Rockland was originally part of Thomaston, owned by Samuel Waldo, the Great Proprietor, and later by Waldo’s granddaughter, Lucy Flucker, and her husband, Henry Knox. The Waldo Patent covered the no-man’s land that lay between the English colonies to the southwest and the French territory northeast of Castine. Following the French and Indian Wars (1754-1763), settlers came to this area — mostly by ship, because there were no roads except a few Indian trails.
In 1865 when billowing smokestacks were a sign of prosperity, historian Cyrus Eaton describes Rockland
Granite was quarried along the mainland and on islands including: Vinalhaven, Hurricane Island, Dix Island, Swan’s Island, and many others. It was shipped from Rockland to build cathedrals, courthouses, and federal buildings all over the country. Offices for the Bryant & Cobb Marble and Granite Co., Bodewell Granite Co., and the Hurricane Granite Co. were all located on Main Street in Rockland.
In the 1890s, businessmen created the Rockland, Thomaston, & Camden Street Railway, an interurban, electric trolley that ran from Camden, through Rockport and Glen Cove, with several branches in Rockland, to Owls Head, Thomaston, and Warren. An electric plant on Power House Hill in Glen Cove powered the trolleys and provided electricity for homes and businesses. It was purchased by the Central Maine Power Company in 1920.
Also in the 1890s, a syndicate of Rockland businessmen built the Bay Point Hotel on Jameson’s Point overlooking Owls Head Bay. The fashionable resort attracted wealthy summer people from Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. The Ricker family purchased the Bay Point Hotel in 1902. They enlarged it, renamed it the Samoset, and added it to their chain of resort hotels. The Maine Central Railroad purchased the Samoset in the 1920s in an effort to promote summer tourism.
William H. Glover, the successful contractor who built the Bay Point Hotel, also built the Knox County Courthouse, the Breakwater Lighthouse, commercial buildings, many fine homes in Rockland, and large summer cottages on the islands. He transported lumber and building supplies to the islands in his own special windjammer.
Rockland’s Harbor & Waterfront is still a large economic driver for the City and the region as it was 100 years ago
There have been many other businesses in Rockland — sail makers; a brass foundry; a large shoe factory that moved its entire operation including its building to Warren in 1882; a pants factory that burned to the ground in 1907; Van Baalen Pacific Corp., making robes and sportswear; Livingston Manufacturing Co. which became Bicknell Manufacturing Co. and made tools for the granite industry; Fisher Engineering which still makes the best snowplows in New England; Steel Pro, a metal fabricator; North End Marine which made fiberglass boats and was acquired by Sabre Yacht; Weatherend Furniture; MBNA the giant credit card company had offices in Rockland for several years; Boston Financial which handles the back-office accounting for many large banks and investment companies; and Maine Boats, Homes and Harbors which publishes a popular magazine of Maine.
The population of Rockland reached 7,000 in 1860, and it grew to 9,000 in the 1950s. The lime kilns stopped burning in 1958, and Rockland’s population has fluctuated above 7,000 ever since. At one time there were many small, neighborhood schools, but as the number of children in Rockland decreased, in 2011 school districts merged. Now Rockland children attend the large South Side Elementary School, the Oceanside Middle School in Thomaston, and graduate from Oceanside High School in Rockland.
As the lime industry and the fishing industry faded, art galleries, restaurants, and cultural institutions have brought tourism to Rockland. Along with the Farnsworth, Rockland’s cultural institutions include fifteen churches, the Rockland Public Library which opened in 1904 with a gift from Andrew Carnegie, the Rockland Historical Society, the Lighthouse Museum, the Island Institute, the Strand Theatre, the Sail Power and Steam Museum, and the Center for Maine Contemporary Art.
Rockland is a muscle town filled with beauty, and the mixture makes Rockland one of the most fascinating towns in Maine.
Thank you to the Rockland Historical Society for providing this information. Feel free to contact the historical society for more information on the history of Rockland.