What used to be here? That’s a question frequently asked by visitors and newer residents of Windham.

It might surprise you to know that wherever there was a river, there once was a mill or factory. Waterpower was valuable. If you drive on the Windham Center Road almost all the way to the North Gorham dam, you are about to enter a small area once the center of industry – on both sides of the dam. Windham and Gorham “shared” the hustle and bustle, which accompanied an era of manufacturing, including the building of boarding houses, stables, general stores, churches and schools.

North Gorham was known in the “olden days” as Great Falls, a name discontinued when the postal service began here, as the name was already used by another town.

About 1800, the White brothers had taken over the waterpower once owned by Zebulon Trickey. Trickey operated a saw mill, as did Enoch White who “retired in affluence.” The Whites were land speculators and had extensive lumber dealings including buying and selling the huge pine trees, which were used for ship’s masts. (They also gave their name to White’s bridge.)

Walter Corey was a furniture maker based in Portland and well known throughout New England. His business was so successful that he built an additional chair factory in 1842 close to the Windham end of the North Gorham Bridge.

Not long after, he doubled the size of the mill, employing many. More than 20,000 chairs were made each year, along with other types of furniture. Because of poor health, he sold the plant in 1870, and two years later the mill burned along with four large boarding houses and several other buildings. None was rebuilt.

Today, a Walter Corey chair is worth a great deal in the world of antiques. A set of six chairs, originally costing $120 is worth thousands of dollars. If you see the initials JOB on an old Walter Corey chair, it might stand for Jonathan O. Bancroft, who invented chair-making machinery and helped revolutionize the manufacture of furniture.

A chair created by Windham’s Walter Corey is worth a great deal in the world of antiques. 


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