We write regarding the question of whether the design of the Rockport Harbor Hotel is in harmony with the village of Rockport.
Our firm, Scholz & Barclay Architecture, has years of experience rehabilitating and adding to historic buildings in Maine, including the Camden Public Library, Belfast Free Library and Rockport’s iconic Beechnut Stone House. , winning state and national awards in the process.
Meg was previously Chair of the Camden Historic Resources Committee and is currently part of the Camden Design Team. Our opinion on this project is professional and based on experience of the aesthetic and cultural issues raised by design changes in a historical context.
The new hotel is in the historic Rockport district, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. The hotel’s proximity to the Martin and Shepherd Blocks means that enforcement of the Interior Secretary’s Rehabilitation Standards is appropriate to assess its design.
Rehabilitation Standards and Illustrated Secretary of the Interior Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings recommends:
- New additions should be designed and constructed so that the character-defining elements of the historic building are not drastically altered, obscured, damaged or destroyed during the rehabilitation process. The new design should always be clearly differentiated so that the addition does not appear to be part of the historic resource.
- Considering the attached exterior addition both in terms of new use and the appearance of other buildings in the borough or historic district. The design of the new work can be contemporary or reference design motifs from the historic building. In both cases, it must always be clearly differentiated from the historic building and be compatible in terms of mass, materials, ratio of solids to voids and colour.
Rehabilitation Standards and Illustrated Secretary of the Interior Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings specifically advises against:
- Duplicate the exact form, materials, style and detailing of the historic building in the new addition so that the new work appears to be part of the historic building.
- Imitation of a historic style or period of architecture in new additions, especially for contemporary uses such as drive-thru banks or garages.
- Use the same wall plane, roofline, cornice height, materials, siding or window type to make additions appear to be part of the historic building.
Based on the Secretary of the Interior’s standards, an infill structure between the two historic brick blocks of the historic Rockport district could have had a modern facade, accurately delineating the new from the historic.
The design of the hotel has chosen the alternative route of delineating the historic fabric. Although the design references adjacent historic design motifs (brick skin, decorative cornice, granite lintels, arches and slate mansard roof), it uses strong visual cues such as setbacks from the street plan of historic structures, cornice and roof height changes, contemporary balconies and windows to set it apart from its historic neighbors.
Our opinion is that the design of the hotel meets the national standard for additions to historic buildings while honoring the beauty of Rockport’s historic commercial buildings. Claims to the contrary are based on personal opinion and not on an objective standard.
Meg Barclay and John Scholz live in Camden