380 Rockland voters
The 26-room five-floor hotel proposed for the corner of Pleasant and Main appears to have received the approval of the city planning board, after the developer made some changes to the design of the ends of the building which I thought needed to be made. I doubt this is anything other than sheer coincidence, but the ugly gray concrete panel walls which were in an earlier set of drawings, which I complained about in the Dear Old Courier a few weeks ago, have been changed to something a bit less severe, just as I hoped would happen. Clever me.
I know a lot of people expressed stronger opinions than I did, hoping the hotel would not be built or hoping it would not be built so tall. As I live in the tallest building in town, the north concrete tower at the foot of Mechanic Street, I do have some pride invested in this business of tall buildings and who is allowed to leap over them in a single bound. Historically speaking Rockland’s buildings have tended to be shorter than either my gothic towers or the new non-gothic hotel. For example, in 1854 the Crockett Building was put up at 745 Main St., and was originally a weird sort of thing with three and one-half floors, the top one being destroyed by fire in the 1970s I think. I could be wrong on that date.
(Many of us remember this building as the home of Jordan’s Market, operated by Tony DiNapoli until the mid-1990s. The stone with the date 1854 carved on it that now sits at the Fishermen’s Memorial Pier at the public landing once sat on top of this building. The Crockett/Jordan building burned down one December night in the late 1990s, while one of the Courier’s young reporters who lived nearby decided to ignore the fire sirens and go back to sleep. Even my friend Unambitious O’Meara of the Bangor Dreadful News would at least have gone to take a look at all the fuss before he went back to sleep. The young chap wasn’t with us much after that.)
The Lynde Hotel opened in 1879 at four floors high, at the south-west corner of Park and Main, where the Park Street Grille is today. It burned down in December 1952 when it was called the Hotel Rockland. December seems to be a bad time of year for some buildings, so owners beware. Likewise, several other places that were originally hotels, such as The Narragansett (aka Wayfarer East), The Thorndike, are only three or four floors high.
Then just a few years ago City Council agreed to change the maximum height limit under modern zoning laws — I would love it if some enterprising reporter were to explain exactly why that happened because I haven’t a clue — although nobody apparently raised a murmur against the new height limit until Mr. Lyman bought the Hollydach’s pet store property to redevelop the site. Of course, people often do not pay attention to what local government does until it affects them.
For what it’s worth, I will mention that before Hollydach’s was built there was a rooming house on the site of the proposed hotel. A gentleman once mentioned that to me although I sort of forgot about it, but this weekend I found a photo of it dated to the 1920s in “Shore Village Album,” published by the historical society in the 1970s. So it seems this spot is fated to be used for similar purposes yet again. The building next door, the Flint Block which now houses Rock City Roasters, was then an Atlantic and Pacific grocery store.
So, a hotel is likely to be built. What will it do for the local economy? No harm I think, and likely some good. I checked the latest wages survey put out by the state and the federal labor departments, and found that the median hourly wage paid to housekeepers such as work in motels and hotels was $9.60 in Maine and $9.51 nationally in 2013. For baggage porters and bellhops the median in Maine was $8.79 and nationwide it was $9.77. For hotel desk clerks the median in Maine was $10.14 and nationwide it was $9.81. Median means that it is the wage most people received. I learned this in the deeply dull statistics class I took in 1975. At the same time I seem to recall the teacher turning into a pink monkey, speaking in tongues, and climbing up the bell tower to bombard us with handfuls of average peanuts. If this really did happen, and was not simply a nightmare I had in class that was induced by hearing too many numbers, then I don’t want to know. But it was all I learned about statistics.
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I see that a stunning total of 380 Rockland voters bothered to go the polls and express their opinion about the local school budget last week. It is a fact that if you took all all the people who voted in Rockland on June 10, and laid them out head to toe along Main Street, they would probably all get killed by traffic in five minutes.
Meanwhile, the school district will probably need to rent a bus to give a ride out of town to all the administrators who are quitting. Thomaston voters are so unimpressed with our esteemed school district that nobody even ran for the two open school board seats representing their town. I know a couple of seagulls who would be willing to be appointed to the vacant seats, as long as they are fed at each board meeting. And was I still dreaming of pink monkeys, or have we hired yet another interim school superintendent? How do we keep finding them? It’s like being able to hire rat catchers in a town where hundreds of rat catchers have already died of the plague. Don’t these people read the paper?
David Grima is a former editor with Courier Publications. He can be reached at email@example.com.