Thursday, December 31, 2020

A matter of historical record: Foster’s Corner and the rotary – Part two

By Walter Lunt

In the early days, new road construction and road upgrades often resulted in either the reduction or the enhancement of commercial activity in neighborhoods. Such was the case on Windham Hill and in the area known as Foster’s Corner, or the rotary. This part of Windham has assumed many names over its nearly 300 years of settled history: early on it was the Kennard neighborhood; in the 1800s (before being assigned to the neighborhood surrounding the intersection of Route 202 and Windham Center Road) it was sometimes called Windham Center; in the 1850s, it became Morrell’s Corner after a store owned by Andrew Morrell at a newly constructed intersection; by the late 1800s the store was owned by the Foster Brothers, so Foster’s Corner; in 1951, with the creation of a circular intersection, the rotary.

When it was the Kennard neighborhood (pronounced KEN-nard, as opposed to the Ken-NARDS of North Windham), a single road ran through it – a thruway connecting the towns of Gorham and Gray known as ‘County Road,’ later Gray Road. Todays Lott’s Drive, which runs nearly parallel to Route 202 around the rotary, traces the original (or old 202) route.

An early view of Foster's Corner at Lott's Drive
(old Route 202) and Bridgton Road (Route 302).
Left to right, Pleasant River Grange, the Hasty
House, Seavey's Store, empty lot of the former
Pleasant River House hotel (behind snow roller)
and Cobb's Garage. COURTESY PHOTO

The old Kennard neighborhood resembled a picture post card of rolling fields and farmland dotted with grazing farm animals, farmhouses and barns, a blacksmith shop and horse-drawn wagons and implements maneuvered by farm workers. Early families included names we still recognize today: Morrell, Varney, Hall and Kennard.

As far back as 1784, maps showed the thoroughfare that would become Route 302. But that early road skirted the area settled and farmed by the Kennards and others. It ran from Raymond (later Bridgton) to Ward Road in Windham, then to Windham Center Road at Windham Hill, and then to Portland (joining today’s 302 just south of Albion Road).

Due to the creation of a new section of the Raymond/Bridgton Road, the Kennard neighborhood would be changed forever. The added section, from Ward Road in Windham to the spot near Albion Road - which ran through the center of the Kennard neighborhood -  eliminated the need for travelers and teams of horses to navigate Windham Hill. Also, as a result, due to loss of traffic, commercial activity like overnight lodgings and taverns would transfer from Windham Hill to the new intersection at the Kennard neighborhood. Perhaps this was the trade-off for land taken from the Kennards and others for the new road. That new section of road joined the Raymond/Bridgton Road to become Route 302.

Citizen historian Isaac R. Jordan, writing in a local newspaper in the early 1900s, described the early settlers of the Kennard neighborhood this way: “I cannot help thinking that (they built) better than they knew. They are gone, but a pleasant memory of their doings still lingers…we are left with reminders of their well-done duties all around us.”

Although the new road created an intersection that would prove to be problematic (The Windham Eagle – Stubborn Drivers, Dec. 18, 2020), the farmers and merchants of Foster’s Corner contributed immensely to Windham’s rich heritage.

Their story when we conclude this series next time.  <

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