By Susan Morse
Hampton Union, Sunday, January 4, 2004
HAMPTON - The cause of a fire that destroyed a building at the Hampton River Marina early on Tuesday morning remains under investigation.
The three-alarm fire destroyed a 45-year-old post-and-beam building used to repair boats and a bar and restaurant that had been added onto the building an estimated 15 years ago.
When Hampton firefighters arrived on scene at 3:59 a.m., the building was engulfed, according to firefighter Dave Weber, who was at the scene.
"It was a total loss," he said. "We tried to keep the boats from burning."
Four to six boats were destroyed, with numerous other boats damaged, Weber said.
No one was injured in the fire that destroyed the two-story wood-frame building on the western end of the marina.
"It was a 50-year-old working marina, bar and restaurant," Weber said, "They could take boats inside."
The cavernous layout was part of the problem in fighting the fire, said Weber and firefighter Matt Clement, who were having breakfast at Al Gauron's Luncheonette the day after the fire on Wednesday morning. Weber had just gotten off shift.
"It was wide open, like a church fire," Weber said. "There was fuel in there."
Retired Hampton Fire Lt. Jim Hunt was also discussing the fire over breakfast Wednesday. Hunt said he remembers, as a boy, watching the marina being built.
"It was mainly a big barn," he said.
Hampton lobster fisherman Bobby Nudd keeps his boat at the marina during the winter. His boat, and others of the fishing fleet, were untouched by the fire.
"A good number of commercial boats are in the water. It does not affect any of the people still fishing," he said. "It's a shame. It was an old building, a post-and-beam structure."
The marina was built in the late 1950s, according to those interviewed, and run by George Smith for decades. In the last 20 years, it's been sold at least four times, according to Weber.
It was bought this year by Golden Corridor Limited Partnership of Hampton.
Golden Corridor and Hampton Harbor Condominiums LLC recently received approval from the Hampton Planning Board to build condominiums at a site adjacent to the marina, on land formerly owned by Pier Properties, according to Seabrook resident Susan Foote, whose family owned Pier Properties.
Pier Properties used to house the Smith and Gilmore charter boat business. Smith and Gilmore is still an operating entity out of a different location.
Foote's grandmother, Helen C. Gilmore, built the marina in the late 1950s, Foote said. It was owned by Gilmore and her brother, George Smith, before Smith took over the operation as majority owner in the late 1960s, according to Foote.
Foote, a member of the Seabrook Planning Board, said since she heard Golden Corridor bought the marina, she has been expecting the company to come back to the Hampton Planning Board with a larger condo plan to include both properties.
No one at Golden Corridor could be reached for comment.