Lincoln Street School, a neoclassical brick school in the town of Rockland, has long been home to a rich legacy of institutions and community organizations since its construction in 1868. The Watershed School, Rockland High School alumni association, and various other arts and educational tenants have all been housed within its venerable walls. Following a June 30 closure announcement by the management of Lincoln Street Center in 2012, initial interest by the nonprofit organization The old school faded when cumulative repair and maintenance cost estimates arose from engineering and roofing examination.
1923-1925 additions and renovations added outer wings to the school, which continued to house local schools until its acquisition by the city of Rockland in 1996, following SAD 5’s closure of Rockland District Middle School. Late 1990s renovations saw an attempt to develop retirement housing within the space, although a number of the school’s amenities remain – including a gymnasium and 300-seat auditorium. These assets remain a valuable advantage in potential adaptive use. In addition, the school’s location – near Rockland’s downtown core – offers an ideal opportunity to access both surrounding neighborhoods and commercial activity.
Necessary investment includes a new roof, in the neighborhood of $250,000 and maintenance on the building’s 180 windows. The three-story, 45,000 square foot building was foreclosed in the face of mounting debts by the nonprofit organization. Lincoln Street Center’s 2002 purchase of the school for $61,000 followed a three year lease from the city of Rockland, after which time the Center secured a mortgage through Camden National Bank. An impending auction makes the future uncertain.
The building has also housed a venerable collection of local memorabilia pertaining to the schools’ legacies, tying the facility to its historical context. In the face of increasing changes to Maine’s school systems and their historic resources, this use has helped to highlight an important part of the Midcoast’s community and cultural landscape.
The question of Lincoln Street School’s survival underlines the need for increased community awareness of local historic resources, as well as interest and backing for the resource’s adaptive use, rather than tax-funded demolition. The town of Rockland has already been an exemplary model in the effective use of commercial space to rejuvenate its rich historic downtown area. Its legacy remains incomplete, however, without a broader look at existing community resources.