Rockland Maine’s Old Granite Inn

May 17 11:19 2005 Kriss Hammond Print This Article

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Rockland Maine’s Old Granite Inn

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Every year in an Outside Magazine readers' poll,Guest Posting Rockland, Maine ranks among the top 100 best small towns to live in. This is the town where the then controversial 1957 Lana Turner soap opera flick, Peyton Place, was filmed — back when the most dangerous thing in a small town was . . . gossip! The producers wanted to give small, hometown America a risqué shock that today is a comical celluloid version of homespun Americana, a mild comparison to what is on the Internet today.

Maine joins only one other state in the lower 48, the only state to do so. It is the only state with a single syllable. Life in Maine is a simple life, not many complexities. Rockland has not changed much since the '50s. I guess that is why the PP producers chose it for their mighty cult genre.

I was sitting in a local café one fine summer day, gazing upon the black and white photos on the wall of a bygone era of the historic Main Street. There used to be an electric trolley line down the main drag, and the gossip is they are bringing it back. I can see Peyton Place in the frozen-in-time snapshots. Rockland is still a great place to live. Main Street is now on the National Register of Historic Places, with most of the old brick buildings housing ice cream shops, bookstores, cafés and bars, museums and art galleries. Rockland is a wonderful place to visit in the summer — just for all those farm fresh flavors of ice cream!

But beneath the surface, the community has a lot going for it. MBNA moved into town and is the main employer, the largest privately owned credit card issuer is the U.S., with their corporate restored stark white Greek Revivalist-style headquarters near the water, giving it a campus-like feel. It is fun to walk around Rockland, to view the old mansions and buildings; duck into a canoe and dory building shop to see dense, white Maine cedar turned into a recreational work of art.

One place not to be missed is the Farnsworth Art Museum, rather museums. Farnsworth is a respected name in Rockland, and you will find a three-story art gallery museum in the old bank building on Main Street, and then a few blocks to the back is the magnificent Pirate Museum (entrance $7).

The Pirate Museum is a vast collection of dramatic seafaring oil paintings, mostly create by the notable Wyeths (The museum is known as the Wyeth Center.), a three generational collection of their canvases that portrays the days of yore and lore on the high seas. Rockland still maintains its links to windjammers and packet boats. Many summertime windjammers load up a cargo of tourists for cruises through the Penobscot Bay islands. Later in the day I watched ferry boats load trucks and cars for the largest island, Vinalhaven, where in the past much of the famous Maine granite was quarried.

The regional airport is located just outside Rockland at the Knox County Airport; the terminal is a throw back to simpler times. I think they still shoo cows off the runway, but the security problems of the world have hit home — four TSA agents checked my bags on the flight out — I was the only passenger on the plane, so they had plenty of time to unzip everything. On my flight to Maine I met returning residents bound for some of the coastal islands. The main Maine airline into the terminal is Colgan, a rubber-band express service of USAir, with connecting flights primarily to Boston. The local bus terminal is located at the Ferry terminal, which is probably really the main hub of the town because a marina is located close by.

The Rockland ferry terminal is across Main Street from the best place to stay in town — the historic Old Granite Inn, a Colonial Federalist architectural sculpture hewn from tons of St. George, Maine artisan-dressed granite.

John, the innkeeper, originally from California, greeted me and showed me around the modest inn, and then took me to my room, an airy corner alcove on the second floor (room #6) with windows all around for great views of the bay.

John's wife, Regan is an educator from New York City. John is a former engineer, so he keeps the inn in tiptop shape. There's a steam radiator for heat in the winter, but it is summer, and I didn't need the ceiling fans, so I popped open the large windows for fresh breezes coming off the saltwater bay.

The OGI has 11 standard rooms, nine with private baths, but try to get my room, #6, the best room, with private bath and a king comfy bed, period-piece dresser drawers, and replicated gray-stripped Colonial Federalist wallpaper. The natural hardwoods throughout the inn have been painstakeningly restored.

On the ground floor, the living room is stocked with books about the area, with a fireplace in front of the sofas to curl up in with one of those tomes. The dining area is just off to the back, where Regan serves her famous quiche in the morning. You can come cook for me anytime, Regan. Breakfast is from 8-9 a.m., with coffee at 7 a.m.

From 1906-1984 the Old Granite Inn served as an Elks Club, but it was originally built in the 1700s as a family home. The gray terrazzo floors were added after a fire gutted the building in the 1940s.

John and Regan Cary live in a more contemporary home attached to the OGI. Regan was working hard in a computer cubby hole, designing a flyer for a rummage sale that day, taking place in the basement. I checked out the items for sale, and John was doing a brisk business for such an early morning start.

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Check out is at 11 a.m., but I was staying longer in town, so with Regan's permission I left my bags and came back later and left the key in the basket by the door. That gave me a warm, small town feeling, and I can see why Rockland is voted one of the best small towns to live in — because of people like John and Regan.

Summer Fun In Maine

The North Atlantic Blues Festival, winner of the Blues Foundations "Keeping the Blues Alive Award", runs in July at Harbor Park, in Rockland. I noted that Shemekia Copeland was one of the headliners at the 2003 event, whom I saw in Vegas, and she shouldn't be missed. Tickets are only $20 per day, $25 at the door, or better yet, $35 for a weekend pass. Call 207/593-1189 or call the Rockland Chamber of Commerce at 800/562-2526.

Port cargo is up 43% over the prior year in the Rockland port, but the fishing haul is down at the Portland Fish Exchange, as was the number of cruise ships in the harbor. The cruise ships are all going over to Bar Harbor, now, but you can still catch a family outing on a traditional coastal schooner through the Maine Windjammer Association Do not miss the Pirate Museum at the Farrington/Wyeth Museum in Rockland. Find out why pirates capture our imagination from these imaginative portraits, murals, and seascapes. I guess there is a little of a pirate in all of us. Then you will have some jargon to swap with the maties on your summer windjammer cruise.
For the best on Maine on TV check out "Bill Green's Maine" on Channel WLEZ in Bangor, Maine, or WCSH in Portland, Maine, or visit

The Rockland Farmers' Market Association is an organization of independent local farmers, growers, and producers who offer a wide variety of locally produced farm fresh foods, plants, flowers and other products. Many of those products can be purchased in the stores on Main Street.

Acadia National Park is close by, great for rock climbing with Acadia Mountain Guides: or call 800/232-9559.

Maine State Ferry Service operates from Rockland by the Department of Transportation, PO Box 645, 517A Main Street, Rockland, ME 04841-0645; 207/596-2202. Call or write for a ferry schedule. The. For Aura restaurant reservations call

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Kriss Hammond
Kriss Hammond

Kriss Hammond, Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent. Join the Travel Writers Network in the logo at

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