James House Doing Historic Landscape

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Hampton Union, Friday, April 15, 2005

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and

Seacoast Online.]

HAMPTON -- James House Association Inc. is in the process of designing an historic landscape for the James House National Historic Site located in Hampton.

Three necessary projects needed to determine the history of the site and its prior uses have been completed. They are a subsurface survey of the 3-acre site, a review of all historical documents pertaining to the site and its residents, and a brainstorming session to obtain opinions and ideas by which an historic landscape master plan can be created.

In November, the subsurface survey was processed by Daniel Lynch of Soil Sight LLC, a Providence firm. The goal of the survey was to determine the location of past landscape features such as gardens, crop fields, walls, fences, animal enclosures, farm roads, privies, trash pits, wells, foundations and to determine sites for future archaeological digs. Using a geophysical survey to reconstruct archaeological or historical landscapes is a recent concept.

Lynch started the project with an electromagnetic conductivity survey using an EM-38 machine. After surveying one-third of the property, computer problems caused Lynch to believe the survey data might have been lost and further use of the machine was not possible. The entire 1-acre site was to have been surveyed by the EM-38.

Lynch had also planned to survey found objects with an electrical resistance meter. This type of meter provides better results than most subsurface survey machines, but is generally used for small surveys because the process is slow and demanding on the surveyor's physical capabilities. However, James House Association Inc. accepted Lynch's substitute offer to survey the entire three acres with the electrical resistance meter.

After the survey was completed, research proved the James House survey is the largest electrical resistance survey ever performed in New England. To perform this survey, brier bushes, honeysuckle, bittersweet, dead trees, and small tree saplings had to be removed from the woods area, which greatly improved the appearance of the James House property.

Lynch returned in December to perform a one-day ground-penetration-radar survey of the grids containing areas covered by asphalt. At that time, Lynch informed the James House board that it would receive the results of the EM-38 survey after all, because he had managed to save the data.

James House Association Inc. members Pat Weeks, Ann Kaiser, Bill Keating, Paul Corbett, Ben Moore, Richard Millette, Dave Colt, Lori Cotter, and Skip Webb assisted with the clearing of the woods area and with setting the archaeological 20-meter-by-20-meter grids along with the survey guidelines.

On Saturday, Feb. 5, the James House Association held a brainstorming session at the Fellowship Hall of the Congregational Church of Hampton. The purpose of this charrette was to gather ideas from citizens, association members, and experts on how to restore the James House grounds to reflect its historical past.

Lucinda Brockway, a professional historic landscape preservationist, was hired by the association to compile information about the James House, to research the history of the grounds and prepare a landscape master plan.

Assisting Brockway has been UNH graduate student and volunteer Elizabeth "Beth" Cilley who is using this project and her research on it as part of her master's thesis.

She started the charrette with a power point display. She began with a brief history of the two families who occupied the James House since its construction in 1723, the James and the Campbell families. Included in her presentation were maps showing how the use of the area had changed from the late 1700s through the construction of Interstate 95 and the addition of the large power lines. Cilley also used the results obtained from the subsurface survey of the James House grounds, which was done in November by Lynch, as part of her presentation.

Among the experts in attendance were Anne Duncan and Anne Masury, both formerly associated with Strawbery Banke landscaping, archaeologist Sheila Charles, and Christopher Patzki of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities.

The James House landscape projects are being funded by a grant under the Coastal Zone Management Act by NGAA's Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, in conjunction with the New Hampshire Coastal Program, Office of Energy and Planning.

For information, contact Ann Kaiser, treasurer and Landscape Committee chairwoman at 926-8538 or Skip Webb, vice president, Archaeology Committee chairman and Program Committee chairman, at 926-3851.

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