ROCKLAND, Maine — A chunk of Main Street extending from the end of Limerock Street by the Kenniston Realty building to Summer Street near the Fiore olive oil store was added to the National Register of Historic Places this month. Most of the rest of downtown Main Street is already on the register.
The new section adds nine historic buildings that were built from the 1850s through 1952, though many have been renovated. One used to be an oyster saloon, a type of fish market when oysters were all the rage in the early 1900s. Nearby is an old grocery store. Dance halls, a lumber yard’s offices, the Masonic Hall and an old newspaper office are all part of the new historic expansion.
Because of a series of fires in 1853, many of the buildings don’t look exactly as they did when the city first incorporated, but many kept their historic features after they were rebuilt years later.
The street signs, lampposts and sidewalks look like they did in the early 1900s, according to the application to the National Register of Historic Places.
“As a whole, the streetscape has retained its historical integrity,” the application states.
Like most of Rockland’s Main Street, the new part of the historic district is a mix of huge brick buildings and smaller wood houselike buildings. This particular part of the street has many brick Italianate buildings with detailed eaves, some wood-gabled stores and colonial revival-style buildings.
The nonprofit Rockland Main Street Inc. and the city worked together to add the buildings to the district, mostly for an economic tool. Neighboring buildings that already had the historic distinction have received access to grant money and tax incentives because of the register.
One local man recently invested about $2 million in one large brick building on Main Street that had been vacant. Because of tax incentives for historic buildings, he will get back about 45 cents to the dollar — a total of about $900,000. Because of this, he was able to rent space to local retailers.
By adding more buildings to the register, Loraine Francis of Rockland Main Street Inc. hopes more business and property owners will invest in the buildings.
Although there isn’t an oyster saloon on that end of Main Street anymore, many of the buildings have retained their original functions.
“They are being used in the same manner they were always used: business on the first floor, office space in the second and apartments in the third [floor]. It makes Rockland vibrant,” Francis said. “They stand the test of time. It’s the great thing about history, they did know what they were doing back then.”
One 1914 building in the newly expanded district is a blue-gray Italianate townhouse that has many corbels holding up its simple, flat roof, with eaves that jut over the sidewalk on Main Street. Below the roof of the C.E. Havener Block is a set of cantilevered bay windows that jut out over the ground-level shop windows. When compared with pictures from 1940, the building is unchanged.
The C.E. Havener Block has been home to a tea company, a bottling company, a dance hall, restaurants and a bowling alley. It now houses a gift shop.
Next door is a wood building that houses the American Lighthouse Foundation. It used to be home to a bakery, a fruit market and the State News Co.
On the other side of the small blue building is the Masonic Temple built in 1871. It’s three stories tall and has light-colored brick. The building, a Classic Revival style, was rebuilt after fires in 1878 and 1940, but looks similar to its original. In the late 1800s the block was used as an opera house.
In 1910 the opera house was renovated into the Masonic Temple. In the early 1900s the street-level shops included Woolworth’s 5 and 10 Cent Store and the H.H. Crie hardware store. Now it’s a sports store.
Architectural historian Megan Cullen, who prepared the nomination for the National Register of Historic Places, said she was astonished at how little the street has changed in 150 years.
“The building with the cobbler currently in it used to be a boot and shoe store. There has been a cobbler in that spot in Rockland forever and ever and ever. It’s so interesting to me. In the candy store now, there used to be a fruit and confectionery place in that same location as well. What I found fascinating is that history keeps repeating itself.”
Now Rockland’s historic district includes both sides of Main Street from Summer to Winter streets.