Rockefeller Building to Reopen in Late Fall

WINTER HARBOR — The long-awaited renovation of the Rockefeller Building at Acadia National Park on the Schoodic Peninsula is expected to be completed late this year with a grand opening in the spring.

The building, according to Mike Soukup, president and CEO of the Schoodic Education and Research Center (SERC) Institute, will be the centerpiece of one of 19 research learning centers within the National Park Service.

“We’ll use it as a welcoming center, as a place for exhibits of both the natural history and the cultural history of the Schoodic area,” Soukup said. “It will be pretty much the hub of the campus.”

The building was constructed in 1935 at the request of John D. Rockefeller Jr., to replace the U.S. Navy’s Otter Cliffs Radio Station on Mount Desert Island.

The Otter Cliffs site was decaying and it was in the way of carriage roads Rockefeller was constructing on MDI.

Soukup said Rockefeller architect Grosvenor Atterbury was told to design a building on the Schoodic Peninsula that would be “very elegant and very ornate and very showy on the outside,” but with a utilitarian interior.

The result was a brick-and-stone veneer structure in the French Normand style trimmed in gray pecky Cypress wood.

“It looks like it’s wormy,” said Eric Johanson, who is overseeing construction for the National Park Service, “but that was the way it looked when it was installed. It’s very rot resistant.”

Larry Peterson of Gouldsboro was a Navy master chief cryptologic technician at the base in the early 1970s and is now leading the Navy Oral History Project for SERC.

He said the base evolved from a small radio transmit and receive facility in the 1930s and 1940s to a pre-eminent Naval Security Group site during the Cold War.

Technicians intercepted and derived information from the communications signals and radars of U.S. adversaries, he said.

“It was a critical component of a worldwide network of high frequency and direction finding sites that gave the U.S. Navy the capability of locating radio transmitters virtually anywhere in the world,” Peterson said.

The building was shuttered in 2002 when the Navy closed the base.

Johanson said the building is on the National Register of Historic Places and all renovations are being carefully documented.

In addition to serving as a visitors center, The Rockefeller Building will house administrative offices and eight apartments for persons attending workshops and conferences at SERC.

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Jacqueline Weaver

Jacqueline Weaver

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Jacqueline's beat covers the eastern Hancock County towns of Lamoine through Gouldsboro as well as Steuben in Washington County. She was a reporter for the New York Times, United Press International and Reuters before moving to Maine. She also publicized medical research at Yale School of Medicine and scientific findings at Yale University for nine years.[email protected]
Jacqueline Weaver

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