Rockland restaurateur renovations uncover hidden history
Rockland — Fifty years to the day the room was sealed, restaurant owner Lynn Archer broke through the second story wall of her cafe and found a treasure of local history artifacts among the ruins.
Archer, who owns the Brass Compass Cafe and Archer's by the Pier restaurant, is famous for her cuisine, but now she has taken on the role of local historian and she is so enthusiastic about her find.
Some of her newly-found artifacts were spread out on one of the tables at the Brass Compass Cafe one recent morning while she passed out samples of her food.
As she circulated among her customers, no one seemed to mind her presence, but accepted it in a friendly manner.
A moment later she donned a Peter Pan-style cap with a feather from the early 1940s. She had found the cap while renovating the second story of her restaurant. She also found old toys, including strings of yo-yos, a cigar box that advertised "2 for 15 cents," old insurance policies for the property (in 1934 the building was worth $500), two wooden forms for fitting men's hats, one for a top hat and one for a bowler derby, and Valentines Day cards for sale.
The building was described in the policy as a one and one-half story wooden frame restaurant and dwelling. The property was owned at the time by Stephen Alex, according to the policy. At the time, its address was 311 Main St, which has since been changed to 305 Main St.
Archer likes to tell her tale of coincidences for the renovation.
On Oct. 22, she began cutting a hole through the upper wall of the Brass Compass. The second floor had been sealed off for many years and was walled up after an outside stairway collapsed, and they just boarded it up, she said. A calendar on the kitchen wall facing her was marked Oct. 22, 1962, 50 years to the day that she entered the room.
"I decided to use the second floor, and when Les Murray, the builder, cut through the wall, we took a step back in history 50 years," she said.
Before Archer could cut through the wall, however, she had to have a new outside stairway built, but not in the same location as the old one. The new stairway starts outside the back of the building, turns at a landing and goes to the top floor.
She plans to build a dormer off the second floor that will afford a view of Rockland harbor.
"I am going to make a small office for myself and this is going to be my retirement home," she said of the renovations.
Archer said she was born 55 years ago at the former Knox Hospital in Rockland. After high school, she traveled and worked in New York City, before coming home to start her restaurant, the Cafe. More recently she bought The Boat House Restaurant and Raw Bar and renamed it Archer's on the Pier.
Her family name is Waldron from Spruce Head. Her grandmother was a Brazier from Thomaston.
She wants to have a place to display what she has found.
"It's a wonderful touch of history," she said. "All this should go where other people can enjoy it."
"This is where I came from," she said of her local history. "It's very important to remember where we came from."
At the Rockland Historical Society, member Gil Merriam said he remembers there was a pool hall at the site, but not a haberdashery.
"They used those hat forms for blocking top hats and steam-cleaning them," Merriam said.
"It was known as Phil's Pool Hall owned by Philip Sulides," he said.
Sulides was a booster of local education, he said.
"If any one of us decided to take a day off from school, we would head for the pool hall. Phil would look at us and say, 'What are you doing here?' and send us back to school that same day," Merriam said.
Courier Publications Reporter George Chappell can be reached at 594-4401 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.