Old Courthouse Gets Reprieve

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Selectmen Decide Not to Demolish It

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Friday, November 26, 2010

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

This picture, the former Court House, built in 1873 at a cost of $4,485, comprised of 2 stories, each story had ceilings of 11 feet in height. The building, 47 feet by 32 feet, was originally on the site of the Hampton Centre School on Winnacunnet Road, but when the Centre School was built in 1921-22, it was moved to the corner of Winnacunnet Road and Academy Avenue, (shown above) and served at one time or another as Hampton's first public Kindergarten, American Legion Post #35 hall, Fire Station #2 from 1932, until the new station was built, and more recently the Hampton District Court House until November 7, 2005. The Hampton District Court on Winnacunnet Road was moved to Ledge Road in Seabrook, N.H., effective November 8, 2005, until a permanent building is built.]

HAMPTON -- The former Hampton District Court building that was constructed in 1873 received a reprieve from selectmen this week when they decided not to ask voters for permission to tear it down.

Town Manager Fred Welch suggested that since the board was already planing to ask voters for permission to demolish the old town hall they might as well include the old courthouse — which has also been vacant for a number of years.

While the board supported getting rid of the old town hall, there was a question from at least three board members on the fate of the old courthouse.

"I think it has always been clear that it made sense to demolish the old town hall," Nichols said. "The building inspector has been quoted several times and he said the place has mold and it's a disaster."

Nichols said that hasn't been clear about the old courthouse.

"From my standpoint, if I look at the old courthouse, it's not a bad-looking building and on several occasions there has been interest in restoring it in the future," Nichols said.

In the past, the town's Heritage Commission has been strongly against plans to demolish the building. The commission even hired architect John Merkle via a grant in 2005 to see if the building was worth saving. The report back to the board was that it was in "fine condition with the exception of cosmetics."

Selectman Rick Griffin said others have also been interested in restoring the building to its former glory. Several members of the community in 2006 suggested using the building as a senior/community center during a public forum hosted by Plan NH, a nonprofit organization that hosted a planning charette for the town.

Selectmen Jerry Znoj and Richard Bateman were the only board members who supported removing the building.

Bateman said the building has been vacant since 2005, when the court decided to relocate due to the condition of the building.

At the time, employees complained of mold and said the building had to be fumigated more than once for fleas.

"If you're going to clear up the corner, clear up the corner," Bateman said. "If you are already going to having equipment there, do it."

But Selectman Bill Lally feared that if they included the building, it would diminish the chances of the warrant article from passing.

"I think the article would have a better shot if it's just the old town hall, " Lally said.

The building has been a part of town history since 1873. According to archives from Lane Memorial Library, the building was built where the current Centre School is located at a cost of $4,485.

In 1922, the building was moved to its current location, and through the years served at one time or another as Hampton's public kindergarten, the American Legion Post No. 35 hall, Fire Station 2 and, finally, Hampton District Court.

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