Striving to Save One of the Gems of Hampton's History

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By M. I. MacDonald with John M. Holman, Hampton History Volunteer

Atlantic News, Thursday, July 22, 1999

SEARCHING FOR A NEW HOME -- The Blake Cooper Shop (above), located at Wayside Farm at 263 Mill Road, is one of Hampton's many historical buildings, and one which is in danger of become a victim of economic progress. Efforts are currently underway to save the structure, which will more than likely have to be moved from its present location. [Atlantic News Photo by Nancy Rineman]

HAMPTON - Once again, economic progress and historic preservation clash, with the result that the fate of another historic Hampton structure is in jeopardy.

As Seacoast towns grow and prosper, the demand for space becomes more urgent, and the larger tracts of land that are the region's legacy from centuries of family farms and estates, are inevitably sliced off into smaller parcels of residential and commercial real estate on which new generations stake their claim.

The landscape of New Hampshire retains somewhat its appearance of a classic quilt, as in yesteryear rolling hills, meadows and woodlands formed the squares and seams of the Granite State's heritage quilt, but now that quilt is composed of property lines and pavement, segmenting the landscape.

Still, scattered throughout the state are historic structures that have survived the test of time, often through the dedication of townspeople who "remember when," and historical societies - both local and national - who work together to find a new niche for the homes that history has built, and that have been a part of building history.

The Blake cooper shop may be one such place, if some of Hampton's most concerned citizens succeed in their petitions for preservation.

The Blake Cooper shop was originally located at 62 Little River Road, the former home of Winthrop & Mae Blake. Winthrop was a painter by trade, whose life crossed the bridge between the 19th and 20th centuries; born in 1886, he died in 1960 at the age of 74. Before Winthrop, his father, Amos Knight Blake (1851-1944), was also a painter and lived on the homestead. Amos had married Martina L. Fairbanks, daughter of Rufus S. Johnson, on June 31, 1880.

Even farther back, Amos' father, Dearborn Blake, was a cooper (one who makes barrels); this is where the Blake cooper shop got its name. Dearborn, too, was a painter. He was the son of Jonathan Blake and his wife Mary Ann Godfrey (daughter of Nathan Godfrey).

The cooper shop, a landmark for generations, is no stranger to moving. Many years ago, probably during the 1940s or early-50s, Marshall Holman, a vegetable farmer for more than 40 years since the early 1920s, obtained the cooper shop from Winnie Blake, and had it moved from Little River Road to "Wayside Farm," located at 263 Mill Road, to be used as a vegetable seed storeroom.

Although a shop and greenhouse were attached to it over the years, it, essentially remained structurally unchanged over these many decades. Now that Green & Company has purchased the land surrounding the homestead known fondly as "Wayside Farm" on Mill Road, the area is slated to be the site of a sub-division of 11 homes.

It seems it's time for a new home to be chosen for the c.1820 cooper shop, so that Hampton's heritage will not lose another irreplaceable gem. It has been suggested that an ideal spot for the cooper shop's relocation would be on Barbour Road (originally Black Swamp Road), next to the Barbour blacksmith shop. Supporters of the plan to preserve the shop and the memories (and centuries) it represents hope the arrangement will take place, in order to preserve a little more of Hampton history, that it not succumb to the "proverbial wrecking ball."

The uncertain future of the cooper shop hangs in the balance, but the townspeople of Hampton can retain this historic building that has done its work steadfastly for more than 175 years. Concerned citizens who wish to participate in the process of finding a new home for the Blake cooper shop, or who wish to make their voices heard on the topic and perhaps voice their support of preserving the building, may wish to contact Arthur Caira of the Hampton Historical Society at 926-5969, or Steve McGinnis of the Hampton Heritage Commission at 926-0505, for further information on this and other classic structures in the area, and also for guidance on historic preservation efforts in Hampton.

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