The Casino: The Way It Was

Return to Casino Table of Contents

By David Vaughan

Atlantic News

July 5, 1977

Though it is not yet classified as such, the Hampton Beach Casino is, to many, a historical landmark. It has been, still is, and probably always will be the heart of Hampton Beach. It has been the center attraction at New England's most popular summer resort for more than 50 years. The Casino has entertained the public down through the years with such great names as Dorsey, Miller, and Lombardo and has hosted the likes of such great contemporary musicians as The Beach Boys, Pattie Page and Chicago.

It all began back in 1899. It was in that year that the Casino was built. The wood frame structure was two and a half stories in height and measured about 190 feet by 36 feet in area, with porches present on all four sides of the building at both the ground and second floor levels.

The Casino was financed by the Exeter, Hampton & Amesbury Street Railway (EH&A). Its doors were first opened to the public on July 4, 1899 but was not fully completed until a later date. In the top floor of the Casino were eight sleeping rooms which were arranged for the employment at that time. At the southern end of that same floor was constructed a suite of rooms that were made available for rent.

The second floor was utilized for a large dancing and entertainment hall and also housed a spacious dining room, which contained an open fireplace made of seastones and lined with shells.

The lower floor consisted of a dining room and a cafe. However, much of the lower floor was made up of two bowling alleys, one billiard and two pool tables.

Baseball behind the Casino

The rear of the Casino was reserved for recreation, namely baseball and tennis. Also, behind the building, a structure was situated containing 100 dressing rooms for bathers.

Across from the Casino, on the water side of Ocean Boulevard, a kiosk was constructed for band concerts.

The EH&A's facilities were increased in 1900 when a 57-room hotel, the "Ocean House," was built to the north of the Casino. Also added that same year was a two and half story convention hall at the south end of the building. The hotel was connected to the Casino by a bridge or walkway at the second floor level. It contained 47 sleeping rooms and, according to its advertising, claimed that there were electric lights in every room, hot and cold running water and an electric bell system to summon room service.

The convention hall had a frontage of 47 feet and was 110 feet deep. The lower section contained a billiard room with three tables and four regulation bowling alleys, while most of the second level was occupied by a large hall, to be used for conventions, family gatherings and dancing.

A year later in 1901, another addition was provided with the construction of an "Opera House" at the building's southern end, adjacent to the convention hall. This section was 58 feet wide and 120 feet deep and, like the rest of the structure, was two and a half stories high. The first floor housed 156 dressing rooms for bathers and on the second was a large auditorium, seating 700. Two hexagonal towers at the front corners of the new addition were built and their presence helped to compliment the overall beauty of the casino and also gave the sightseer a commanding view of the surrounding seacoast area. The Casino porches had been extended along the front of the convention hall and were further extended along the new "Opera House."

Within the next few years, a new band stand was erected and a new boardwalk was laid along the sea wall on th shore opposite the Casino. Also, the orignal building was extensively renovated to provide additional dining room facilitities. At the rear of the Casino a merry-go-round was provided for the children and a gun cottage, with a clay pigeon shoot attached, was constructed.

As the summers passed, the Casino offered the finest in vaudeville and specialty shows in the"Opera House": there were baseball games being played continuously in the building's rear; the popular band concerts were carried on, and the EH&A initiated the famous Carnival Week that was a late summer event for more than 60 years. All sorts of conventions, outings and picnics of fraternal, social and religious organizations were commonplace at the Casino and various "special days" were held for resident of surrounding communities and for various mercantile and professional groups.

In the early 1920's, the EH&A sold the Casino and its properties to John Dineen, Sr., John Cuddy, and Napolean Demara. These new owners added a ballroom to the second level of the building. This ballroom still exists today (1977).

In 1937, John Dineen, Sr. died, leaving his share of the Casino operation to his son John and his family. By the early 1950's, John Dineen, Jr. and his family were the sole owneres of the entire complex and from then until this past year, operated the Casino as a family interest.

Last year (1976), Dineen's family sold the Hampton Beach Casino to Fred Schaake, Sam Waterhouse, Paul Grandmason, James Goodwin, Sr. and James Goodwin, Jr. They plan to restore the Casino to somewhat its original style. This project should get under way next fall. Hopefully, they will be able to get the building classified as an historic building.

Since its inception, the Hampton Beach Casino has grown and changed with the times.

And as long as the Casino can keep up with the public, it will continue to be the symbol of Hampton Beach, New Hampshire.

Return to Casino Table of Contents