In My Footsteps
Trip 87: Rockland, Maine
October 2, 2010
The next town over from where I stayed in Owl’s Head, Rockland, Maine is a popular tourist destination and it is easy to see why. Called ‘Catawamteak’ by the local Abenaki Indian tribe which means ‘great landing place’ Rockland is a small town yet it has all of the amenities of a larger town. It was known as Lermond’s Cove and then ‘Shore’ village from when it was settled in 1769 until adopting the name Rockland in 1850.
|Wyeth Center, as seen from 'inside' a sculpture.|
Rockland originally made its name through shipbuilding and the production of the mineral lime. However as time passed into the latter half of the 20th century it became popular due to its amazing Main Street with many shops and restaurants. There are also some really nice art galleries. I checked out the Farnsworth Art Museum on Museum Street and enjoyed the outdoor collection on the rear lawn.
The Museum specializes in Maine’s role in American art with pieces ranging from the 18th to the 20th century. There is also a separate building across the street called the Wyeth Center which houses man paintings from the Wyeth family of artists who were all realist painters during the 20th century. If you want to see some nice sculptures while still being outside you can walk around the rear lawn and see some nice pieces. I do not know much about art but I was able to appreciate what I saw so it should not deter any visitor from checking them out.
|The original Knox County Courthouse c.1875|
A spot that might not be for everyone but is something that interested me is the Knox County Courthouse. I enjoyed it because there is a very modern building attached to an older looking building. The older building, the original Knox County Courthouse, was finished in March 1875 by W.H. Glover and Company at a shade under $62,000. The new building is an addition to the Courthouse which was completed in 1979. It is something to see the drastic differences in architectural styles in a hundred years. The original Courthouse building has more of a personality while the new addition is much more to the point with little creativity to it. Much like with art I do not know much about architecture but this striking difference is something that was quite apparent to me.
The fabulous Main Street is one part small-town with many local establishments and shops adorning the one-way street. Then it also has a sort of Broadway vibe due to some nice flashing neon signs for places like the Strand Theater. There was one particular sign on the corner of Main and Elm Street for a restaurant that had the word ‘EAT’ spelled out diagonally twice, a total of five letters which lit up. It ended up being a piece of art created by Robert Indiana attached to the Farnsworth Museum which I only found out while researching this article. I saw it many times during my trip and it always gave off the Broadway vibe as I watched each letter light up one by one. Things like that added to the brilliance of Rockland’s Main Street.
|Rockland Breakwater, about halfway out.|
Any trip to Rockland must include the ocean, it is virtually impossible to journey here and not spend at least some time along the shore. For those who might not want to do too much exploring there is the Rockland Harbor Park on Main Street. Here there is a spectacular view of the harbor. On this day there were still many small boats on the water as people held on to their summer fun even into October. There is a nice harbor walk trail leading along the water around the harbor and out to a pier that you can walk out onto the water.
At the entrance to the Harbor Park there is a really nice Fishermen’s Memorial. It has a small anchor atop a large concrete slab with the year ‘1854’ behind it representing the year that Rockland was incorporated as a town. Little things like this memorial reminded me that fisherman still risk their lives each and everyday that they go to work.
The final spot I visited was the highlight of my trip to Rockland. The Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse is a definite must see for any visitor. The only thing that might hold some people back is the fact that the breakwater is just short of a mile in length. For me it was a no-brainer that I would take a walk out to the lighthouse since the beam of light from the lighthouse continuously ran across the walls of the Wataview Cottage where I stayed right across the harbor.
|Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse|
The walk out to the lighthouse is not that difficult, the breakwater is fairly level. There were many people on the same path; some even brought their dogs with them. Once I made it out to the light station I was excited to find out that I would be allowed to climb up into the lighthouse so I could see Rockland and Owl’s Head from forty-feet high. It was too windy on this day to go outside at the top but the view was still out of this world. I thought that coming from Cape Cod I might have been the furthest traveler at the lighthouse but I was surprised to talk to a couple from Quebec and another from Minnesota!
The breakwater was built between 1881 and 1899 to protect the harbor and the lighthouse was built in 1902. Despite it being a fairly sound location I was able to see old photos where the breakwater has been totally submerged under rising water. I was glad it was a sunny day. When the Coast Guard announced that they were going to tear down the lighthouse there was massive public outcry. First the nearby Samoset Resort took over the responsibility for the lighthouse’s upkeep and then the Rockland City Council took over the same duties. Today the lighthouse is safe from the wrecking ball.
Rockland is a small town but it can also be referred to as a tourist destination, a waterfront town, an artsy community, and for a few thousand people it is home. I highly recommend taking in the Farnsworth Art Museum, walk, shopping, and eating on Main Street. Then you can get some sun and exercise walking out to visit the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse. Have fun and happy traveling!
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Directions: Farnsworth Art Museum: Take Rt. 1 into Rockland, turn left at Main Street. Take 4th left onto Museum Street. Museum is on left, parking on right.
Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse: Take Rt. 1 into Rockland, turn left at Main Street, follow it 1.4 miles. Turn right at Waldo Ave., turn right at Samoset Rd., follow it to the end.
References: Wataview Cottage - Owl's Head, ME