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Could grain silos become an outdoor art gallery?

By Stephen Betts | Nov 22, 2020
Photo by: Stephen Betts The grain silos on Rockland's South End waterfront.

Rockland — The once-used 100-foot tall grain silos that have loomed over Rockland's South End waterfront for the past 54 years could soon become an outdoor art gallery.

That is, if the idea of one local man comes to fruition.

Isaac Remsen, an artist, said that since the COVID-19 pandemic struck, opportunities to have art work displayed in galleries has become non-existent.

He said he is looking for places in the region to project his work on outdoor structures. One place that has him interested is the pair of former grain silos.

He said he would be contacting the owner to see if he would be allowed to display his work there.

The grain silos are owned by the Passamaquoddy Tribe and Passamaquoddy Wild Blueberry Co. of Columbia Falls.

The silos were built in 1966 as part of a much larger planned economic development project to revitalize the South End waterfront, according to author John Bird's history book "Rockland, Maine: Rise and Renewal."

The developer and investors had hoped to provide grain for the region's poultry farms and attract a Canadian ferry to make regular stops in Rockland. The silos were built in 1966 but received only one shipload of grain.

Railroads lowered their shipping rates for grain, which undercut the Rockland plan, according to Bird. The government of Nova Scotia selected Bar Harbor for the ferry terminal.

Since then, the silos have been unused.

The Passamaquody Tribe purchased the property in the early 1980s.

In September 2005, representatives of the Tribe met with the Rockland City Council to discuss a plan to create a cultural center, retail store and luxury condominiums on the waterfront. The cement silos were to be used as residences. In November of that year, the City Council approved a zone change to allow residences in the waterfront zone.

Tribal officials and representatives of Jesse Wheeler LLC, the property developer, said the zone change was the first step in a long building process. The pair envisioned 15 condominiums and a cultural center, retail store and café inside the two cement silos.

Lawyers for Dragon Products, the silos' neighbor to the north, and Rockland Marine Corp., the neighbor to the south, asked the Council to deny the zone change and avoid injecting a residential development amid industry.

Architectural plans were developed but the project never gained traction.

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Comments (13)
Posted by: Michael Mullins | Nov 25, 2020 11:00

What probably makes sense is to build a ring of benches around the megalith, in which pilgrims could sit in contemplation of its majesty...

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Nov 25, 2020 08:43

I hope David is enjoying his new found celebrity status as much as we all enjoy his columns.

Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Nov 24, 2020 22:57

My reference to wharf rats is to the 4 legged creatures that live under and in the towers - not Mr Grima, whose columns are delightful satire.

Posted by: Crawford L Robinson | Nov 24, 2020 10:52

You may not like Grima's column Phyllis ... but don't you think referring to him as a wharf-rat is a bit extreme?

Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Nov 24, 2020 08:27

Wonder how the projection of art onto the towers will comport with the wharf rats that live there. Also, does the Passamaquoddy tribe, which owns the towers agree to this venture?

-Phyllis Merriam



Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Nov 24, 2020 08:17

Good thing you are "on the case" Steve to help us keep our facts straight.  How much does Grima pay for his pent house suite ?

Posted by: Stephen Betts | Nov 23, 2020 20:19

The silos are taxable properties. And an art gallery is not exempt unless it is a non-profit organization such as a museum, No one is proposing the silos become art galleries, just that they can be used to project images.

Posted by: Carleton Ingerson | Nov 23, 2020 14:29

The last thing Rockland needs is another  non tax paying art gallery.

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Nov 23, 2020 12:54

Are these towers tax-exempt ? If not Mr Grima must pay enough in rent to cover the bill.

Posted by: Stephen Betts | Nov 23, 2020 09:54


Dragon did not block the proposed silo conversion although they opposed it. The City Council approved the zone change requested. The developers simply did not proceed with the project.

Steve Betts

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Nov 23, 2020 08:48

Please note a few key points here.  Thoughts of commercial development in the South end go all the way back to 1966. Again in 2005 the idea of making the silos into high end luxury condos was blocked by Dragon cement.  Strangely similar a move to develop tilson ave was blocked by FMC corp. and in the 90's a request to allow residential development on Tilson Ave.  blocked by OHara corporation.  Don't think the City has the political will or motivation to make anything useful happen before the end of time.  Grima guess your apartment overlooking the harbor is safe for another few years.

Posted by: PETER LAMMERT | Nov 22, 2020 07:52

You write that they are "unused." What about the World Renowned writer that mentions in his weekly article that he is somehow "forced to live" there?

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Nov 22, 2020 06:31

WOW!!  What an awesome idea. Thankful for people with vision. Talk about turning lemons into lemonade.

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