Knowles Homestead Fire, 1994

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Appliances Focus of Fire Investigation

Centuries-old Meneghin Home May Be Salvageable

By Steve McGrath

Hampton Union, March 25, 1994

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

The Knowles House

HAMPTON – Electrical components and kitchen appliances are under scrutiny as the investigators probe the cause of a Tuesday night blaze that wreaked severe damage on a Locke Road home that has stood for centuries.

Fire Chief William Sullivan on Thursday declined to specify the kind of appliance that may have touched off the fire at the Meneghin homestead, parts of which were reportedly built as early as 1666, the date on the chimney.

Fire Prevention Officer Steve Bancewicz completed his investigation of the scene by Wednesday afternoon, the chief said, and insurance investigators are also probing the site.

The first firefighters on the scene arrived at 9:20 p.m. and witnessed flames coming from the home. It was unoccupied at the time of the fire, although a member of the Meneghin family has been living there, the chief said.

The rear of the house sustained the heaviest damage, much worse than the front, he said. His layman’s appraisal suggests there’s hope for renovation. “I think it’s salvageable,” he said. “A building that old? It would be a shame to tear it down.”

Last September, a bottle rocket launched from a neighboring street touched off a grass fire in a grove of apple trees in the yard of the home at 24 Locke Road.

Margaret Meneghin lived there until her death on Feb. 2. She was 72.

The North Hampton Fire Department joined the effort Tuesday night. The air-tank support service of Stratham backed both departments, and firefighters from Seabrook and Hampton Falls provided fire station coverage for Hampton. Firefighters wrapped up the job at 2 a.m.

The fire call came on one of Hampton’s much-debated “short” shifts comprising seven instead of eight men. As a result, three initially arrived on the scene instead of four, the chief said, but it didn’t affect the outcome of the fire one bit. If somebody was trapped in the building or the circumstances were different, I could have a different answer.”

For years, the homestead housed the offices of local physician Dr. Peter Meneghin, who started a practice there in the 1950s, according to Peter Randall’s “Hampton: A Century of Town and Beach: 1888-1988.” He lives in North Hampton.

According to the history, John Knowles, a mariner, married Jemima Asten of Hampton and in 1666 purchased a dwelling and 10-acre lot there. The home was “wholly or in part in possession of his descendants for seven generations,” the history says.

The architectural elements are very nice, and it’s one of Hampton’s most beautiful colonials,” said Hampton Historical Society President Betty Moore.

Final word on the cause of the fire could come “in a week,” the chief said, “or a month.”

[Editor's note: The home was not salvaged and was torn down.]

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