TOWN CENTER: Nineteenth century sources refer to the area at the junction of Route 111 and North Lowell Road as "the Centre" and for apparent good reason. This district, which today includes the Town Hall, the Armstrong Memorial Building (formerly housing Nesmith Library), the Bartley House (currently housing the Town's Planning Office), the stone front fire station, the Town Pound, and the Windham Presbyterian Church, actually is located at the approximate geographic center of the Town of Windham.
With the exception of the fire station, which dates from the late 1940's, each of the buildings located in the district is of eighteenth or nineteenth century vintage. Several of the buildings share Greek Revival-style architectural elements. For example, the Presbyterian Church boasts many features of mid-nineteenth century Greek Revivalism. In addition, the Bartley House, destroyed by fire on April 7, 1856 and rebuilt, is of Greek Revival heritage.
The Windham Town Hall was first erected as a meetinghouse in 1798, marking not only the geographic, but also the civic center of the town. The building, which is one of the earlier surviving meeting houses in the state, was used for many years for town meetings and religious services. By 1834, the Presbyterian congregation decided to build its own church nearby, dedicating the Presbyterian Church on January 14, 1835. Since that time, the meetinghouse building has been used as the Town Hall. The original building was remodeled in April, 1868.
The Nesmith Free Public Library, established in 1871 under a $3,000 grant from the estate of Col. Thomas Nesmith, was originally located on the second floor of the Town Hall. The library was moved to the Armstrong Memorial Building, located next door to Town Hall, after its dedication on January 4, 1899. It remained there for nearly one hundred years.
The WINDHAM DEPOT is one of the newest additions to the Town's historic districts, being established at the 2003 Town meeting. Since that time, the Commission has been working cooperatively with the Windham Depot Advisory Committee on extensively researching this area.More information on this unique and important district will be coming soon!
The SEARLES SCHOOL AND CHAPEL are part of the legacy of Edward F. Searles, an interior decorator and antique collector, left to the Town of Windham and the greater Salem, NH-Methuen, MA area.
Mr. Searles engaged the Boston architect Henry Vaughan to design a castle in the style of Stanton Harcourt Manor in Oxon County, England. The building, which is located on Searles Road in Windham, was completed in 1915. The castle and its associated complex of impressive stone walls, have been hallmarks of the Town's landscape ever since.
The Searles School and Chapel was built and donated to the Town of Windham by Mr. Searles in exchange for a piece of property on which originally stood "school house No. 1". Because the school land was completely surrounded by Searles-owned property, Mr. Searles proposed the exchange, which would include a Tudor style school with stained glass windows, cypress paneling, and a tower holding twelve carillons. The building opened in 1909 and is, today, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
UNION HALL: Located of Anderson Road in West Windham, the Union Hall (right) was constructed in 1880 to serve the "Literary-Social and Religious" needs of a growing population living some distance from the center of town. The building was funded by the sale of shares to local residents. Begun in the summer of 1880, the building was completed in October and dedicated on November 27, 1880.
The STICKNEY CELLAR foundation is the newest addition to the Town's historic districts, having been established at the 2008 Town meeting. The Stickney general store and related buildings were located at the Windham Junction, and the cellar remains in the area behind the caboose on Depot Road.
SIMPSON CELLAR HOLE: On June 17, 1775 a number of Windham patriots fought the British at Bunker Hill, Charlestown MA. Included among them was John Simpson, a landowner on what is now Marblehead Road. He was wounded during the battle, losing several fingers from a cannon ball. Back in Windham, he was awarded a pension.
Mr. Simpson's original home on the west side of Marblehead Road, a short distance from Rock Pond, burned to the ground. That cellar hole has been filled. He built a larger home on the opposite side of road in about 1776-78. This cellar hole is now part of the one-acre Simpson Cellar Hole Historic District, voted at Town Meeting in March, 2000.
There are several large pieces of cut granite in this foundation. Also, the district boasts several unique features, including a well-preserved stone-encased well just to the rear of the southeast corner of the site and a large slab of granite extending over the well. The main brook to Rock Pond is close by on the south side of the site.