ROCKLAND — Joseph Steinberger said he knows some people feel new houses should look like the older houses in their neighborhood, but he does not agree with that.

“I am glad to see modern buildings going up in Rockland,” Steinberger said. “I feel that I am honoring our little city by adding something creative to our architectural heritage, and I am happy to say that my neighbors have been encouraging and supportive.”

He is referring to the house he is having built at 3 Gay Street Place, at the intersection of Gay Street. The house is being built to the maximum height allowed by Rockland — 35 feet at the midpoint of the highest eaves.

‘The inspiration for my new house comes in part from the house my mother built next-door to me on Knowlton Street a few years after I moved here,” Steinberger said. “That house, now the offices of the Ellis Beauregard Foundation, also has an accessory apartment in a walk-out basement, and three flights of stairs with the living area on top. But my house is much smaller.”

His under construction house will have a walk-out basement that will be an accessory apartment. The first and second floors will be bedrooms, and the top floor will be a kitchen/dining/living room.

“I chose tall rather than wide to minimize the use of ground space, to increase heating efficiency, to maximize exposure for passive solar heat, and to create an open living space on top with lots of sun, and views of the sunrise and sunset,” he said. “This last feature is a gift to my wife, Keiko, who would like to have a nice space to entertain her friends.”

Steinberger moved to Bristol, Maine from Manhattan in 1972, and to Rockland in 1982. He  bought a lot on Gay Street Place for $2,500. He is an attorney who has since served on various city boards, such as the Parks Commission, and served one term on the City Council.

“Nobody was building a house in Rockland at that time. I built the little house, where I have lived ever since, with my own hands to my own design, with help from my neighbors, Sonny and Butch, and with the rest of my $10,000 in savings,” he said about the house on the lot adjacent to where the new one is being built.

He said the small footprint makes the new house being built look very tall, but there are a number of big old houses in Rockland that are taller.

“My house does ‘stand out’ as you say,” he said. “Partly that is the tall and small aspect, partly it is that — with the windows not yet in — it looks like a tall plywood box, partly it is the cross-gable roof design. This roof design is unusual, but not new. I have discovered a couple of old Rockland houses that use it.”

He said this time he is less hands-on than when he built his house 40 years ago. He is the designer and general contractor, with design help from his friend, Richard King, a retired architect. The earthwork and foundation were done by JBI and Starbird, and most of the carpentry work has been done by Phil, Annehein, Isaiah, and Derek.

Photo by Ron Tesler

Photo by Ron Tesler

Photo by Joseph Ron Tesler