ROCKLAND, Maine — Jessie Davis had driven by the yellow bungalow on Limerock Street hundreds of times. She could see herself there, on the porch, eating breakfast with her daughter and husband. The for-sale sign had been in the yard for almost four years. So when she and her family decided it was time to purchase a house in the city, it was the first one she wanted to see.
The home, built in 1933, shares the street with grand Victorian houses — complete with turrets and elaborate gables — along with old clapboard homes and bungalows. It’s this diversity of old homes that got Rockland on the list of Best Old House Neighborhoods 2012 by the TV show “This Old House.” It was the only city in Maine to be chosen for the list.
Davis leaned over her sink to look out her kitchen window. She pointed down Limerock Street, “bungalow, bungalow, Cape, Limerock Inn — a Victorian. It’s a hodgepodge.”
Rockland was a booming city in the mid- to late 1800s, according to Harold Simmons, president of the Rockland Historical Society. The lime industry was bringing in bigwig boat captains and merchants.
“Any time a town gets prosperous, you get more people with education who have money and they build big houses,” Simmons said.
Most of the big, elaborate houses from that era are between Main Street and Broadway, making it an easy walk for people interested in poking around town looking at the old homes. This is one reason Simmons thinks Rockland made the national list.
“The variations in architecture are all pretty concentrated. It’s all on a grid and easy to walk, easy to find your way around. I ride my bicycle,” Simmons said.
Davis’ bungalow is featured on the “This Old House” website. The house is on the edge of the old-home conglomerate, almost touching Broadway. Hers was one of a handful of bungalow homes built in the 1930s along Limerock Street.
Davis and her husband paid $165,000 for the bungalow two years ago and invested $40,000 in energy improvements, including the heating system, a ventilation system, insulation and the hot water heater.
“This house was a blank canvas for me,” she said.
The one sticking point Davis had with the three-bedroom was the attached garage. As an energy adviser for Evergreen Home Performance who studies how air flows through a home, she despised the idea of an attached garage, which would let carbon monoxide into the home. When she and her husband drove around town, she would point out all the attached garages and tell him they were a bad idea.
“I would say, ‘That homeowner needs a firm talking-to.’ So it’s ironic — that was my one rule. Not only do we have an attached garage, but it’s what makes the home historic,” she said. “This is the first attached garage in Rockland. The home was built by the local taxi driver. The garage was his taxi stand.”
The fact that the house had historical significance was just a bonus.
“This was the house we always wanted. Like any purchase, you pretend it’s a local thing. but it wasn’t. It was emotional. We pictured ourselves here after driving by it for years,” she said.