In My Footsteps
Trip 101: Rockland, Mass.
December 16, 2010
It was originally settled as a part of neighboring Abington. With its historic Union Street filled with amazing homes, Rockland has definitely made its own path since separating from Abington in 1874. Original European settler James Walshie settled Rockland in 1673. It was used as a camp by Wampanoag sachem, or chief, Metacom, during King Philip’s War in 1675-76 during his raids on the town of Scituate.
|Rockland Memorial Library|
Ironically although it shares the name with the town, Rockland Trust neither began in, nor has its corporate headquarters in Rockland. I went and began photographing the Rockland Trust on Union Street thinking it was the original branch of the bank established in 1907. I was fortunate enough to get to speak with a man from that branch and he informed me that the first branch of Rockland Trust was actually in Scituate. The corporate headquarters are located in neighboring Hanover. The branch I visited was opened in 1917 and actually was the corporate headquarters until 2008, so it was still historic but not exactly what I had thought.
|The five soldiers in front of Rockland's Town Hall.|
Union Street is the main drag of Rockland and is the location of many of the historic buildings in the small town of just over 17,000. Taking a walk along Union Street was great, despite the sidewalk being worked on. The Rockland Memorial Library, on the corner of Union Street and Belmont Street, is a member of the Old Colony Library Network which accommodates much of the South Shore. The building was erected in 1874 and has the same classic style as some of the buildings I enjoyed in Easton and Fairhaven that were created by Henry H. Richardson and Henry H. Rogers respectively.
Up on the right from the library, on the corner of Union St. and North Avenue is a beautiful church, the Holy Family Church. Established in 1882 it was the first church built after Rockland became a separate town. It is made of brick which gives it a unique appearance. There are several ‘block’ buildings as well in Rockland on Union Street. Those are the buildings I have referenced several times before bearing a name on the concrete façade near the top. I have been trying to find out who determined the names which adorn these blocks and can only assume they are the folks who fronted the money to have them built. The Bigelow and Phoenix block buildings are a few such examples in Rockland.
|Lower Union Street Historic District|
Further down Union Street as it closes in on Market Street there is a really nice stretch of historic homes. There are always historic homes in every town from the 17th through 19th century but the ones which make up the Lower Union Street Historic District were each unique in their own way. The first home I saw actually caused me to do a double-take; I had to go back. Built in 1846 it was amazing, yellow with red shutters and what looked like small awnings over the windows. The colors of the house were only topped by the small fenced in front yard. The picket fence was a mix of red, blue, pink, and yellow with some one of a kind lawn ornaments including a dresser and a tricycle covered with flowers.
After that incredible display I parked at the end of Union Street and took a walk to see more of these homes up close. There was a home from 1874 which was blue with red trim and had two large Christmas wreaths near the edges of the front. The colors and layouts of these homes made each look like a dollhouse of sorts. I found myself snapping photo after photo of this great stretch of Rockland’s Union Street.
|Lower Union Street Historic District|
One spot that stood out to me was actually the Rockland Town Hall. It was not so much the building itself but the display in front of it. There in front of the sign stood five wooden soldiers each about three-feet tall. They were from each branch of the military and gave the area a special feel as each of them cast a never ending salute to the cars passing by.
Once a camp for Wampanoag sachem Metacom, Rockland has a rich history which is still quite evident as you walk the streets today. From the ‘block’ buildings that I have seen to the longtime headquarters of Rockland Trust there is no shortage of sites to see. Don’t forget to stop and salute the wooden soldiers in front of the Town Hall and check out the impressive stretch of unique historic homes of the Lower Union Street Historic District as it creeps toward Market Street. That walk will really tie together everything you see in Rockland. Have fun and happy traveling!
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Directions: Rockland Town Hall: From Rt. 3 take Exit 13, turn right at Rt. 53, left at Rt. 123. Follow it 4 miles, turn right at Union St. Town Hall is .2 miles down on right. Lower Union St. Historic District begins .2 miles further down, just past Vernon St.
References: Rockland, Ma.gov