Lincoln Street Center backers drop plans to save historic Rockland building

About 70 people turned out Tuesday night to discuss ways to save the Lincoln Street Center. The meeting was held in the auditorium of the historic building. Mayor Brian Harden (left on stage) and Joseph Steinberger (right) led the meeting.
About 70 people turned out Tuesday night to discuss ways to save the Lincoln Street Center. The meeting was held in the auditorium of the historic building. Mayor Brian Harden (left on stage) and Joseph Steinberger (right) led the meeting.
Posted May 15, 2012, at 8:47 p.m.
Joseph Steinberger (left) and Rockland City Councilor Larry Pritchett spoke before a gathering of about 70 people at the Lincoln Street Center.
Joseph Steinberger (left) and Rockland City Councilor Larry Pritchett spoke before a gathering of about 70 people at the Lincoln Street Center.

ROCKLAND, Maine — The cost of repairing the Lincoln Street Center for Arts and Education building is too prohibitive, according to the organizer of a group that had hoped to preserve the 144-year-old school.

The news was announced Tuesday night before a group of 70 people who turned out for a meeting scheduled as part of the effort to save the building.

Joseph Steinberger, who is the driving force behind the new nonprofit organization called The Old School, said that even if the group could acquire the building at no cost, the cost of repairs would not make it financially feasible.

The cost to replace the roof, which has 16 holes in it that have leaked water into the building, could reach more than $200,000. He said that the water has leaked into the masonry and that there are bulges in the facade from freezing and thawing water over the years.

Steinberger said The Old School backers, who gained nonprofit status last week, had hoped they could operate the building with the income from renting space in the building. But he said half the tenants already have found new spaces because they had been informed weeks ago of the pending closure of the building by the board of directors of the Lincoln Street Center.

Last week, The Old School offered to buy the building for $250,000, but over the weekend the group had engineers and roofers examine the building and came to its disheartening conclusion, he said.

The Lincoln Street Center has placed the building up for sale for $329,000. The building is expected to be turned over to Camden National Bank, which holds a mortgage on the property, if no sale is made by June 30 when the center closes.

The building was built in 1868 with two wings added and renovations made from 1923 through 1925. The building became the junior high for Rockland, Owls Head and South Thomaston in 1963 when Rockland District High School opened. The city acquired the building in 1996 after SAD 5 closed Rockland District Middle School in 1995. The Lincoln Street Center organization acquired the building in 2002 after leasing it for four years from the city.

The school contains a 300-seat auditorium and a gymnasium. The building is now home to the Watershed School and about 50 artists.

Steinberger said despite the decision to not commit to the Lincoln Street building, the new group still is committed to creating an educational organization such as a math and science center. He said the Rockland area has many talented and skilled people who can offer their expertise to others.

He said The Old School group went and looked at the now closed MacDougal School located nearby on Broadway. He said the building has 14 lovely classrooms.

Steinberger said he felt that volunteers could do work to that building that would not be possible with the Lincoln Street building.

The MacDougal School is owned by the city. The building was given to the city by the Regional School Unit 13 board in the fall of 2010. The school board recommended the closure and Rockland voters ratified that decision in a February 2010 referendum because of the expected prohibited cost of repairing it. The MacDougal building would need a new roof, walls, windows, siding and a new boiler to be up to code.

MacDougal was built in 1954 and has 24,000 square feet of space along with about 4 acres.

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