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About Us

The Mystic River Historical Society, founded in 1973, owns an ever-growing collection of Mystic-related historical books, maps, photographs, and other documents and artifacts contributed by the community.  We house these collections in the William A. Downes Archives Building, erected by the Society specifically to provide a safe environment for them.  We maintain part-time archival and curatorial staff available to assist researchers and to continue the organization and cataloging of the collections.

In addition to the Downes Building, we own the Portersville Academy, purchased from the Town of Groton in 1975 and partially restored.  This historical building serves as the Society's education and outreach space.  A schoolroom of the 1840's has been recreated upstairs, and historical displays form a backdrop for educational activities downstairs.  The Downes Building and Portersville Academy lie adjacent on High Street in Mystic, south of West Main Street.

Portersville Academy was built in 1839 by Amos Clift as the Fifth District School and originally stood further up High Street just north of Union Baptist Church.  In 1887 the Town of Groton bought the building and moved it to its present site.  It was used as a District Hall for a number of years, eventually falling into disrepair before the Society acquired it.

The Downes Building and Portersville Academy are open to the public year-round during the following hours:

Tuesdays 9 a.m. - 12 noon
Wednesdays 1 p.m. - 4 p.m.
Thursdays 1 p.m. - 4 p.m.

Our Mission

The mission of the Mystic River Historical Society is to collect, arrange, exhibit and preserve records, papers, photographs, artifacts, relics and related archival materials that document the history of the people who lived in the area around the Mystic River from the first settlement in 1654 to the present.

Our Board of Trustees

The members of Mystic River Historical Society Board of Trustees are as follows:

Stephen Menno (President)

Currently Open (Vice President)

Louis Allyn (Treasurer)

Nancy Potter (Corresponding Secretary)

Lynn Schroder (Recording Secretary)

John Parry (Membership)

Elizabeth Boucher

Marilyn Comrie

Lyndsey Pyrke-Fairchild (Social Media)

Jim Streeter

Stephanie Thorp (Information Technology)





William A. Downes Building
(MRHS Archives & Offices)



  About What We Do

MRHS maintains an active schedule of events and activities for both members and the community.  Here are some of our ongoing activities and productions as well as some past efforts.

  • Monthly members meetings, October through May, offering informative programs
  • Portersville Press, a bi-monthly newsletter published September through May, featuring both Society business and historical features
  • "Images of America: Mystic", developed, written and edited by MRHS members, and a top-selling book of local interest
  • "An Account of My Life: The Diary of Helen Clarke Grimes", a critically-acclaimed and award-winning book extracted from the journals of a young women growing up in Mystic in the early 20th century
  • Support of "Mystic: An American Journey", an historical film developed by producer-director Bailey Pryor, including sponsorship of the film's gala premiere
  • "Curbstones, Clapboards, and Cupolas", a handbook of self-guided walking tours for the area west of the Mystic River
  • Antique appraisal days
  • A walking tour of the neighborhoods described in "An Account of My Life"
  • Docents for Portersville Academy
  • Increasing accessibility of Society collections by cataloging, researching and transcribing those materials
  • Providing an archive to which holders of historical material can feel comfortable contributing


May We Have Your Support?

MRHS is a registered 501 (c) (3) (non-profit) organization.  We welcome your financial assistance in support of our mission and goals, including preserving our unique local heritage and educating our children about that heritage.  Should you wish to help us with tax-deductible gifts of cash or securities, please contact us at info@mystichistory.org.

Your assistance makes it possible for us to provide

  • educational programs to schoolchildren from numerous towns throughout southeastern Connecticut
  • preservation of the Portersville Academy and Downes Building buildings and grounds
  • preservation of our growing collection of historical material
  • support to the Mystic River community and its many activities

Organization Documents including By-Laws This page contains links to various documents relating to the organization and operation of the Society.