ROCKVILLE, Maine — Residents of this once-bustling village in Rockport turned out Wednesday morning to watch the raising of a steeple and cross that completes a four-year restoration of a historic chapel.
“I’m very, very excited. This is a great day for Rockville and the town of Rockport,” said Roy Bennett, whose family roots precede the heyday of this quiet neighborhood located less than a mile from Rockland.
Bennett is one of the trustees and volunteers who have worked to restore the 162-year-old Rockville Community Chapel.
The chapel had been the church and center of the village for generations. Fran Hart, the secretary of the association, said that there are about 25 homes in the village and its population is approximately 125.
Hart’s grandparents lived in the house next to the chapel. She said her grandfather would visit the church before its weekly service and get the stove going so it would be warm when the congregation arrived.
At an open house for the chapel last year, Rockville Community Chapel Association President Martha Morrison noted that in the 1950s Rockville was a vibrant community with its own Fourth of July parade. The village had a town hall, a post office, a school, and a butcher shop during her lifetime.
The chapel is the last remaining public building in the village, Hart said. A former slaughterhouse also remains, but is a private building now.
The chapel had fallen into disrepair but beginning in 2010, supporters rallied to bring it back to its old glory days. The roof was reshingled, the belfry rebuilt, new energy-efficient windows were installed, the tin ceiling was replaced, the interior and exterior walls were scraped and painted, and a new carpet was installed.
Bennett said the steeple and cross were the final part of a multi-part restoration project. The chapel last had a steeple in 1906, which rotted and was removed. The 19-foot fiberglass steeple and the 3-foot high cross were built from a company in Henderson, Texas, Bennett said.
Hart said the restoration has cost more than $40,000. The association also received donations of materials and labor. The chapel’s supporters have held various fundraisers and opened its doors for other organizations to pay for the work.
She credits Bennett with the saving of the chapel. He did a lot of the repair work and has been the largest benefactor for the restoration.
Bennett was born and raised in Camden but spent his adult life out of state. He retired seven years ago and spends his summers at a home in Rockland along Chickawaukie Lake which straddles Rockport and Rockland. Bennett can see the lake from the steeple. During the remainder of the year, he lives in San Diego.
His mother was born in Rockville and his family roots in the village go as far back as his great-great grandparents.
The chapel was built in 1851 as a church. At its peak following the Civil War, membership reached 200. The church had a large congregation because parishioners also came from Rockland, Hart said. It was affiliated with Baptist churches until the 1970s when it was decommissioned and renamed the Rockville Community Chapel.