Leia Scotton owns this framing shop in Little Falls, the lone business. β€œIt’s a nice village,” she says. Robert Lowell / American Journal

GORHAM β€” Little Falls-South Windham Village, once a mill community humming with businesses and shops along Route 202, over time has become mostly housing.

A sign in Windham near the Presumpscot River. Robert Lowell / American Journal

Now Gorham and Windham hope to revitalize their shared village on both sides of the Presumpscot River.

The Gorham Town Council Tuesday unanimously approved applying for a joint planning study grant with Windham.

“I believe everyone in town would love to see Little Falls as the bustling little village it once was,” Gorham Town Council Chairperson Lee Pratt said.

Gorham councilors are enthusiastic about the project.

“This area really could be a gem,” Councilor Ronald Shepard said.

“There’s so much potential,” Councilor Benjamin Hartwell said.

Gorham Planner Carol Eyerman said the study is a major project.

It’s an “all in effort,” Eyerman said.

The two towns will jointly apply for a Community Development Block Grant to update the area’s master plan, said Windham Planning Director Amanda Lessard.

“It’s a funding opportunity,” Lessard said.

The Little Falls-South Windham Village master plan was last updated in 1998.

Little Falls, looking toward the roundabout in Gorham. Robert Lowell / American Journal

Leia Scotton relocated her business, Little Falls Custom Framing & Gallery, to the area from Portland in 2016. Hers is the sole business along the stretch between the Gorham roundabout at Route 237 and the bridge

She rents a former antique store with a parking lot.

“I got into the only building that is business-friendly,” Scotton said.

In the eyes of many, Little Falls has the stigma of being the “hood” of Gorham, she said, but “it’s a nice village.”

Gorham resident Joe Wyman grew up in Little Falls and easily recalled businesses there during the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s: Siciliano’s Windham Pharmacy, Sferes’ South Windham Super Market, Freeman’s IGA, Jimmy’s Barber Shop, a laundromat, an ice cream shack and two doctor offices.

The quaint library closed and the railroad is long gone.

Some of the village buildings on the Gorham side of the river appear vacant. Sawyer’s Store closed in 2017 after more than a century. Now, plywood lines the windows.

David Nelson, who grew up in Gorham, said his father had an auto body repair business from 1959 to 1961 across from Sawyer’s. It was converted from a wagon shop.

Little Falls-South Windham Village affords an opportunity for hikers along the old railroad trail from this location in Windham. Robert Lowell / American Journal

On the Windham side of the river, Ralph Cartonio sold and delivered Italian sandwiches to Sebago Lake from a store near the bridge, Wyman said. The site later housed South Windham Fire Station, which has since moved to the former L.C. Andrew building supply property.

Patsy’s Store was another icon on the Windham side.

“The village was busy,” Wyman said.

As businesses closed, many buildings in the village were converted into apartments.

“We could use a little market,” Scotton said.

Little Falls-South Windham Village has amenities to attract small businesses. Pratt pointed to the Little Falls recreation area, the Lakes Region Senior Center, and the community center at old Robie School.

On the Windham side, there’s pedestrian access to the Mountain Division Walking Trail across from Blue Seal Feeds & Needs.

Plenty of potential customers drive through the village every day. The annual average daily traffic was estimated to be 7,900 in 2019, according to Deborah Morgan, traffic monitoring supervisor at the Maine Department of transportation.

A grant, Pratt said, provided the village a streetscape upgrade a few years ago with some modern lights, sidewalk improvements, benches and bicycle racks.

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