center
of Impressionism in America. To honor Miss Florence
and the Colony, the Florence Griswold Museum was
established and has flourished in exciting ways.
Who was this remarkable woman?
One of four children of a ship captain, Miss Florence
was born on Christmas Day, 1850 and raised in the finest
house on the main street of a thriving Connecticut town.
Old Lyme, a center of shipbuilding and commerce,
was established in the early 1600s and counted the
Griswolds among the town's oldest families.
Their Late Georgian-style mansion, built in 1817 on
a twelve-acre estate, was purchased by Captain Robert Griswold
for his bride Helen Powers in 1841.
The family's and the town's fortunes reversed, however,
as a result of the Civil War and the invention of
steam-powered vessels. To survive financially
the Griswolds turned their home into a school and
eventually a boarding house.
By the late 1890s only Miss Florence was left to
maintain the family homestead. Soon she,and the town,
would transform and survive in unexpected ways.
The Florence Griswold House, Originally built
in 1817 for William Noyes, Jr.,
a son of Judge William Noyes,
the house was designed by Hartford builder
Samuel Belcher, who was already at work on
Old Lyme’s Congregational Church.
In 1839, the house was sold to Richard Ely
and in 1841 to the sea captain Robert Griswold.
By the 1930s, Florence Griswold was in debt and
her property was sold, although the land’s new owner,
Judge Robert McCurdy Marsh, who built a new house,
allowed her to live in the old house until
her death on December 6 1937.
In 1941, the house was purchased by the Florence
Griswold Association and opened as a museum in 1947.
Florence Griswold Museum, exhibiting both art
and historical material. The house was declared
a National Historic Landmark in 1993. In July 2007
the building reopened after a 14-month restoration project.
The museum features a collection of American art
and history, including fine art, sculpture, works on paper,
artist's studio material, toys and dolls, ceramics,
furniture, textiles, decorative arts and historic artifacts,
and the Lyme Historical Society archives.
The side porch of the Griswold House became an
extension of the interior space, and served as an open-air
dining room. Meals were taken here in warm weather,
with views of the gardens and barns beyond.