CHATHAM – An iconic windmill that's been a landmark along the town's eastern shoreline for nearly 90 years will be preserved, although in a new location.
The process is underway to move the windmill at 66 Briggs Way, constructed as a summer cottage in about 1930, onto neighboring property owned by the grand niece of Herbert Briggs, the man who built the windmill cottage and two other homes in the area.
The deal was brokered by the historical commission, which put a demolition delay on the cottage last year. The current owners of 66 Briggs Way plan to build a new home on the waterfront site, and offered to fund the relocation of the windmill section.
At a recent historical commission meeting, Jack Connolly, manager of the 66 Briggs Way project, said a housemover has been hired to move the windmill. Because Briggs Way is a private road, arrangements are being made to secure clearance from other neighbors to transport the structure to nearby property owned by Ellen Briggs at 72 Shore Rd.
Connolly said the 24-foot-wide windmill requires 40 feet of clearance, and Briggs Way is just 24 feet wide. It would therefore have to cross several neighboring properties on its short journey. He said they are hoping to transport the structure across a vacant lot owned by the Chatham Conservation Foundation but need to clear a path. A plan is being prepared to remove the mostly invasive species on the land and replant the path once the move is completed. It will have to be approved by the Foundation and the conservation commission.
“It's a very slow-moving process,” Connolly told the commission.
Herbert Briggs modeled the windmill cottage on traditional Cape Cod windmills and used mostly salvaged material in its construction, according to a 1932 article about the cottage in House Beautiful magazine. Its chimney had to be curved to conceal it, and Connolly said stabilizing it poses another challenge in the move.
Ellen Briggs and her sister spent many summers in the cottage until her great uncle died in 1959 and the building went out of the family's ownership. Although she still owns the nearby house that her great uncle built in about 1948, until recently she hadn't set foot in the windmill cottage since 1959.
Permits are being secured to place the windmill at the rear of Briggs' property, and Connolly said town officials have indicated there should be no major impediments.
“This means a lot to the family,” Briggs told the commission. “We are looking at restoring it as it was on the inside. This is monumental for us.”
“It's certainly an iconic structure and it will be nice that it stays close to where it was,” commented commission chairman Frank Messina.