The Foundation’s most visible work has been the restoration of some of Grafton’s finest old buildings. In the first decades of the 1800’s, Grafton was a thriving community on the post road from Boston to Albany. There were many farms, over 10,000 sheep, sawmills, gristmills, tanneries, woolen mills, a soapstone quarry, a carriage and sleigh factory, an inn, several stores, and later, a cheese factory.
Here in Grafton, we are blessed with many individuals who have both labored to restore many of the old buildings and have breathed new lives into them through a marvelous institutional memory. The Windham Foundation is fortunate to be able to tap the resources of local artisans in their ongoing preservation work. While every effort is made to restore a structure in an historically accurate manner, oftentimes more modern materials and approaches are used to assure structural strength, longevity, safety and occupant comfort. After all, Grafton is a vibrant working community.
The work of purchasing and restoring old buildings began in 1963. The Foundation owns nearly half of the buildings in the central village. Most of the renovated houses can be identified by small plaques bearing the name of the house as it is locally known, and the date of its construction. Most are residences of Windham Foundation employees and other local people and, therefore, are closed to the public.
A few Foundation houses are available for short-term rental through the Grafton Inn. The Sumner-Mead House (the Grafton Historical Society) and Gallery North Star are both open to the public. Visitors are also welcome to tour the Sheep Exhibit behind the Foundation’s administrative offices which contains displays relating to the sheep project.
From the production of award winning cheese from a century old tradition to the installation of reproduction street lights for pedestrian safety, the Windham Foundation is proud of its 100 employees who work to ensure that Grafton remains a great place to live, work and visit.