To experience the 300 years that transformed Chatham from farming village to vacation destination, just explore its historic buildings.
The town of Chatham has seen many transitions over the last three centuries. What was once a farming community on the elbow of Cape Cod has become one of the most sought-after tourist destinations on the East Coast where visitors can still walk into buildings throughout town and be transported back in time. “There’s a real preservation-minded community here,” says Mary Ann Gray, archivist at the Chatham Historical Society. In honor of the 300th anniversary of Chatham, which takes place throughout the year. Cape Cod Life combed through documents from the Chatham Historical Society for a deeper look at four buildings that recall the town’s earliest days—and make for a great day of sightseeing in 2012 and beyond.
Standing 30 feet tall, the Godfrey Windmill was originally built in 1797 by Colonel Benjamin Godfrey on a hill above Mill Pond, commanding a panoramic view of Chatham village, the Atlantic Ocean, and Nantucket Sound. Today, looking just as it did over 200 years ago, the windmill is a proud testament to Chatham’s dedication to preservation.
Godfrey was a prominent figure in Chatham during the Revolutionary War. In 1782, a British privateer entered Stage Harbor with the intent of making off with a brigantine and several smaller vessels. Under the leadership of Colonel Godfrey, the local inhabitants drove the British away using cannon fire. Godfrey also held offices in town and church organizations.
Upon his death in 1818, Godfrey left the mill and his property to his great-nephew Christopher Taylor, who followed in his great-uncle’s footsteps and became a prominent figure in the area. The mill operated continuously for more than 100 years until a gale demolished the end of its shaft and arms in 1907. These pieces have since been replaced with new ones made of white pine, but the interior of the windmill is almost entirely intact and features the original wooden steps and millstone used to grind crops.
In 1956, then-owner Stuart Crocker approached the Chatham Historical Society with his desire to make the mill a historical landmark. He donated the structure to the town under the condition that it be moved from its original location. Today, the Godfrey Mill is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Posted in History