When driving past the Bodge House on Chute Road these days, most people would probably tell you they see a well-kept 19th-century cape sitting in the place where it’s most likely always been. They have no idea the stories the walls of that old cape could tell, things that have forever made it a part of Windham history.
The house was built by Hugh Crague III, a farmer, for his wife Mary Knight around 1811. It was originally constructed in the Georgian style of architecture and was located on a crest of a hill on lower River Road near Black Brook.
In 1826, it was sold to Edwin Bodge and in 1840, he used 17 yoke of oxen to move it to its new location on Gray Road (Route 202). The large center chimney was removed at the time of the move, and Mr. Bodge had the home remodeled in the Greek Revival style that was popular at the time.
The house remained in the Gray Road location for over 100 years, but then in 1968, it had to be moved yet again to make way for the new South Windham Post Office that would occupy its site.
Rather than demolish the house, Clyde and Ann Esty donated it to the Windham Historical Society who then began researching a new place for the Bodge House to call home. The agreed-upon site was an approximately one-acre parcel on Chute Road that was donated to the Society by Jane and Steve Worthens. On Christmas Eve 1969, the Bodge House was placed on its new foundation on Chute Road and from there took on a whole new life.
Historical Society members were delighted to have been given such a wonderful gift and began restoring and preserving the old house in the hopes that it would one day become a history museum. A Building Restoration Committee was formed and they, with the help of generous monetary donations and countless hours of manpower from members of the Society, worked steadily toward their goal.
Support columns were put into the cellar and cellar windows and a bulkhead was installed. The roof was reshingled. New steps were placed at the side entrance and the old granite steps were reset at the front door. A heating system and electricity were installed and new ceilings were constructed in the parlor and kitchen.
In 1975, volunteers broke ground on an herb garden that located behind the house. Beautifully designed by well-known New England herbalist Mrs. Howard Hawkes, the garden was filled with culinary, medicinal and household herbs. Historical Society volunteers tended the garden and dried the herbs they harvested. These were often sold at fundraising events, making this lovely patch of Earth both a profitable endeavor and a labor of love.
Then, in 1984, something unexpected happened. The Old Town House, built in 1833 and situated near Town Hall on Windham Center Road, was offered to the Windham Historical Society by the Town of Windham for the small sum of $5.00. This central location with parking close by was considered as a sensible new headquarters for the Society.
The building needed some work, however, so Society members were forced to make a difficult decision. Should they purchase the old Town House or continue with their mission to make Bodge House a historic destination?
The old house had become very dear to many members who had put their hearts and souls into its renovation, but after much debate and conversation, the Society voted to sell Bodge House as a private residence. It was purchased by Society member Linda Griffin who continued working on the historic restoration of the home. It has been sold two more times since then.
Today, the classic old white cape sits unassumingly in its quiet field on Chute Road looking as if that’s exactly where it has always belonged, seemingly content with the wonderful memories it’s given to so many people and proud of the glorious times that it has seen.
The Bodge House was once owned by the Windham Historical