ROCKLAND, Maine — The Rockland Historical Society has purchased the birthplace of one of the country’s most renowned poets.
The nonprofit organization finalized Thursday the purchase of the Broadway duplex where Edna St. Vincent Millay was born in 1892, Rockland Historical Society President Brian Harden said Saturday. The group has been working on purchasing the property since last fall.
The goal is to create a museum in the apartment where Millay was born. The other apartment would be rented out to support the operation of the historic site. The museum could be used to hold literary seminars. The home also could be a place for writers to meet with publishers.
Harden said a news release will be issued by the historical society later on Monday.
The house was for sale for $88,000, but the historical society was able to acquire it for $60,000. The property had been owned since 1993 by Bryan and Michelle Marshall.
Historical society curator Ann Morris said earlier this year that the bank that has a mortgage on the property had agreed to allow the current owner to sell it for less than what is owed.
The Quimby Family Foundation has agreed to donate money to help to with the project. The Quimby Foundation has offered to match up to $100,000 money raised for restoration. The society has also just learned that the Davis Family Foundation has provided a grant of $40,000 toward rehabilitation of the house.
Harden said the plan is for renovations to begin this spring with exterior repairs, replacing the aged electrical system and upgrading the failing heating system.
Harden said the society does not want to own the Millay House long term, but hopes that after restoration, it can be turned over to a new foundation that will “preserve the house and give it a continuing use in honor of Millay’s life and talent.”
Wayne Gray, chairman of the Millay House Committee, said in a news release that “it is also important for the historical society to save this landmark because we have already lost so many great historical Rockland buildings,” listing the homes of Civil War Generals Hiram Berry and Davis Tillson; the Post Office and Custom House building, and the Knox County Sheriff’s house and the old Knox County Jail on Limerock Street.
Harden agreed in the news release, saying that appreciation of the past helps give Rockland residents a sense of community and place that so many American cities and towns are losing today. He said Millay was one of the 20th century’s most important poets who is still popular today, and said many people are interested in where she was born and where she grew up in the midcoast.
Millay was born on the southern side of the mirror-image duplex at 198-200 Broadway. Her parents were the first people to live in the duplex, which was built that year. Millay lived at the house for three months before her parents moved to Union. When her parents divorced, she, her siblings and mother moved to Camden.
The Women’s Educational Club placed a plaque on the house in 1935 that designated it as Millay’s birthplace. That was taken down in the 1960s or 1970s when the home’s occupants grew tired of people stopping by and asking to go through the home. That plaque is now in possession of the historical society.
Millay would become nationally known at the age of 19 with the publishing of the poem “ Renascence.” She went on to become one of the most popular writers of her time and won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1923.