The Madison Historical Society (MHS) is a nonprofit, tax-exempt museum and resource center that serves the community by providing programs that explore topics of Madison’s history. Founded in 1917, the Society owns three historic sites: Lee’s Academy, located on the town green; the Allis-Bushnell House, located on the Boston Post Road; and the Smallpox Burying Ground, located in Guilford. Lee’s Academy serves as the Society’s headquarters; its upper level houses its administrative offices and library; its lower level is the MHS exhibition hall. The Allis-Bushnell House serves as a house museum and is used to store and exhibit the Society’s collection of decorative furnishings, clothing, household items, farming implements, and occupational tools, all from the Madison area.
MHS Mission Statement
The mission of the MHS is to collect, preserve, and interpret artifacts and information that illustrate Madison’s role in local, regional, and national history. The Society fulfills this mission through its exhibits, educational programs, publications, and entertainments for residents, students, and visitors. The Society provides leadership that encourages broad public engagement in Madison's history and future.
MHS Vision Statement
The MHS recognizes its responsibility to present exhibitions, educational programs, and publications that contribute to a greater appreciation of Madison’s distinctive cultural history. We believe that constant references to common past experiences nurture and sustain a sense of community that links past, present, and future citizens.
With this understanding, we envision that the MHS can:
- make history personal, intimate, and meaningful
- celebrate and cultivate the elements of Madison’s cultural history that create and bind our community
- make full use of the Society’s collections, archives, and historic resources
- present reenactments and personal portrayals that exemplify Madison’s historic community lifeways and experiences
- explore history through literature, music, visual arts, architecture, and features of the local landscape and historic land use
- provide leadership that encourages broad public engagement in Madison’s history and future.
More Information on MHS Properties
The Madison Historical Society currently owns three historic properties in coastal Connecticut. Its administrative offices, open to members and visitors, are at Lee's Academy at 14 Meetinghouse Lane in Madison.
Located at the eastern end of the town green, just off the historic Boston Post Road, Lee's Academy was once a schoolhouse located elsewhere in town. Its lower level is the MHS exhibition hall, open each Saturday from mid-June through August for changing exhibitions. The Madison Historical Society’s library, portions of its archival collection, and its offices are located on the upper level. Other portions of the collection are stored at the Charlotte Evarts Memorial Archives in the neighboring Memorial Town Hall. The collection specializes in local history and genealogy related to the towns of East Guilford, Guilford, Madison, and Killingworth, from the colonial period and onward to the present. This collection is available to the public during our regular office hours and to researchers and scholars by appointment.
Built circa 1785, the Allis-Bushnell House is named for the two families who lived in the house in its early years. The most famous of its inhabitants was Cornelius Scranton Bushnell, born in the Bushnell homestead in 1828. Bushnell was among the original organizers of the Union Pacific Railway. Later, he was the first sponsor of the building of the famed Civil War-era ironclad ship, the USS Monitor.
The Allis-Bushnell House is situated on a lovely acre in the heart of the downtown village district. The property includes an annex, a corn crib, and an herb garden. The garden was planted and is maintained by the Garden Club of Madison. The house contains an extensive collection of period furniture, decorative arts, textiles, toys, costumes, and medical implements. Intriguing nautical and agricultural tools and domestic implements are displayed in the annex.
The Allis-Bushnell House opens on special occasions for tours that focus on five intriguing periods in Madison history. Tours vividly illustrate exciting and poignant events that occurred in or near the house. Each event reflects on local, regional, and national moments of importance. On these tours, sometimes guided by costumed reenactors, visitors can enjoy the home's architectural and decorative features. They also learn the history and contributions of the people who lived here or nearby.
In addition, the Madison Historical Society owns and maintains the secluded Smallpox Burying Ground. It is located a short distance from the west bank of the East River in Guilford. Guided hikes to the site are offered at varied times throughout the year.
The Society offers educational programs and entertainments throughout the year for adults and students, members and visitors. The MHS Education Programs include curriculum-aligned tours for schoolchildren, who learn the history and lifeways of local people in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. A history book group meets monthly at the Allis-Bushnell House. The Frederick Lee Lectures are offered in the winter months. Open houses, receptions, special exhibitions, field trips, and Conversations with the Curator are among the events that make the MHS a Madison hub.
MHS Resources and Collections
Among the most prized collections of the Society are its eighteenth-century furniture, its domestic and maritime tools and implements, and its costumes.
In addition to those are a large collection of photographs and documents from three hundred years of town history.
In its efforts to share this rich collection, the MHS has embarked on a project to photograph its collection and to create a digital archive that will be available to researchers as well as to the general public on the MHS website. Currently this vast project is in its infancy, but the physical collection is accessible as usual through our permanent and changing exhibitions, special programs, and by appointment.