Art, History and Culture in Camden, Rockland and Rockport
Jun 1, 2019 at 8:00 AM in Explore by
Beauty has long been intrinsic to this part of Mid-Coast Maine. The craggy, cliff-walled coastline of Camden and Rockland skirts a pastoral interior that beckons to be appreciated from countless perspectives.
The well-to-do from big cities such as New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, DC and Chicago discovered the allure of nature here during the nineteenth century and by the 1880s were erecting their summer cottages, mostly in Camden. These expansive Shingle Style homes, along with fine houses that had been built for sea captains, ship builders and merchants decades prior, established this lovely Maine destination as a town of architectural significance. Take a stroll down Bay View Street, High Street and Beauchamp Point to see how and where many wealthy people live. Some of these grand residences have been converted into inns, providing you with the opportunity to stay in an historic dwelling as well.
\With the cultured crowd in residence, Camden and subsequently Rockland & Rockport, grew as a center for the arts, one that has become increasingly more art-oriented with each passing year. Edna St. Vincent Millay read a poem to guests at one of the inns in 1912, prompting a generous patron to offer to pay for her tuition to Vassar. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and one of the most influential writers of the Roaring Twenties, Miss Millay remains today as one of the most revered poets in America.
Many creative types arrived for the summer and ended up becoming year-round residents. Illustrious painters such as Andrew Wyeth, Childe Hassam and other well-known New England artists have left their mark in the region and beyond its shores. A visit to the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland will show you just how many works have been inspired by the life and scenery of this breathtakingly beautiful part of Maine. Take a trip out to Monhegan Island on the Monhegan Boat Line, walk around this picturesque patch of earth and you’ll feel like you’ve just stepped into an Andrew Wyeth painting. Or maybe an Edward Hopper. Or a Louise Nevelson. You get the idea–this is the same scenery from which the artists’ drew inspiration; allow yourself lots of time to take in the sweet vistas and charming nooks of this renowned island. While you’re here, be sure to visit the Monhegan Museum (celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2018!) and also the Rockwell Kent-James Fitzgerald House & Studio.
Children love the boat ride out to Monhegan Island but for terrific hands-on fun, take them to the Coastal Children’s Museum in Rockland. Other must-see museums include the Center for Maine Contemporary Art (CMCA), the Maine Lighthouse Museum, the Millay House Rockland and Sharp's Point South/Sail, Power & Steam Museum, all of which are located in Rockland. Way to turn a former major shipbuilding center into a cultural capital par excellence!
Farther north in Owls Head, be sure to take in the Owls Head Transportation Museum as well as the American Lighthouse Foundation, the latter of which is located in the keeper’s house at Owls Head Lighthouse and Interpretative Center. What a great way to tour a lighthouse as well!
Of course the range and choice of performing arts events are as varied as the musical notes in a melodic ballad. Best of all, many of the venues themselves steal the show. Check out the beautifully restored Strand Theatre in Rockland, the historic Rockport Opera House and the Camden Opera House in particular.
On a very different note (couldn’t help that pun), the Camden-Rockport Historical Society/Conway House, an old homestead built in 1770 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Maine State Register of Historic Sites, beautifully depicts how life was back in the day.
For more modern interpretations of art and culture that you can take home with you, hit the innumerable art galleries and boutiques located within the area and shop until your heart is content and your wallet is empty. The art scene here is particularly rich and many places showcase hand-crafted goods, sculpture and jewelry including Maine Island Rag Rugs and Michael Good Designs. Just love the artsy vibe throughout the whole area.