Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Nonprofit Spotlight: The Windham Historical Society

The Windham Historical Society, founded in 1967, is a group of spirited volunteers whose mission is the fostering of history in our town by presenting relevant programs, providing educational opportunities and maintaining historical facilities where displays of the town’s past are available.

Over the years, people in Windham have gotten to know them at fundraisers such as bake sales, plant sales and craft sales; on history tours and by attending the group’s historical programs that are presented monthly March through September.

One of the biggest goals for the Society in 2020 will be to continue the work that has begun on their Village Green Living History Museum. The project began in 2010 when the Historical Society acquired property and buildings that abutted the Old Town House Museum on Windham Center Road. Funding for the purchase came from Society and community members who shared in the vision of using the additional space to create a late 1800s village where people could learn about Windham’s past.

There is one active building on the property now. The Village School provides a unique living history opportunity to area school children. The one-room building is typical of many such structures that once dotted Windham’s landscape in its earlier days. It is set up to look like a classroom in the 1890s, complete with antique desks, a pot-belly stove, a period flag and portraits of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. The schoolmarm or master and the students themselves dress in period attire for the living history classes and are given names of children who actually did attend school in old-time Windham. Once the school bell rings, the students take a step back in time to experience a school day in 1898 using slates and chalk for writing, McGuffey Readers for reading and elocution, and quill pens and ink to practice their penmanship.

Over the past couple of years, other buildings have been added to the Green.  Renovations are underway on the old South Windham Library that was moved from the Little Falls area of the town to the Society’s Village Green.  It will become a museum dedicated to the village of South Windham with an ell that will be a replica of South Windham’s railroad station that was once a vibrant part of that section of town.

Last year, a blacksmith shop and gazebo for entertaining were constructed on the property. In 2020, the Society hopes to move the Old Grocery at the corner of Windham Center Road and Route 202 onto its place on the Green as well. It will take $41,000 to make the move, and through the generous support of Society members, $37,500 has been raised so far. If anyone would like to make a donation to the cause, checks can be sent to the Windham Historical Society, PO Box 1475, Windham ME 04062.

The Society is also excited about an archiving project they have been working on in which five members of the group have been recording details and artifacts to be placed on the Society’s website. Over 10,000 items have been recorded to date with many, many more to come. This project will make researching easier and will help the Society respond more efficiently to inquiries they receive.

With the 200th Anniversary of Maine’s statehood coming right up, the Society has put together a lovely 2020 Commemorative Bicentennial Calendar featuring illustrations by Jerry Black, a Society member. All funds coming from sales will be put towards Village Green efforts.

Windham’s Historical Society is not your grandmother’s Historical Society. Its members are forward-thinking as well as being interested in Windham’s past. They work together to continue moving the organization into the future while bringing Windham’s history to life.  Most of all, they show the community the joys you can experience while having fun with history.

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