Windham Life and Times – April 27, 2017

Eastern Illustrating Company


The Robin’s Nest Tourist Camp was established by Mooney Robinson. It was another tourist operation that opened as a result of automobile travel and the improvements to Route 28 in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. It was soon one of the main routes to the lakes and mountains. Later the business was expanded. Rural Oasis states, “A well-known place that should not be forgotten (because it was the watering hole of the local establishment including Maurice Armstrong and George Dinsmore Sr.) was Mooney Robinson’s on Route 28 where the Robin’s Nest Motel is today. Mooney Robinson’s Restaurant and Beer Parlor was the official business name. It opened in 1928, closed in 1944, and was the most colorful places in town. It was a popular rendezvous for local people to discuss politics and other subjects. The restaurant had the first beer license.  As the liquor flowed, so did the stories. From all reports no place came even near to replacing it.” My father tells a story of his father and Maurice Armstrong at Moody

Matchbook from the Robin’s Nest. Maurice Armstrong’s car in front of Mooney Robinson’s

Robinson’s place. After a few drinks an argument broke out over who was the fastest runner. The drinking continued and the argument got more and more heated. Finally, there was no more place for debate, it had to be settled, man to man in the street. The whole establishment including George and Maurice headed outside and an unofficial track was established down Route 28. The two slightly tipsy Windham Olympians then raced up Route 28, shouting at one another as they went. Who won?  I would like to believe that it was my grandfather, George Dinsmore, however, no one has breathed a word since of who was victorious, or even if either one of them  made it back to Mooney’s.  My grandmother was a saint! Hey wait a minute, there’s an idea here, maybe the Dinsmore and Armstrong families should establish the “Mooney Robinson Memorial, Three Sheets to the Wind 1K Race.”  I’m joking, I’m really joking, but that sure would make an interesting race and level the field, wouldn’t it!?

After Robinson sold, a Middle Eastern restaurant operated out of the place for awhile. Later the LaChance family purchased the property and constructed motel rooms. Of course, The Robin’s Nest, is now the Manor Motel.

Windham Life and Times – April 6, 2017

Eastern Illustrating Company

Whip-O-Will Pond A.K.A. Seavey Pond in Windham NH. Courtesy of Penobscot Marine Museum.


The first group of photographs that I’ll be presenting, from the Eastern Illustrating Company collection, are associated with Route 28. In the 1920’s, Route 28 was a main, tourist and commercial, north-south highway in the Boston area. (Competing with Route 3 which crossed the New Hampshire border in Nashua.) Route 28 travels over 81 miles connecting Salem on the Massachusetts border with Ossipee in the White Mountain Region.  It passes through the city of Manchester on its way.

In Massachusetts, Route 28 runs 152 miles through Boston on its way to the Cape. Route 28 was established in 1922 as a result of the  phenomenal growth in automobile usage by the general public. The New England states adopted a region wide road marking system, with primary routes assigned a number between 1 and 99 marked with black numerals on yellow bands. Painted on poles along the roads. Most of these new, interstate, automobile roads followed the path of the old turnpikes that had been established in the early 19th century.

These early turnpikes grew up as a result of private enterprise. Private corporations would sell shares in order to raise money, with which they would build roads. The idea was to build as straight and smooth a road as possible and then to charge a toll every mile or so in order to make money on their investment. Private corporations built over 80 turnpikes with 500 miles of toll roads between 1796 and 1830.  There were two major turnpikes in Windham. The Mammoth Road which ran from Manchester to Lowell and the Londonderry Turnpike which ran from the Salem Border north to Concord. Much of Route 28 followed the old Londonderry Turnpike and then connected at the Massachusetts border with the Essex Turnpike that ended near Boston. For more information see The Turnpikes of New England and Evolution of the same through New England by James Wood and available free on google books.

As Route 28 was paved for automobile traffic, and as Americans had more leisure time and disposable income, there began a whole industry catering to automobile tourists. The Eastern Illustrating Company photographs, beautifully capture that emerging industry on Route 28 in Windham. While the area did have attractions such as Canobie Lake, Cobbett’s Pond and Rockingham Park, most of the traffic was passing through Windham to get to the Lakes Region and the White Mountains. So the industry that grew up along Route 28 was gas stations, overnight tourist cottages, restaurants and lunch counters,  as well as stores.

So, do any of you recognize this scene of Whip-O-Will Pond in Windham? How about you folks that live in Lamplighter Village? This view is of a beautiful, tranquil pond. The dam in the foreground really gives the spot away. It is Seavey Pond in Windham. before anything  was built on its shores.

Rural Oasis states that, “On Flatrock Brook, which flows from Derry through the northerly part of Windham, George Seavey built his mill east of the turnpike.  He dammed the brook north of the mill for the water supply necessary to run it. The pond he created is known as Seavey Pond and covers about ten acres.”

“Now the mill is gone. Today many residents of Windham could not even tell you where Seavey Pond is. Very little of the pond is visible from the highway; one must leave it to see the water. Since the construction of I-93 few people travel Route 28…The original colony on the lake was started by Gordon Costley and was known as Aqua Vista Cabins.” So here is the mystery; why is Seavey Pond shown as Whip-O-Will Pond on the Eastern Illustrating Company’s photograph?



Windham Life and Times – March 24, 2017

Cobbett’s Pond

Photograph Taken from the “Head of the Pond.”

POSTMARK 1922: Miss Hazel Macober, 4 Beacon Street, Salem, Mass. “This picture we think is near Mr. Walker’s Camp. It is a very pretty view. Ma. Will you put some putty under the sink and then shellac it over.” This photograph is taken from where “Granite Hill” is located today. It’s a nice view of the Armstrong shoreline circa. 1922.

Windham Life and Times – March 3, 2017

100 Years Ago in Windham

Dalton Warren Sexton in front of Windham Presbyterian Church. His home in the Center.


WINDHAM, February 27. 1917.—Wenonah the eleven -year old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. R.E. Alley, has come home from Tower Hall sanitarium, Derry, where she has been for several weeks under treatment, which included an operation, for peritonitis. She has ha a hard time, and all are glad to know she is so far recovered.      Viola M. Jackson, daughter  of Mr. and Mrs. George E, Jackson, and a student at Pinkerton Academy, went to Nashua hospital Saturday and underwent an operation for the removal of the appendix. The operation was reported to be successful.

Dalton Warren and Family

Our oldest resident, Dalton John Warren, died on the 15th, at the home of George E. Jackson, where he had of late been cared for. He was in his 92nd year, having been born November 5, 1825. For more than a year he had been very feeble. His wife died about a year ago, aged nearly ninety. Mr. Warren had been a respected citizen and member of the church, and was sexton of the church building for many years. His only near relatives are a nephew, Dr. Warren, or Worcester, and a niece, Mrs. Frost, of Newburyport. The funeral was at White’s undertaking rooms, Derry, and burial was at West Manchester, Mr. Warren’s former home.

John H Dinsmore and his Farm on Indian Rock Road

John H. Dinsmore, one of our most prominent citizens and representative of one of the oldest families in town, is in feeble health at the present time.

The Nesmith Farm on North Lowell Road in Windham NH

Another resident, who to universal regret is in failing health, is Mrs. Ellen C. Nesmith, mother of J. Arthur Nesmith.      Mr. and Mrs. William A. Butterfield, having on February 25 reached the fiftieth Anniversary of their marriage, were visited by their children and grandchildren and some of their neighbors and the occasion was celebrated in a pleasing manner. Mr. Butterfield is a native of Bedford and served in the Third N.H. Regiment in the Civil War. Mrs. Butterfield was Sophronia L. Messer, a native of Plaistow. They have been respected residents of the Depot district of this town for 35 years. W.S.H.

Dalton Warren and His Dog


Windham Life and Times – January 20. 2017

Roadside Nostalgia

The Bea's on Route 11o in Methuen, Atomic Subs in Salem

The Bea’s on Route 110 in Methuen, Atomic Subs in Salem


Maybe its because I’m writing this at lunchtime and I haven’t eaten, I don’t know, but I’ve been overcome by a wave of nostalgia for the foodie heaven of my childhood. I know this isn’t exactly “Windham History” but if you lived in this town in the fifties, sixties and seventies you were familiar with these iconic road-side places.

Atomic Submarine was located on Route 28, in Salem, where the Burger King is today. According to they opened on 1965 and remained at the same location until 1984. The shop opened in the former VW dealership. The reason this place is so important to me, is not because of the food. You see, right next door there was a slot car place, where my brother and I used to hang out for hours on end.  One Saturday, we had our cars on the track as usual, when some kid came in yelling, “The Rolling Stones are next door at Atomic Subs.” And it was true. As I remember it, they were driving a van behind which they were pulling a trailer with their equipment. I confirmed this memory with my brother who was four years older at the time and for whom a Rolling Stones sighting was much more an impressive event. I remember eating the subs there. According to they offered a sub called the “Atlas” that was three feet long. Bill Littlewood and his wife Marge eventually owned 20 stores in the area and there was talk of going national but it soon all came to an end because of a dishonest book-keeper or so the story goes.

When I think back on the cutlet sandwiches that we used to get at Bea’s, my mouth begins to water. You remember how the huge cutlet, hung 3 inches beyond the roll. Legend has it that the family started making sandwiches from their tenement kitchen in Lawrence. I remember the Lawrence store on Broadway very well. The inside was gleaming stainless steel and mirrors. When I was a kid, I was totally intrigued by the mirrors, because they were  huge and on opposite walls, so they produced an unique optical illusion, with me descending into infinity and beyond. My grandfather, in the midst of a heart attack, asked to stop and get a Bea’s cutlet sandwich before they took him to the hospital. They were really that good!!!


With the new Ray Kroc, “McDonalds” movie hitting theaters, it is appropriate to remember that New England’s first fast food restaurant was Howdy Beef Burgers. The one in Salem looked just like the one pictured. The chain was started by William Rosenberg, who also owned the Dunkin Donuts chain. They were hugely popular, probably because they were fast and cheap, unlike today. And the fries were really great, also unlike today, when all fast food fries pretty much suck. You could get a burger, incredible fries and a coke for just 37 cents.


Of course, before Howdy Beef Burger there was the A&W Root Beer on Route 28, where they took your order and hung the tray on the side of your car.  There was also “Joes” which had great food and was always packed. As a kid, I remember waiting in line to get into that place!  I went for the red Jello and whipped cream which I was allowed to have if I ate my meal. And who could forget Findeisen’s ice cream stand. Chocolate marshmallow ice cream, under the willow trees by the Spicket River.  I really need to go and eat lunch… but I’m just now remembering the nice older Italian lady who used to serve me incredibly delicious meatball subs after high school, at “Gateside,” across from Canobie Lake Park…OK, OK, I’m off to lunch!!!



Windham Life and Times – December 30, 2016

Happy New Year

Robin's Nest Windham NH

Robin’s Nest Windham NH


100 years ago, travel by automobile was transforming the country-side along major routes. Entrepreneurs sought out ways to exploit business opportunities presented by the growth of automobile ownership and traffic. Route 28 ran through Windham, and was one of the major highways from Boston to the White Mountains. Gas pumps were installed on many properties along Route 28. Moody Robinson, pictured, offered “fast food”  at his “Quick Lunch,” Socony gas, tourist accommodations and a pay phone.