CLOSE-UP ON Rockport, Maine

Pretty as a picture

Town on the bay focuses on tourism and its rock-solid history

Small boats on a nearly calm morning shortly after dawn in Rockport Harbor, which sits on Penobscot Bay.
Small boats on a nearly calm morning shortly after dawn in Rockport Harbor, which sits on Penobscot Bay. (Fred Feld for The Boston Globe)
By Jan Shepherd
Globe Correspondent / September 24, 2008
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Called Goose River Village until a name change in 1852, Rockport was part of Camden until they split 39 years later. At the time, quarrying limestone and converting it to lime was the major industry. In 1817, 300 casks of Rockport lime were shipped to Washington for the restoration of the US Capitol after it was burned in the War of 1812. Another major enterprise was exporting pond ice. About 50,000 tons of it was harvested and shipped around the world each year. However, a 1907 fire in the waterfront lime kilns spread and destroyed the Rockport Ice Co., a tragedy that crippled both industries. Since then, Rockport has established itself as a destination for tourists, owing in part to its setting along picturesque Penobscot Bay. It also has a long tradition of attracting and fostering artists. In 1973, Maine Media Workshop was founded as a small center for film and photography; today it has its own campus for multimedia education.

The nonprofit Center for Maine Contemporary Art (162 Russell Ave., 207-236-2875, converted the village firehouse into a home for visual arts, with constantly changing exhibits. Among them are the juried "Biennial," running through Oct. 4, and "Work of the Hand: Craft Show and Sale," an annual invitational with New England's glass, metal, fiber, wood, and jewelry artists from Oct. 10-19. Down the hill, Maine Media Workshops (70 Camden St., 877-577-7700, 207-236-8581, uses its original home at Union Hall (2 Central St., 207-236-8581) as a seasonal gallery, although that may change next year. This year's final exhibit, "35 Years of Photography in Union Hall," celebrates the workshop's founding and runs through Oct. 10. In a rural setting on Route 90, the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship (25 Mill St., 207-594-5611, www.wood offers courses in making fine furniture. Founded by Peter Korn, the center attracts students of all ages. The current exhibit at the school's Messer Gallery is "Legacy of Talent: A Moser Reunion," running through Nov. 28.

Everyone's favorite waterside views are from Marine Park (off Pascal Street). There you'll find a statue of Andre the seal, a trio of restored lime kilns, and a replica of a lime-carrying train. The Maine Coast Heritage Trust's Aldermere Farm (70 Russell Ave., 207-236-2739, is famous for its Belted Galloway cattle, agriculture, and land preservation. Its public programs include seasonal walks and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing on full moon nights in winter. During foliage season, Camden Snow Bowl (off Hosmer Pond Road, 3 miles from Route 1, 207-236-3438, www. offers pancake breakfasts and chairlift rides Sundays in October. Come winter, it's the place for skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and ice skating. Two miles north of Camden, Camden Hills State Park (280 Belfast Road, 207-236-3109, 207-236-0849, attracts hikers who want views from atop Mount Battie and Mount Megunticook. For nonhikers, there's an auto road to Mount Battie.

Many places close for the winter beginning Nov. 1. Among year-round choices are Samoset Resort (220 Warrenton St., 207-594-2511, 800-341-1650,, doubles $199-$219 weekdays, $258-$279 on weekends; rates vary with season), a 230-acre property on the shore of Penobscot Bay with an 18-hole golf course, spa, restaurant, and cafe. The Country Inn (off Route 1, just north of Route 90, 207-236-2725, 888-707-3945,, suites $144-$169 but vary with the season) offers private rooms in the house and free-standing cottages, though the latter are seasonal.

Michael Good Gallery (325 Commercial St., 800-422-9623, is a must stop for his stunning gold jewelry as well as fine accessories and other jewelry by top artists. Tennessee glass artist Patti Kissinger moved to Maine and set up Prism Glass Studio & Gallery Cafe (297 Commercial St., 207-230-0061, www.prismglass Glassblowers work in a studio building while the house gallery showcases Kissinger's vessels, tableware, and stained glass and work by other American glass artists. Off Route 90, the Carver Hill Gallery (264 Meadow St., 207-236-0745, www and the attached restored 19th-century cider barn hold art, pottery, furniture, accessories, jewelry, and crafts, primarily by Maine artists. In tough economic times, resale shops such as Cottage Consignment (398 Commercial St., 207-236-2939, www.cottage offer good buys in women's clothing.

Local ingredients star in imaginative combinations for lunch and dinner at the Prism Glass Gallery Cafe (see Spend, entrees $11.99-$22.99). Meat lovers head to Cody's Original Roadhouse (399 Commercial St., 207-236-3700,, entrees $9.98-$21.99), the only Maine location for the Florida chain. The State of Maine Cheese Co.'s Rockport Marketplace (461 Commercial St., Route 1, 207-236-8895,, makes it plain that Vermont isn't the only New England cheese-making state. Wednesdays and Thursdays are when cheddars, Colby, jack, and other cheeses are made with the action visible beyond glass windows. The emporium also sells all kinds of Maine products, among them blueberry, wine, honey, candy, chips, and smoked goods. The Cellardoor Vineyard of Lincolnville converted a Victorian known locally as the Yellow House at routes 90 and 1 into the Cellardoor at the Villa (47 West St., 207-236-2654, for wine tastings, food pairings, and a gift center. The first stop on the Maine Wine Trail, the Villa stays open until the end of the year, while 10 miles away the vineyard closes for the season at the end of October.

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