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South Green

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Lyme was named for Lyme Regis in Dorsetshire, England, the port from which the first settler, Matthew Griswold, sailed for America. The Town of Lyme was "sett off" from Saybrook in 1665 and was incorporated as South Lyme in 1855. The present name was adopted in 1857.

Instead of a central green, Old Lyme has two greens, one at each end of Lyme Street. The South Green has a long and illustrious history as the center of town life since the first settlement.

Here the militia was mastered and drilled, and justice was administered through the whipping post and the stock, once located in front of the McCurdy House. In the days preceding the Revolution, the green was a hotbed of rebellion and plotting. On March 16, 1774, Lyme's version of the Boston Tea Party was held on the green. A peddler from Martha's Vineyard arrived with 100 pounds of tea and was promptly arrested; that evening the local Sons of Liberty assembled and burned the tea.

After the Battle of Lexington, a hundred men set off from the green to march to Roxbury. On the same spot, on July 27, 1778, Lafayette arrived with his troops. While his men camped on the green and ate at the Parsons Tavern, Lafayette was entertained at the McCurdy House.

During the 1800s the green was used for more peaceful purposes, becoming a favorite spot for impressionist artists. American artist Childe Hassam (1859-1935) probably stood on the green when he painted his famous depiction of the First Congregational Church.

A 1906 photograph taken from the green shows many fine old elms lining Lyme Street, then known simply as "The Street." Today the green continues to be a favorite destination for artists: Students from the nearby art academy can often be seen painting the many tranquil scenes.

South Green is significant as a public space that has endured for over 300 years. Considered with the surrounding homes and the First Congregational Church, the area offers a glimpse into a period when Old Lyme was a center for shipbuilding and shipping. The green is a part of the Old Lyme Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.



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