ROCKLAND — The birthplace of Edna St. Vincent Millay has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and Millay House Rockland will begin the final phase of its restoration, so that it can soon become another cultural heritage tourism asset for the Midcoast.
Because Baby Millay only lived at 200 Broadway for six months, the double house is listed on the National Register as the “Singhi Double Cottage” in recognition of its builder and its significance as a fine example of a double house.
Wellington Singhi was an early Rockland developer, having built the five Singhi Cottages on the east side of Broadway in 1887 and the Singhi Double Cottage on the west side of Broadway in 1891. In 1892, Singhi rented the north side of the double house to Henry and Cora Millay, and their daughter Edna was born at home, on February 22, 1892.
Seventy double houses are found throughout Rockland. They were built before the turn of the century to fill the need for affordable housing for the Rockland working class. Double houses were economical, requiring only one lot, one roof, and one floor plan – the floor plan of one side is a mirror image of the other. Double houses were built by brothers, fathers and sons, and business partners who split the cost, each owning his own side.
In September of 1892, Oscar Blackington, a successful clothing merchant, purchased the double house at 198-200 Broadway for two of his sons and their families. So, the Millays moved to Union where Henry became the school principal.
Being listed on the National Register of Historic Places makes a property eligible for grants, and the Millay House Rockland is hoping to finish the restoration of the house this year.
The interiors of both sides have been gutted so floors can be replaced in the bathrooms, so that the common wall can be replaced, and to bring heat to the second floor. The restoration of all the rooms will cost $160,000.
The Davis Family Foundation has rewarded the Millay House Rockland a challenge grant of $20,000 after $100,000 has been raised. So far, grants have been received from the Roxanne Quimby Foundation, the Messler Foundation, and the Fisher Charitable Foundation totaling $44,000.
The board of Millay House Rockland plans to spend the summer raising funds and planning for the annual Millay Arts and Poetry Festival, the first weekend in September.
The group hopes to spend the winter restoring the double house to be historically accurate and modestly comfortable, so that one side can be rented to support literary programs like a writer-in-residence on the other side.