Historic Mill Helps Save Historic Bridge

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Family Donates Wood for Old Stage Road Pass

By Aubry Bracco

Hampton Union, Friday, July 31, 2009

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

This is an artist's rendering of what the new Old Stage Road Bridge will look like after work on it is completed.
[Courtesy Image]

HAMPTON/HAMPTON FALLS -- One piece of Hampton Falls history is playing a part in rehabilitating another.

The Savage family of Wakeda Campground is donating and cutting the wood at their old sawmill that will be used to transform the Old Stage Road Bridge, which connects Hampton and Hampton Falls, into a pedestrian way.

In 1997, Hampton Falls and Hampton were forced to close and blockade the bridge, which connects the two towns, after the state Department of Transportation (DOT) deemed it unsafe. Articles passed at town meetings in both communities, in 2009, authorized the towns to enter into an inter-municipal agreement so that the Old Stage Road Bridge Committee, which is comprised of volunteers from both communities, could move forward with efforts to rehabilitate the bridge.

Committee members are relying on volunteer and local donations to make their vision for the bridge come to life.

Volunteer architect Jack Fermery of Hampton Falls said plans for the 60-foot long by 12-foot wide bridge include a "wooden cover with wood posts over the bridge," complete with a metal roof. Fermery said he works closely with Dick Robinson, Hampton Falls resident and road agent, who is working as a volunteer to head construction on the bridge.

Wayne Barker, another volunteer who lives in town and owns an auto body shop in North Hampton, said efforts are underway to "reclaim the hot-top that's (on the bridge) now." According to Fermery, plans currently call for the paving of the bridge so that it will be "very nice and smooth."

"It's really becoming, very much literally and figuratively, a homegrown project," said Judy Wilson of the Old Stage Road Bridge Committee. "We're doing it ourselves."

Wilson noted the high price the committee would have had to pay if it had relied on outside contractors. She said the generosity of volunteers and "the Savage family have really made this (project) possible."

Charlie Savage, 88, built the sawmill, located at Wakeda Campground, in 1952. According to the family, Charlie used to travel over the bridge to fetch milk from his friend Gary Hurd, at the Hurd Dairy Farm in Hampton. "Three days a week, on Saturday mornings, after work on Tuesdays and Thursdays, he would bring big silver cans of milk home...The cream (was always) floating on top when you opened it. It was right from the cows," said one of Charlie's children, Jan Hambleton.

In addition to dairy needs, the bridge was also a necessary route to visit a relative, Charlie's sister Barbara Top-pan of the historic Toppan family, whose genealogy is a mainstay in Hampton history books.

Terry Savage, Charlie's son, now operates the family's mill at Wakeda Campground. Terry and his crew have already prepared some of the pine purlins that will be used to hold up the roof of the Old Stage Road's covered bridge.

Hambleton said the Savages thought it would "be a nice continuity" to use "Hampton Falls labor and lumber" on the bridge.

For now, the Old Stage Road Bridge Committee, which is not relying on taxpayer dollars, is dedicated to raising funds through the generosity of Hampton Falls and Hampton residents for those expenses that cannot be covered by volunteer skill.

Although there is a long way to go, Wilson said the journey so far has been made possible by the "generosity of people donating service. We haven't had to compromise on quality at all," she added.

"It's so heartwarming to tap into the talent that is here -- the local talent," she said.

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