Restoration of famous Maine poet’s birthplace in Rockland enters final phase

ROCKLAND, Maine – The effort to restore the 19th-century duplex where famous poet Edna St. Vincent Millay was born is entering its final stages.

With one side of the house now finished and intended to become rental year-round, the group, Millay Rockland House, is preparing to begin the final phase of restoring the second side, which they hope to use for a writer-in-residence program.

The restoration has been underway for five years. Acquiring the funds for the extensive interior and exterior renovations, however, took longer than expected, slowing the process down.

Edna St. Vincent Millay was born in an upstairs bedroom of the house at 200 Broadway, pictured here. A group working to preserve the house completed restoration work on the side of the duplex where Millay briefly lived after his birth.

Millay only lived in the Broadway house for about six months after he was born, but none of the other homes in the area his family occupied have been preserved in his honor.

It’s been a long road, but Millay House Rockland is poised to give the poet’s legacy a dedicated home.

“Edna really belongs to Rockland, Union and Camden. Her early poems are about the coast, Maine. It’s very carefree and engaging poetry,” said Ann Morris, chair of the board of Millay House Rockland. It is the house that is preserved in order to preserve its heritage. ”

Millay was born in the front bedroom of the north side unit in February 1892. But when the house her parents rented – sold, they returned to her father’s hometown of Union, according to Morris. When her parents divorced, she moved with her mother to Camden.

After his education in Maine, Millay received a scholarship to Vassar College in New York. Millay’s writing and poetry gained national recognition at the turn of the 20th century, and in 1923 she became the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

In the 1930s, following Millay’s rise to fame, a plaque was placed on the duplex at 198-200 Broadway, marking the house as Millay’s birthplace.

“This house has always been a famous monument,” Morris said.

Despite this, it was slated for foreclosure when the Rockland Historical Society purchased it in 2016 and renovations have been underway since. Ownership of the house shifted to Millay House Rockland when the nonprofit was formed in 2017.

In 2019, the house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places – not because Millay was born there, but because it exemplifies the type of mirror-image duplexes that were built in Rockland in the 19th century to provide housing for working class .

The restoration has cost around $ 300,000 so far, according to Morris. The renovations included restoring the home’s exterior, replacing the roof and heating system, gutting the two interiors, and completing the interior construction of the north side unit, which includes a kitchen. updated, three bedrooms and a half bath.

Funds for the restoration were raised largely through grants, Morris said, including multiple contributions from the Quimby Family Foundation. Millay House Rockland is currently working to raise the final $ 20,000 of the $ 100,000 it will take to complete interior renovations on the south side of the house.

“What has taken so long is fundraising,” Morris said.

Millay House Rockland hopes to begin renting the unit on the north side, where Millay was born, in early 2022, for around $ 1,500 per month. Income from the rental of the unit will help cover construction expenses, such as property taxes, Morris said.

While the north side of the house is where Millay was born, Morris said logistically it made more sense for this side to be a private rental. This is the side closest to a garage that tenants will be able to use. The south side also has a larger front room which lends itself better to future programming potential, she said.

“There is always the chance or the hope that the one who praises [the north side] will find some kind of inspiration from a muse that could float around, ”Morris said.

With the bulk of funds for the restoration of the south side already in place, this work is expected to begin in March and Morris estimates it will be completed by the end of 2022.

At the start of the project, Millay House Rockland intended to partner with a Portland-based literary organization to provide writing programs in the Midcoast area. But the time the restoration project took made a difference, Morris said.

Now, Millay House Rockland will partner with the Rockland-based Ellis Beauregard Foundation to use the space on the south side for a writer-in-residence program.

The Maine coast was a muse for Millay over a century ago and Morris has said that using his birthplace as a chance for others to do the same is a good way to honor the legacy of the late poet.

“The whole story of a community is exciting or important, but when you add the coastline, you add a whole other dimension,” Morris said. “There are so many stories and we want writers to come here and feel a little bit about what Edna, her mother, father and sisters felt when they lived in this area.”

Comments are closed.