Lamie's Tavern

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A Piece of Hampton History Continues
It's Outstanding Tradition

By Steve Haberman, Hampton Focus Editor

The Portsmouth Herald, "Focus On The Hamptons"

Monday, January 16, 1989

Lamie's Tavern ca. 1930s
A color postcard ca. 1930s.
[Photo not in original article]
Designating anything in New England a landmark is really a bit redundant. It's perhaps safe to say that each year the communities of New England tear-down, build-over, or cover-up more landmarks than other areas of the country have ever had.

Yet there is one site right here in Hampton that can truly be called a landmark with all the tradition and respect that word implies. That site, of course, is Lamie's Inn and Tavern located on the corner of Exeter Road and Route 1, in the very heart of Hampton Center.

Should the title "Landmark" be doubted, it will be remembered that the old tavern has been used as the primary point of reference when giving any stranger to the town directions virtually forever. The first question usually asked of a visitor to the region is, "Do you know where Lamie's is?" An answer in the affirmative allows for a continuation of directions to practically any place on the seacoast.

Even the pronunciation of the name of the inn is used to distinguish the length of time the individual speaking has been on the seacoast. Old timers will use the correct pronunciation for Lamie's which is "La-mays" while newcomers have the annoying habit of referring to the tavern as "Lam-ees. Nothing so quickly distinguishes between residents and visitors as the pronunciation of this name.

The emphasis modern day Hamptonites place on this building located in the very center of their town, is indicative of the vast amount of history represented by the structure.

Records indicate that the house that still makes up the major part of what is today's Lamie's, was erected in 1740. In 1760 the Lane family, later to become major benefactors to the town, (the Lane Memorial Library, the Lane Block Building, currently the home of Hampton Hardware, and the Charles H. Lane Fund which has benefitted the children and churches of Hampton for decades, are some examples) acquired the buildings and barns.

Based on the impact the Lane family had on the town it is perhaps important to spend some time tracing the efforts of that group while they owned the Lane homestead. Ebenezer Lane bought the property in 1760 from Eliphalet Sanborn who had inherited the house from his uncles Richard and Abner Sanborn.

After Ebenezer's death, his son Joshua took possession of the property and later passed it on to his son, Captain Ebenezer Lane. The latter became a cattle dealer and quite wealthy in the process. He was touted to be a shrewd businessman and he apparently passed on much of his expertise on to his five sons.

The first son, Edwin B. Lane built a general store in Hampton in 1848, on his father's property just west of the homestead on Exeter Road. The store was a success and, in due time, Edwin left the store in his brother George's charge and moved to Boston.

George was the principal coal dealer in Hampton at that time. He also operated the family store for the next 15 years with his younger brother Joshua as his assistant. George, too, moved on to Salem, Massachusetts where he set up a profitable coal business along with a thriving flour and grain enterprise.

Joshua A. Lane, the third of the brothers, owned and operated the store for many years before passing it on to his son Howard. Joshua built his home a little south of his father's house on Lafayette Road. Those residents who have been around for a while will remember that it was the Joshua Lane house that was demolished to make way for the Lafayette Plaza Shopping Center which now sits on that site.

Joshua's son Howard built his home in 1898, across the street from his father's. Currently the offices of the Foss Manufacturing Company reside at that location. In 1900 Howard built the Lane Block at the corner of High Street and Lafayette Road. It is the current home of the Hampton Hardware Company. Howard moved the family store to that location. He operated the store until the 1930's. It was Howard who, in 1911 donated the money to build the Lane Memorial Library. He was also a president of the Building and Loan Bank, later to become the Hampton Cooperative Bank.

Howard's son Wheaton continued in his father's footsteps despite the fact that he resided in Princeton, NJ. It was Wheaton's bequest to the library that helped make the 1985 addition possible.

Charles H. Lane, the fourth of Captain Ebenezer's sons, left home early in life. He helped found the town of Red Oaks, Iowa setting up a sawmill, general store and bank in that town. The Charles H. Lane Fund had benefitted the children of Hampton at Christmas until after the second World War. Money from the fund also helped to build the cafeteria at Winnacunnet High School and, at the present time, the fund still, distributes money to all town churches.

The fifth of Ebenezer's sons, E. Warren, remained unmarried for the majority of his life and made the family homestead his home. Late in life he married his housekeeper who, after his death, moved back to her home in Bath, Maine. With no heirs the property passed out of the hands of the Lane family with Warren's death in 1911.

Lamie's being raised and upgraded
in November 1930.
[Photo not in original article]

Al and Madeline Lamie purchased the property and began converting it to a public restaurant and tavern in 1928. The Lamies had the house, which originally faced Exeter Road, jacked up and rotated 90 degrees so it fronted onto Lafayette Road. They built the kitchen and dining facilities under the old house. Those facilities form the basis of Lamie's Tavern as it is today. Al dismantled the old barn and used much of the old beams and lumber in the construction of his dining room. He also acquired the original Lane family store and had it moved and attached to the Tavern for additional space. It is now the "Goody" Cole Room at the Tavern and stories abound about the other-worldly experiences of the workmen who helped move and attach the building. It seems that the famous "Witch of Hampton" had been buried under the store and that her spirit traveled with the old structure. [Her precise burial site is not known, but is believed to be in the general area of the Meeting House Green on Park Avenue, not under Lamie's.]

The next owner of the property was a Mr. Tower. He decided to add a snack bar and soda fountain to the tavern in an area now occupied by T.J. Patrick's.

The Dunfey family acquired the property in 1954 and added the motor inn four years later. Lamie's became the first in a chain of Dunfey family hotels and motor inns that extended from Maine to Florida. It is told that virtually every member of the Dunfey clan learned the hospitality business working at the historic Hampton tavern.

In the mid-1980's ownership of the tavern changed hands several times going from the Dunfeys to the Sheraton chain then to the OMNI—Dunfey Hotel group. In 1986 G. Brad Richards of Rye and Benjamin Osgood of North Andover, Ma., assumed ownership and late last year title to the historic property was again transferred this time to Jack and Judy Kopka who are currently (1989) busy at work maintaining the tradition of fine food and lodging that Lamie's has become internationally known for.

This tradition has made Lamie's a frequent stop for all types of visitors to New Hampshire and, particularly, the Tavern has become a tradition in the campaigns of nearly every significant Presidential candidate in recent years. Lamie's has hosted more than just candidates, however. For Thanksgiving in 1963, former President and Mrs. Dwight Eisenhower, along with their son John and his family, spent two nights at Lamie's. They were in the area visiting grandson David who was then a student at Phillips Exeter Academy. A note from the President reads as follows; "I cannot tell you how pleased the entire family was with the hospitality and courtesy that they constantly encountered during their stay at Lamie's. All of us are more than grateful..." These are the same sentiments echoed by Lamie's visitors almost daily since 1928.

Ike and family
Former President Dwight Eisenhower and his family enjoy Thanksgiving dinner at Lamie's Tavern and Motor Inn in 1963. Shown clockwise are grandchildren Mary Jean, Anne and David, Mrs. Mamie Eisenhower, Eisenhower, granddaughter Susan, their daughter-in-law Barbara Eisenhower and their son, Col. John Eisenhower.
["A Colt courtesy photo"]
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