The Story: Built and operated by the Sinclair family from the late 1930s to the late 1970s as a summer guesthouse for African-American tourists, Rock Rest provided a safe haven from the de-facto segregation faced by black travelers on vacation. The core of Rock Rest is an 18th c. York County cape, rebuilt with new end chimneys and entrance hall, and expanded over the years to accommodate more guests. The property retains its original guesthouse furnishings and extensive documentary materials about guests and business operations, providing a window into the operations of this unique site. Rock Rest was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The Threat: Rock Rest has been only minimally maintained the last 10 years, and has stood unoccupied for the last four. Attempts to bring the seller together with a buyer who would preserve the buildings have so far been unsuccessful. A sale on the open market could result in the demolition of these historically significant buildings.
The Solution: The future preservation and interpretation of Rock Rest has many interested parties, from the National Trust for Historic Preservation to the Seacoast NAACP, with feasibility studies and grants for initial planning secured. The site would be included in the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail, and would be an important heritage tourism site. This support can be built upon by bringing attention to this valuable chapter in Maine’s history and the threat the property faces from development.