Friday, June 23, 2023

Castleton Lodge was once hub of summer life in Raymond

By Ernest H. Knight

Places that came into being far into the past, whether they are historic landmarks or simply things that we have been used to seeing in their once natural settings, have a way of suddenly disappearing. And once gone, they assume greater importance than once accorded them, even to outraged protests that something should have been done to save them.

Schooner Cove in Raymond was the resting place of a derelict
canal boat hull and the site of the old Castleton Lodge, an
estate that once was a beehive of summer life for tourists
and locals in the 19th century. COURTESY PHOTO 
One of those disappearances in Raymond has been Castleton Lodge, as once identified on its entrance sign board on Raymond Cape Road, or as the J.J. Bond Estate by many who preferred a family appellation. Located on the northern end of Raymond Cape not far from South Casco, encompassing a block of land extending from Sebago Lake to the Cape Road of about 100 acres which included areas of majestic pines, swamp land, a beautiful sand beach and boulders with its center piece a three-story log house, progress and the future converged on Castleton Lodge in the form of the destruction of the log house and outbuildings, clearing of woods for parkway style roads and preparation of land for the building of expensive development houses.

About 100 years ago Joseph J. Bond of Reading, Massachusetts purchased the land, and from trees cut on his property, built a masterpiece of wood and stone for gracious summer “rustication.” Mr. and Mrs. Bond, native New Englanders, had migrated in the 1880s to Castleton, South Dakota, to manage an extensive wheat ranch owned by a Boston syndicate, a venture which was not a success and sold to Mr. Bond. After three bumper crops in a period of high market prices, he sold out and with his fortune returned to New England to devote the rest of his life to the acquisition and development of his estate in Raymond in the grand style of the day.

The big house was made of round logs, presumably of the same vintage as the remaining huge pines throughout the land. Faced toward the lake and on the east side by a massive stone porch and steps with second-story rooms projecting above, the main room was open upward through the first and second floors, the interior walls of the same round logs as outside, an imposing stone fireplace in one corner and the kitchen and service rooms in the rear. An open pine log stairway went up from another corner to a second-floor balcony surrounding the main room with doors on three sides to guest rooms while on the third floor were rooms probably for servants as there were few windows or comforts there.

Behind the house, in the woods, were garages, recreation and service buildings. On a scenic rocky point extending into Sebago was a small beach house with a sandy beach to either side, one of them in a cove that sheltered a boat wharf on which undoubtedly guests and supplies arrived from many of the steamboats meeting trains at Sebago Lake Station.

Offshore the view is spectacular with a background of distant mountains and in the foreground some of the Dingley Islands centered on Millstone Island. Truly a setting and substance that can be visualized as once a beehive of summer life.

The name given to this development is, appropriately enough, Cathedral Pines, the entrance from Raymond Cape being through what has been heavy growth of the 2-foot pine trees. Beside this entrance, hidden in brush, is the cellar hole of the house of Alfred Mains, who farmed the land more than a century ago. This divided road for two-way traffic for 1,000 feet or so is centered by a line of these big trees as straight as though they had been planted, as well they might have been by Mr. Bond’s plan.

But now all resembles Yellowstone Park or Mount St. Helens as bulldozers, chain saws and fiery piles of brush prepared the land for the coming buildings. The better of the two beaches was reserved as common land along with the scenic point. Another property transformed overnight from a hidden private reserve into a complex of residential glamour.

Of interest to those in the Raymond-Casco Historical Society and others attracted to the history of the Cumberland & Oxford Canal, 1830-1870, is that the canal boats traversed this part of Sebago on their way to and from the Songo River and lakeshore landings. The first cove is the resting place of a derelict canal boat hull, logically giving it the name “Schooner Cove.”

As the lake below the high-water mark is state/public property, it will not be subject to development jurisdiction and members of the canal society are engaged in underwater measurement and photography to gain knowledge from one of the very last known canal boats in physical shape for study. Furthermore, it appears to be of a type other than the conventional C & O design that may have had its idea or origin on salt water before finding its way from there to the lake through the canal, a novel consideration. <

This article was written by the late Ernest H. Knight, one of the founders of the Raymond-Casco Historical Society and contained in his book “Historical Gems of Raymond and Casco.” It was submitted by the Raymond-Casco Historical Society and articles about Raymond history from the historical society will appear regularly in The Windham Eagle newspaper. To find out more about the Raymond-Casco Historical Society, call Frank McDermott at 207-655-4646.

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