Unitil Helps James House Move Ahead

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By Liz Premo

Special to the Atlantic News

Atlantic News, Friday, September 30, 2005

[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News]
MOVING DAY -- Tom Corbett (left) of the James House Association is pictured here with fellow members Skip Webb, Bill Keating and Ansell Palmer on one of the nature trails located on the James House property. The associates are flanked by personnel from Unitil Corporation, who helped remove the abandoned utility poles from the grounds of the historic homestead. [Atlantic News Photo by Liz Premo]

HAMPTON -- Sometimes the little guy simply needs a helping hand from the big guy. And when the big guy brings along some extra power to get the job done, it's even better.

Such was the case when Hampton-based Unitil Corporation provided a valuable community service by assisting the James House Association with removing some ancient debris from the grounds of the historic homestead.

Using "a digger truck with a chain," as Unitil personnel described it, about 20 old and abandoned utility poles were pulled out from a wooded area through which a nature trail is in the process of being established.

"They've been there forever," said Association member Bill Keating of the moss-mottled poles, all of varying diameters and lengths. Most of the poles were piled in one place among the brush, with a couple of strays scattered close by in various spots around the property.

Keating's fellow James House associate, Tom Corbett figured that the poles were deposited there about 20 years ago by the homestead's previous owner, with the possible intention of using the wood to build a fence.

Because the abandoned timber would obviously not fit into recently developed landscape plans, the decision was quickly made to haul them out as soon as possible.

However, the task was, Corbett said, "beyond our means and ability" to accomplish.

That's where the local electric company came in. It was Corbett who contacted Unitil "to see if they would give us a hand." The answer, much to Association members' collective elation, was "yes."

Corbett was able to make arrangements with the utility to provide machine power as well as manpower to move the poles out of the woods and off the property.

"Unitil was completely cooperative from the beginning," said Corbett. "I talked to three of the nicest people in the world," including Field Services Supervisor Sam Horton.

And not only were the behind-the-scenes and the hands-on help most welcome, they also came at a very agreeable price.

"They're coming out and doing this for free," said Keating of Unitil. "It's quite an effort."

Said effort goes well beyond merely relocating some unwanted wood, which had been discovered about a year ago when the grounds surrounding the James House were being analyzed and studied for an historic landscaping project.

"All of these actions come under our landscape plans that Cindy (Lucinda) Brockway just recently completed for us," explained Keating. "This allows us to free this trail up."

Brockway, of Past Designs in Kennebunk, Maine, had researched the historic uses of the three acres of land that surround the James House. A study of the land itself, as well as brainstorming sessions, was instrumental in Brockway's development of the master plan illustrating the proposed treatment for the landscape.

Creating and widening the nature trails, ridding the grounds of invasive species, re-establishing fruit orchards and other related landscaping duties are all currently on the James House Association's "to-do" list. And now, thanks to Unitil, the note to "remove old utility poles" has been scratched off that list.

The James House landscape projects are funded by a grant under the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Department of Commerce, and sponsored by the State of New Hampshire's Department of Environmental Services.

Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002, the James House "presents an important opportunity to preserve the architectural and historic value of a rare first period house." For more information about the James House, call Association Acting President Skip Webb at (603) 926-3851 or visit www.jameshousemuseum.org.

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