In 1969, I was 14 years old. In October of that year the Old Rockland Post Office at 17 School St. was torn down. It was the most beautiful building in Rockland.

When we speak of it, we say the whole thing:

The Old Rockland Post Office. I call it Rockland’s castle.

I cannot ever recall being inside Rockland’s castle. But I do remember it. I stood in its immense shadow. It made School Street dark in daytime.

I have a postcard collection which includes every Rockland post office postcard there is. I have even saved every image I can find on the internet.

Last year I became aware of two troves of granite from the castle. I was fortunate enough to see them firsthand.

Finding them made me feel like Indiana Jones

The first appeared to be pieces of the stairs. The second were granite stanchions that formed a fence around the perimeter of the castle. They now line a driveway in Owls Head in a very tasteful way.

The Library of Congress had a comprehensive report done in July of 1968 by Denys Peter Myers, principal architectural historian for the National Park Service.

Along with the very detailed report are 22 images, including original drawings by the architect Alfred Bult Mullett.

In Myers’ statement of significance, he describes the Old Rockland Post Office this way:

“The Rockland Custom House and Post Office is an excellent example of the Grant Era (Ulysses S. Grant) and is notable for its restrained design and substantial construction.”

Substantial indeed. The walls were made of “quarry-faced granite” from Vinalhaven.

In Myers’ general statement he noted the building’s architectural character:

“Massive quarry-faced granite walls with bold Italianate detailing are crowned by a slate mansard roof. The building has the appearance of great strength and solidarity. Exterior excellent, interior good.”

A building erected in 1877 was in excellent condition in 1969.

Oh, what could have been but for the state of indifference at that time. Very little value was placed on timeless architecture and craftmanship. Our post office would be replaced by a one-story building — right across the street.

Urban renewal.

In Portland, two great landmark buildings were also demolished. In August of 1961, Union Station was demolished after train service was discontinued.

The second Portland landmark to succumb was the Grand Trunk Railroad Depot in March of 1966, also a victim of the decline in rail traffic.

Historic preservation got its start here in Maine as a result of these two events.

There were concerned citizens in Portland who in the aftermath met in the living room of the Vaughn Street home of Edith Sills to form what would eventually become the nonprofit organization Greater Portland Landmarks in 1962.

So here we are at the start of 2023, with a parking lot in the center of Rockland where the Old Rockland Post Office once stood for 146 years.

I believe we should erect a simple monument in the green space of the Custom House parking lot to Rockland’s Castle. It should be made from some of the remaining granite pieces. The design would be simple and reflect the great “strength and solidarity” of the Old Rockland Post Office and Custom House.

What do you think?

Glenn Billington is a lifelong resident of Rockland and has worked for The Courier-Gazette and The Free Press since 1989.

U.S. Post Office and Custom House looking east from Union Street, Rockland,1965. Photo courtesy of Rockland Historical Society

Demolition of old Rockland Post Office, 1969. Photo courtesy of Rockland Historical Society

 

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