The Most Authentic House in Maine
Another example would be the Wyeth family, N.C. Wyeth, the famous illustrator, and his son and grandson, Andrew and James Wyeth, both world famous painters, who for three generations have lived in Port Clyde, just south of Rockland. Their family home is named "Eight Bells" after a painting by Homer.
You can see it in "Christina's World," a Wyeth painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Or you can see the house itself, carefully preserved, in Cushing, next door to Rockland.
"I just couldn't stay away from there," Wyeth wrote. "I did other pictures while I knew them but I'd always seem to gravitate back to the house... It was Maine."To me it looked quite a bit like a lot of other beautiful historic New England houses I've seen, but I'm not ready to argue art with the Metropolitan Museum.
The Rockland Renaissance
So when the limestone industry and the fishing industry disappeared, it was the artists who provided the nucleus for Rockland's economic comeback. When a town goes from one art gallery to 24 art galleries in ten years, that's what you call a social indicator.
Eric Hopkins, who has been painting on the nearby island of North Haven for 25 years, moved his studio and gallery to Rockland last year because he needed more space. He says he's part of a movement "from the bottom up, not the top down" that includes not just Rockland, but many other nearby towns and islands like Port Clyde, Tenant's Harbor, Thomaston, North Haven, Vinalhaven and Matinicus.
"For both the artists and the art, the Farnsworth really helped pull it all together," he says.
Along with the galleries came a new generation of businesses -- people who were willing to stick it out during the tough times and grow along with the city, people who love where they are and what they are doing.
And since it has always been a working-class city, Rockland has the kind of atmosphere where Mainers and artists and tourists and out-of-state millionaires all rub shoulders together and everyone is accepted for who they are.
Kerry Altiero, who started Café Miranda in 1993, says some people enjoy his more esoteric offerings like sea scallops pasta verde, and some say, "Whatever. I'll have spaghetti."
The Family Fun
Saturday morning we went out with lobsterman Steve Hale of Captain Jack's Tours and pulled traps and learned all about the life cycle of the lobster, how it sheds its shell and has to hide out under the rocks until its new one hardens, how the female mates first and then lays eggs afterwards and fertilizes them. It's pretty complicated. You can find out more at this site.
Hale told us about how members of the lobster fleet assign territories among themselves, how they mark their traps with specially colored buoys, and the steps they take to ensure the lobster population remains viable.
And, of course, he demonstrated the old trick of hypnotizing a lobster by rubbing its back.
Next we visited the newly renovated Maine Lighthouse Museum, where we learned about all the time and effort that the Coast Guard, and the people of Maine, have put in over the years to prevent shipwrecks and to rescue people in danger.
The museum has the largest collection of Fresnel lenses and lifesaving artifacts in the US, including the cannons they used to fire rescue lines to shipwrecked vessels and the harness used to transport people to shore.
Then it was off to the Farnsworth Art Museum which has more than 10,000 paintings, sculptures, watercolors and fine art objects. Besides the "great names" like Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins, George Inness, Fitzhugh Lane, Gilbert Stuart and Thomas Sully, the American Impressionists are represented, as well as many great artists from the 20th and 21st century.
Then there's the Wyeth Center, showcasing the work of that world-famous family. You've probably seen N.C. Wyeth's illustrations in old editions of Ivanhoe and Treasure Island. And Andrew Wyeth's paintings, especially those of Christina and Alvaro Olson and their house in Cushing, are just the kind of paintings that really grab you, even if you're not an art connoisseur.
I got a copy of "The Witching Hour" to put in my office. And visiting the house itself gives a truly unique insight into the work of this amazing artist.
All the works at the Farnsworth are presented beautifully, with helpful information, and even a special children's guide to the museum.
This Tingly Goosebumpy Feeling
The parlor has many clashing patterns and colors that seem kind of tacky to a modern eye (no offense, Miss Lucy). As our docent pointed out, "To the Victorians, nothing was 'too much.'"
It was when I went upstairs and saw the bedrooms that I got this tingly, goosebumpy feeling of connection with the people who had lived there for so long. Lucy and her brothers and sisters, but also the maid and the handyman; their rooms are up there too.
I looked at the hairbrush and manicure kit in James room. I've seen so many of those in antique stores. The Homestead has also preserved a curious artifact in that room: a small electric motor designed to deliver mild electric shocks. It was thought to alleviate nervous disorders. We can only wonder what Miss Lucy's brother used it for
"This is the first time I've ever been through here without having my nose in a chart," he said.
After a good night's sleep and a delicious breakfast with our hosts PJ Walter and Frank Isganitis at The Limerock Inn, we got up at the crack of dawn to go fishing with Captain George Harris of Superfly Charters.
After breakfast we were out on the water again with Captain Bob Pratt aboard the windjammer "Morning in Maine." We got a splendid view of the harbor and lots of interesting information and funny stories from Captain Bob, a marine biologist and former instructor at the Maine Maritime Academy.
Then we went to the Project Puffin Visitor's Center on Main Street and saw a video about the restoration of the puffins to the Coast of Maine by Dr. Stephen Kress, who brought several pairs back from Canada.
They have World War I biplanes that actually fly, a Concord Coach, old bicycles and motorcycles -- you name it.
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