Small Businesses, Shops and Stores

Chapter 15 -- Part 12

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Small Businesses, Shops and Stores

Compiling the story of Hampton's small businesses gets more difficult as one approaches the present day. Once a small town where the opening and closing of each and every business, store, and shop was important to the community, Hampton is now so large, with so many varied businesses, that this book does not attempt to trace the history of contemporary business except where there is an historical connection through the building or its ownership.

In 1888, the business district of Hampton was oriented along eastern Exeter Road, not on Lafayette Road as it is today. Grocery, or general, stores were Hampton's most important small businesses, and three of them were located on Exeter Road: the stores of John W. Mason, Joshua A. Lane and Company, and David 0. Leavitt. All three stores are shown in accompanying photographs. The oldest business of the three was the Lane store, begun in 1848 by Edwin B. Lane, in a building that is now the Coldwell Banker DFC Realtors office, attached to Lamie's Tavern, and known for years previously as the "Goody Cole" function room. Joshua and George Lane, younger brothers of Edwin, ran the store together for a while; then Joshua succeeded George. In front of the Lane store, Norman Marston built in 1886 a large water trough, with the words Pro Bono Publico painted on it. During the heat of the summer, the Portsmouth Chronicle said 15 to 30 teams an hour stopped there for water. In 1891, Marston received $6 from the Town for "public use of pump." Perhaps because it had been a tradition to take younger people into the firm, young Ernest G. Cole, a Hampton resident and a Dartmouth College graduate who had worked for Lane during school vacations, became a partner in the store in 1891.

Across the street from Lane's was the store of David 0. Leavitt, who first started in business in 1865 in the J. R. Towle building at the corner of Exeter Road and Lafayette Road, then for some years was located in the John A. Towle building. Later he moved back to the first building. The latter building was replaced in April 1890 with the three-story Shaw Block. Here Leavitt sold groceries, had two teams of order and delivery wagons on the road, and ran the town's only apothecary. The Shaw Block, which also housed Thomas N. Chase's notions store and other businesses, was built by Mrs. Edward Shaw, who was described by the News-Letter as "one of the most ambitious women in Rockingham County .... She is quiet and unassuming, but for skill and energy her equal cannot be found." Mrs. Shaw took in summer boarders at her home on Winnacunnet Road, was a taxidermist, made "gilt edged butter" that she sold for 50 cents per pound, and also owned a tenement and a boardinghouse near the depot. She and her husband owned some 500 acres of land in Hampton and Nottingham.

Farther west on Exeter Road, across the railroad tracks, was the John W. Mason dry-goods store and grocery, and behind it was a billiard and pool hall originally built by Amos Albert Towle and George Dow The Mason store (located in the John A. Towle building) originally was operated by Dana Brown but was sold to brothers Frank and John Mason. Frank later left his brother to work for the Batchelder Meat Market. In July 1889, John relocated to the new Merrill Block, built by Dr. William T. Merrill. Built primarily to house Mason's store, it is still standing on the south side of High Street. Joining Mason in the building was the Batchelder Meat Market, the post office, and an adjoining confectionery store operated by Postmaster Myron Cole. Upstairs were halls for the Jr. O.U.A.M. and the G.A.R. After five years with Joshua A. Lane, Ernest Cole left the business in October 1897 and a month later purchased the John Mason store, in partnership with Clarence Dearborn.

Another important commercial building of the pre-1900 era was the Odd Fellows Block, built by that organization in 1895. The Rockingham Lodge of Odd Fellows formed in Hampton Falls but grew to 300 members and needed a larger building for its meetings, hence the construction of the business block on Lafayette Road. The building lot was purchased from Mrs. William Perry. There were no other buildings between the Odd Fellows and the square. The Odd Fellows meeting hall was on the top floor, with commercial space rented out below. In 1898, contractor Charles Orrin Stevens heightened the tower to house the clock that was given to the town by John Brown [of Newburyport, Massachusetts].

Bisecting the commercial buildings and dwellings along Exeter Road was the Boston & Maine Railroad's Eastern Division tracks. Towle's crossing on Exeter Road and Ward's crossing farther south on Lafayette Road were dangerous for highway travelers and the street railway and an annoyance for the steam railroad. On August 28, 1899, at about 11 P.M., a streetcar lost its electrical connection and stopped on the Exeter Road railroad crossing. Before a repair could be made, the northbound Bar Harbor Express crashed into the streetcar, smashing the latter into kindling. Fortunately the streetcar had no passengers, and the motorman and the conductor jumped to safety. A conductor on the train was cut by glass, but there were no other injuries. The railroad had already been making plans for improvements, but this accident proved the need for changes at the crossing. In October 1899, the railroad received approval from the New Hampshire Board of Railroad Commissioners to construct highway bridges over the railroad at Towle's and Ward's crossings and to build an underpass behind the Toppan Farm, which was located on Lafayette Road opposite the corner with Winnacunnet Road. The construction project set off a chain of events that resulted in the relocation of the commercial center of town from Exeter Road to Lafayette Road, creating a collection of buildings that has hardly changed in appearance from that time.

Hampton, of course, had no planning board in those days, but through private enterprise, the businesspeople and property owners agreed on a plan to move the buildings from Exeter Road to Lafayette Road and elsewhere in town. Recycling buildings was common in earlier days, and many structures were moved to new locations rather than torn down, as now seems to be the case. (Moving buildings now is far more expensive because of the many telephone, electrical, fire-alarm, and cable-television wires that have to be disturbed.) In recent years, the residential sections of Lafayette Road in Seabrook, Hampton Falls, and Hampton have been converted to commercial areas, and dozens of older houses, some dating to the eighteenth century, have been razed. Only a few have been moved and saved. As related elsewhere, in 1883, the old Hampton Academy, which was built at Meeting House Green on Park Avenue, was moved across the fields to Academy Avenue, where it was used until the main building of the current Hampton Academy Junior High School was built [1940]. Another moving project occurred in April 1898, when Harry B. Brown bought Henry Johnson's 20-by-32-foot house located in western Hampton Falls. On a Friday and Saturday, six spans of horses and 15 teams of oxen brought the house through a corner of Exeter and down Exeter Road to Hampton, where it was placed on what is now Dearborn Avenue, then a newly developed street called Highland Avenue. According to the Exeter News-Letter, "No such string of cattle has for years been seen in this town which once boasted them by the score." Brown remodeled the structure into rental property.

Apparently the railroad's permit to build the overpass also gave it eminent-domain powers to purchase the land and buildings along the right-of-way, especially those structures on both sides of Exeter Road (then called Main Street). By January 1900, the company was negotiating for the sale of the buildings while the overpass construction was underway. As the finest commercial building in town, the Shaw Block was purchased by the railroad for $1,500. John W. Buswell, of Ellis & Buswell, one of the project contractors, bought several buildings from the railroad, including the DeLancey and Howard G. Lane residences, the Shaw Block, and the Towle building.

At this time, on the north side of High Street (then called the New Road), were the homes of Cotton Brown and Joseph Dearborn, and across the street was the Merrill Block, but there was only an empty lot owned by J. Freeman Williams on the south corner of High Street and Lafayette Road. Just south of Freeman's lot was a small building that was Jamie DeLancey's express office, now used as Earl's Barber Shop. Buswell bought part of Freeman's lot and, from Exeter Road, he moved to the corner of High Street and Lafayette Road the three-story Shaw Block, and, beside it to the south, the Edward B. Towle store, the building now occupied by Marelli's. The latter building was located west of the railroad tracks and was moved with the chimneys and all of the Towle goods intact. The third large building located on this side of Lafayette Road is now Colt News Store and the Casassa and Ryan law offices. Originally located behind the Mason-Towle store on Exeter Road, the building was likely constructed prior to 1883; about 1889, it was Thomas N. Chase's store. Williams bought this building from Buswell and moved it to its present location, fitting it out as George Lindsay's barber and candy shop with a billiard table in the back.

Other buildings moved included the Howard G. Lane house, which was relocated to 8 Dearborn Avenue; the Warren Towle house, which Harry Brown bought and moved to (possibly) 36 Exeter Road, where it was remodeled by John Berry of North Hampton; the John Albert Towle residence, which was moved to 65 Exeter Road, where it was occupied by Alvin True and was for many years the home of William Brooks; and the Randolph DeLancey house, sold to Perley and Howard Lamprey for $675 including moving to Five Corners, where it was converted to, and is still in use as, a duplex at 294 High Street. The old buildings on the north side of Exeter Road, east of the railroad tracks, belonging to the estate of David Philbrick met a different fate. The barn was sold to E. Warren Lane and moved to his farm, the site of Lamie's Tavern. Harry Brown bought the ell from the Philbrick house and moved it west along Exeter Road to the vicinity of the street-railway barn, and Philbrick's old house was torn down.

On the north side of High Street, the Cotton Brown house was moved east from the corner to make room for Joshua A. Lane and Company to build a new block for its expanded grocery store. The building also had space for other first-floor stores and apartments upstairs. Now in this building are Hampton Village Hardware and various offices. The Cotton Brown house, for many years the office of Dr. Wayne P. Bryer, is now Tobey and Merrill Insurance Agency.

As part of the railroad project, the passenger depot was relocated from near Exeter Road to its present location (now Depot Honda in Marelli Square), the freight depot moved north of Exeter Road, and the roadbed was double-tracked to permit more train traffic. Several local contractors were employed by the railroad; one, Harry B. Brown, provided some 19,000 wagonloads of fill for the Exeter Road overpass.

Italian workmen were the primary laborers on the railroad project, and one of them, Francisco Maraglio, about 45, was killed in January 1900 when hit by a construction train while he was carrying water across the construction site. Many of these immigrant workers were saving money to bring their families to America, and Maraglio was carrying $450 in cash, a huge sum in those days. The General Moulton house had been rented as housing for the Italian workers, and the News-Letter's Hampton correspondent commented that the mansion's "fall from its former high estate is deplorable and its present use to many seems a desecration." When the workers moved out in July, the newspaper said the house was left in "deplorable condition .... Assisted by Dr. Ward, Mr. Swift of the Board of Health, is now giving it a thorough fumigation."

Completing the transformation of downtown Hampton at this time was the construction of several new homes. Howard G. Lane, who was associated with his father in the grocery store and who had lost his house to the bridge project, purchased the property of Mrs. William Perry, who owned the house at 400 Lafayette Road. Built by John Tuck about 1785, it was operated as a tavern for many years by the Leavitt family, then was owned by Joseph Ballard, a Boston merchant, who lived in the house for some 52 years. Except for this house, the rest of this parcel of land, stretching from the Odd Fellows Block south to the Toppan Farm, was open.

Edward B. Towle, who also had lost his house to the bridge project, purchased from Lane the lot next to the Odd Fellows Block. Built by North Hampton contractor-architect John W. Berry, and still standing at 418 Lafayette Road, Towle's house has natural woodwork and many built-in cupboards and rows of drawers. The next building lot south was purchased by Mrs. Mary A. Higgins of Waverly, Massachusetts, "who may be expected to have erected one of the finest dwellings in Hampton." This large house at 408 Lafayette Road, apparently also designed and built by John W. Berry, is the former law office of Sanders & McDermott. Some accounts credit Charles Orrin Stevens as the builder of this house.

The building next south is the old Perry House, now called the Deacon John Tuck Homestead, and south of it, in the so-called Perry garden lot, Howard G. Lane built his large house, now the executive offices of the Foss Company. Contractor Stevens built this house as well as the large Lane Block. South of Lane's house, Fred Sanborn, who had recently moved to Hampton Falls, built a dwelling where he ran a lunch room, candy store, and barbershop. One of Hampton's few Democrats, Sanborn counted upon his fellow party members as customers. Most Republicans apparently patronized Irving Marston's barbershop (later sold to Chester Marston), which was located on the second floor of the Shaw building. Sanborn's house was eventually torn down when the property was sold by Wheaton Lane, son of Howard, for the Edgewood Shopping Center in 1966. At one time, Wheaton owned all four of the houses from Fred Sanborn's to the former Sanders & McDermott office. Lane apparently wanted to keep that section of Lafayette Road residential in character.

The movement of so many buildings and the construction of the Lane Block also caused the relocation of several small businesses. The old J. A. Lane store was left in place, although it was raised 8 feet because of the bridge approach. For some years it was the office of the Hampton Union, later becoming the Goody Cole room of Lamie's Tavern. In its new store, J. A. Lane and Company occupied one-third of the ground floor. The new building placed the firm diagonally across from the E. G. Cole & Company store, beginning a local rivalry between two of the community's most important businessmen. Howard Lane and Ernest Cole were members of the first graduating class of the Hampton Academy and High School in 1887, both later attending college. Lane then moved to Minnesota, where he became treasurer for a Duluth quarrying company. Cole became a partner of Lane's father in the store and eventually sold his interest to Howard Lane when Cole bought the Mason store. Both stores had delivery teams on the road, serving the Village and the Beach.

Horace Eastow Hobbs recalled that his mother liked the competition, since she could play one store against the other when selling her eggs. Stillman Hobbs, whose father was a longtime delivery driver for Cole and Lane, worked for several summers in the Lane store with his friend and classmate Wheaton Lane. The Lane store was managed by Charles M. Batchelder, who, at various times, was postmaster, a school board member, and the school janitor. Ironically, Lane and Cole also were residential neighbors -- Lane with his new house on Lafayette Road and Cole next door in the Perry house. Cole, who eventually owned several stores, including the Shaw Block, where his grocery store was relocated, and what is now Colt News Store, was postmaster, tax collector, state representative, a founder of the water company, director of the street railway and the electric company, and a developer of summer properties on the North Shore. At one time Cole had seven horses -- two for hauling coal, four for grocery deliveries, and one for driving. The Lane Block, which for years was the town's finest commercial space, was the center of Howard Lane's activities, but he was a member of a family that, according to one long-time resident, "always had money." He became a philanthropist, donating and building the original Lane Library, an interest that was shared by his son, Wheaton, who made major donations for the two most recent additions to the library.

E. G. Cole died in 1936, and in 1940 Donald Rand purchased the grocery and both the Shaw and the Merrill blocks. Rand continued the Cole name until 1949, when the grocery became a Red and White Supermarket. Warren Sawyer operated a grocery store there for five years, then in 1956 built a new supermarket north at 845 Lafayette Road. From 1965 until 1978, the former Sawyer supermarket building was Eames Furniture. Now it is Newick's Restaurant.

In 1900, Ervin L. Dow, whose department store had been in the Odd Fellows Block, moved to the new Lane building, and Thomas N. Chase replaced Dow at the Odd Fellows. Dow went out of business in September 1900, just a few months after he had opened his new store, and in December 1901, Frank Mason, who had worked for the Batchelder Meat Market for 10 years, opened his own meat store where Dow had been located in the Lane Block. At the same time, the Batchelders sold their meat business to F. W. Vennard, but the Batchelders retained their Exeter, North Hampton, and Rye meat-delivery routes. James W. Field established a furniture and undertaking business in the Odd Fellows Block, but in the autumn of 1901, a retired Congregational minister, the Reverend Ira S. Jones, bought the business, retaining Arthur J. Eriksen as undertaker. Public-spirited, Jones was a founder of the Village Improvement Society, and to Jones goes the credit for the development of Meeting House Green.

Even with all of this apparent business activity, Hampton was not a major shopping center. The street railway perhaps doomed the commercial business of the town as residents found it easy to travel to bigger communities where more stores offered larger selections, and even today most Hampton people shop out of town. The December 16, 1899, edition of the Hampton Union carried mostly Amesbury and Newburyport advertising, with some from shops in North Hampton, Portsmouth, and Exeter. Into the middle of this century, Irving ("Soup") Campbell, who worked for the Union, recalled that the printing of the paper was often delayed while the pressmen waited for the delivery of a much-needed large advertisement from the Sceva Spear store in Haverhill. Hampton advertisers in 1899 were barber Irving W. Marston, who operated the Railway Waiting Station and took in laundry as an agent for the Amesbury Steam Laundry, The Boston Store (Ervin L. Dow), jeweler John S. Gilman, Dr. Ward, carpenter and lumber dealer S. Wesley Dearborn and his son Clarence's bicycle shop, Batchelder's Meat Market, E. G. Cole & Co. (two small ads), J. A. Lane & Co., harness maker George H. Elkins, fish dealer W. L. Redman, insurance agent Abbott Norris, barber George Lindsey, and house painter George A. Johnson. Another regular advertiser was "Mrs. Ellen I. Brown, Clairvoyant, sittings $1."

One of several blacksmiths in Hampton was Nelson J. Norton, who opened the Hampton Carriage and Smith Shop in 1897 just east of the shoe factory where he also made delivery wagons used by local stores and peddlers. The delivery-wagon aspect of the grocery business declined after World War I. Automobiles became common and people could easily drive to the stores, and the concept of cash-and-carry became the standard business practice for the grocery stores, which in earlier years had issued credit to most of their customers.

Probably Hampton's oldest store building is situated at 258 Winnacunnet Road, east of the Elmwood. Originally located across the street at the corner of Landing Road, the building is thought to have been constructed in the late 1700s as a dwelling. Elisha Johnson converted the two front rooms into a store, and it was then apparently the only one in town. Some customers came by boat to the Landing to trade with Johnson, who was succeeded by his nephew, John L. Leavitt, who had begun working in the store at age nine. The building was moved about 1870 and was operated by John Wilcutt, Jr., until 1890. In the 1930s, it was the Albert Daigle ice-cream cone factory. Daigle made some 10,000 sugar cones daily, supplying customers from Lawrence, Massachusetts, to Old Orchard Beach, Maine. The building is now a residence.

In the Hotel Whittier, nineteenth-century Hampton had the region's leading restaurant and hotel. Situated on the northeast corner of Winnacunnet Road and Lafayette Road, the hotel was the center of Hampton social activity at the turn of the century. Although taverns had been on the site since 1713, the Hotel Whittier of 1900 was apparently constructed about 1816. After the Civil War, it was called the Union House until 1890, when it was renamed by owner Otis H. Whittier, who had been the landlord since 1864. The hotel was expanded in 1885 with the building of a two-story addition with a 100-person-capacity dining hall. A new dance floor was called the finest in the state by the News-Letter's unbiased correspondent, who wrote, "It is smooth as marble and woe to the dancer who gives his attention to aught beside dancing." The hotel's accommodations were apparently more fashionable than those at the Beach, because many summer guests stayed at this Village hotel and rode its coach for excursions to the Beach and elsewhere in the seacoast. Another major improvement occurred in June 1900, when Whittier purchased from a Little Boar's Head estate a bowling alley building, 80 feet long with two lanes. Contractor Curtis DeLancey assembled two yokes of oxen and 19 spans of horses to pull the long, narrow building to its new location at the hotel. With electric lights, a new artesian well, and steam heat, the Whittier was a popular destination throughout the year. With the winter snows came sleighing teams bringing up to 30 people from as far away as Amesbury and Portsmouth for evenings of dinner and dancing. Perhaps to support this business, Whittier bought his own snowplow to break out the roads in the Village.

A typical evening at the hotel was described in a News-Letter article in August 1893: "Hotel Whittier has had its most prosperous summer for the last 29 years of the present management, and its best class of patrons. Last Saturday evening was given a highly successful masquerade ball that was the occasion of no little enjoyment to at least 200 attendants—guests at the Whittier, villagers and sojourners at the beach. It was really a brilliant affair." A three-piece orchestra composed of cornet, violin, and piano gave afternoon and evening concerts. In 1894, the village was brightened considerably when the Whittier was painted lemon yellow.

In July 1911, perhaps weary after running the hotel for 47 years, Whittier leased the property to Charles L. Hubbell of Boston, and later to Levi Willcutt of Farmington, Maine. The Union expressed pleasure that the Whittiers only leased the hotel and would remain as residents. Apparently competition from the Beach finally caught up with the hotel, and without the popular Whittier as landlord, the business declined. In December 1916, when his lease was about to expire, Willcutt closed the doors. Fire destroyed the building a few days later. Although most of the outbuildings survived the blaze, the hotel was never rebuilt. Whittier died in 1920 at age 83. Currently, a service station and Friendly's Restaurant occupy the site, but just east of these buildings is Odyssey House, an adolescent drug-treatment facility established in 1970 in the former Whittier Inn, which was built in 1923 as the Hotel Echo. An earlier, smaller boarding-house on the site, also called Hotel Echo, built and owned by Charles O. Stevens, burned in 1913.

The Hotel Whittier was Hampton's largest hotel, but it was not the only place of its type in the Village. On Exeter Road, west of the steam railroad, was the Franklin House, built as a tavern in 1836 and run until 1848 by Loring Dunbar. With the coming of the street railway, Dunbar's son, Melzar, reopened the inn, remodeling it with electric bells and lights, telephones, and central heat. Later called the Hampton House, and (since 1910) the Mason House, it burned in 1912.***

Boardinghouses were also popular in Hampton, catering to less affluent summer guests in season and commercial travelers and local factory workers year round. One place was W. Harrison Hobbs's Ocean View Farm, now the parish house of the Trinity Episcopal Church. Hampton apparently had fewer trees in those days, for when Hobbs remodeled the attic in 1897, the newspaper correspondent said views extended west to the hills of Deerfield and Pittsfield, south to the Merrimack River, and east to the Atlantic Ocean.

At the intersection of Mill Road and High Street were three other boardinghouses. On the northeast corner was the house of Mrs. Elizabeth D. Berry, originally built in 1888 with a distinctive tower or cupola on the front. Across Mill Road on High Street was Mrs. John W. (Lillian) Roberts's boardinghouse, called Shady Lawn, where 45 guests were served home-cooked meals. Across High Street from it was Mrs. Joseph H. Durant's boardinghouse. At the corner of Winnacunnett and Mill Roads was the large DeLancey boarding-house. During the summer, the guests at these houses boarded the trolley running along Winnacunnet Road. All four of these buildings are standing, and each remains rental property.

Another boardinghouse, which continues to the present as a bed-and-breakfast, is the Elmwood on Winnacunnet Road, opposite Landing Road. Named after the huge and historic elm that once stood beside the house, the business was begun in the late 1890s by Mary Augusta Walton and her second husband, Daniel Trefethen, who died in 1896. She married a third husband, Samuel Walton of Seabrook, in 1900, and the same year, the farm was enlarged with a two-and-a-half-story ell. She died in 1945 at age 102. The business was then being operated by her daughter, Irene Trefethen Burnham, who was assisted for many years by her nephew (Mrs. Walton's grandson from her first marriage), Roland W. Paige. Mrs. Burnham, who died in 1980 at age 96, was a one-woman welfare agency during the last half of her life. She collected all manner of used clothing, shoes, furniture, glassware, eyeglasses, and similar items, which she distributed to needy people locally and in surrounding towns, and to various agencies that sent some of the items around the world.

Farther east on Winnacunnet Road is the Garland Homestead, which also was a boardinghouse for a number of years. Here the 25 guests enjoyed Lillian Garland's home-cooked meals, which featured milk and produce from the farm.

Soon to be forgotten, perhaps, are several other businesses catering to travelers. Several cabin colonies once were located along Lafayette Road north of Ann's Lane. Fallen victim to motels and other commercial developments have been Gregory's Cabins, the Morning Glory Cabins [located on the corner of Watson's Lane and {#879 & #881} Lafayette Road and operated by Mr. and Mrs. Johnson in the 1940's], and others. In the 1950s, motels came into vogue, and among the first in the Village was the Town and Beach Motel, built about 1953 by George Bushway at the corner of Lafayette Road and Ann's Lane. This was the location of the Lafayette House [Inn], a restaurant started by the Bristol family after their Beach garage was destroyed by fire in 1921. The restaurant was moved to make room for the motel, and it is now the home of Phyllis Tucker on Ann's Lane. Cabins were also built elsewhere in town. Still operating are the Donna Jean Cabins on High Street, and the former Pinky Villa cabin colony is now the Carriage House Motel, on Winnacunnet Road.

Hampton is now served by four drugstores, but only one was available to residents in the early years. In the late 1880s, Postmaster Frank Laird ran an apothecary shop (and the post office) in David Leavitt's Exeter Road store; later Leavitt took over the drug business when Laird moved to Newmarket. About 1906, Everett P. Sanborn opened a drugstore in the Odd Fellows Block. The popularity of the place was enhanced in 1911 when Sanborn installed an immense soda fountain, a model called 'Consolation,' equipped with ten spigots, and three draught tubes. The fountain counter and mirror base is Tennessee marble and the mirror is eight feet long and set off with mahogany." Many early Hampton postcards were produced and sold by Sanborn. In 1913, Sanborn ran afoul of the liquor laws, sold his business to Victor H. Garland, his former employee, and left town. Garland died of influenza in 1915 at age 27. In 1918, P. J. Paty was operating the Hampton Rexall Pharmacy in the Odd Fellows Block.

Tobey's Drug Store was started in 1908 by Nathan P. Tobey in Dover. About 1923, he came to Hampton and purchased the Charles Green Pharmacy, then in the Odd Fellows Block. In 1928, the Tobey Drug Company began manufacturing Ex-mint (the fore-runner of Pepto-Bismol) in the Odd Fellows Block. [Editor's note: Pepto Bismol was first developed in the early 1900s by a New York doctor and pharmaceutical company. It was called "Pepto-Bismol" beginning in 1919. Whatever "Ex-Mint" was, it was not the forerunner of Pepto Bismol.) Years earlier, Nathan had been in the sporting-goods business in Boston, and, Greta Hall, boardinghouse of Mrs. E. D. Berry, with parmer George Wright, had introduced ice hockey into this country. Succeeded in the business by his son Alton in 1938, Nathan died in 1940. Fire destroyed the building at the corner of Lafayette Road and Marelli Square in 1943, and it was replaced by the second Cogger Block. Tobey moved his business to the new block in 1946, operating the pharmacy, a lunch counter, and a Greyhound bus terminal. Long a successful businessman and active in community organizations, Tobey and his wife drowned tragically in 1958. They were returning from an evening at the Wentworth-by-the-Sea in New Castle when their small cabin cruiser sank, apparently after hitting a ledge off Hampton Beach. The business was continued by their son-in-law, John I. Ratoff, until 1977. A former state representative, Ratoff was a New Hampshire liquor commissioner from 1969 until 1977, served as a state negotiator until 1984, and is now commissioner of employment security.

The longest continuing business in the Village, as Hampton Center was long known, is Marelli's store, started about 1915 primarily as a fruit store by Louis (Luigi) Marelli and operated today by his children. The store was known for its large penny-candy selection, which Louis carried because he especially loved the town's children. When some of them grew up and served in World War II, Marelli sent them Christmas baskets of fruit and goodies. The store became an institution, with Louis and his wife, Celestina, always behind the counter dispensing friendiiness along with a loaf of bread or a bottle of milk. Marelli died in 1959, and the following year, in tribute to his generosity, the square was named in his honor by a vote of the town meeting. Mrs. Marelli continued to work in the store until her death in 1983.

Another longtime Hampton business is Colt News Store. At the turn of the century, barber George Lindsey had the store and also sold newspapers and confectionery items. The building was eventually bought by E. G. Cole, who maintained a business office in the back room. Most of the space was the office of the Hampton Water Works Company, of which Cole was an officer. In a small space, Cole also sold periodicals, cards, and candy. David Colt was a photographer who came to Hampton Beach to work for the Dudley and White Studio. He eventually moved to the Village to operate the restaurant, at the corner of Lafayette Road and Marelli Square, that had been started at the turn of the century by Irving Powers. Before Colt, it was operated by a Mr. and Mrs. Buck. In 1924, Colt purchased Green's Spa, which was located in the present Colt News Store, and he sold his restaurant to Albert Z. Lamie. (In 1930, Lamie sold the restaurant, and it was operated over the years by Parramore, Johnston, and Foley until the building burned in 1943.) Colt sold newspapers, added a soda fountain, and began a photo-finishing business. The Hampton Water Works Company moved next door to the office between Colt's and Marelli's. After deciding to concentrate on photo finishing, Colt sold his news store to Hazel Simonds and her daughter Mrs. Olga Casassa in 1944. Colt continued with Colt Photo until 1951, when he sold it to Kirby and Caroline Higgins, who operated the business until Kirby's sudden death in 1965. The Colt News Store building has undergone major changes. The stores were once reached by a flight of stairs, but E. G. Cole lowered the building to street level and in 1945, Simonds and Casassa remodeled the front, enlarged the building, and installed a new fountain with five booths. Another major change occurred in 1976, when Colt closed its lunch counter, ending a local institution that began serving Hampton residents in 1930.

John Burke, owner of Mahoney's Lunch at the Beach, bought a dining car from Worcester Car Company and opened a new diner on Lafayette Road in February 1938, advertising, "We never close." Another breakfast-and-lunch institution, this business remained until the late 1970s, when the property became the Pearce Leather Company factory outlet.

Another of the older businesses in the Village is McDormand's Clothing Store, started by Harry and Joan McDormand in 1954. Harry and his family had been summer visitors at Hampton Beach for many years, coming from their home in Providence, Rhode Island. During a 1954 visit, Harry needed to buy a T-shirt and discovered that the Village didn't have a men's store. Believing that the area had good potential, especially with the new Pease Air Force Base being built nearby, the McDormands decided to open a store in 1955, building a storefront in a house on Lafayette Road. The McDormands had some difficult years, eventually selling their first building to pay back taxes, but their practice of easy credit and letting clothes go out on approval proved to be popular, and the store became successful despite competition from area malls, which have had a major impact on small Hampton shops. In 1980, they moved next door to their present location, purchasing the building that originally had been an A & P grocery store, and later Stan Brown's Western Auto, and a sport shop. Harry McDormand, who was the first and a longtime truant officer at Winnacunnet High School, died in December 1988.

Only in recent years has Hampton had a movie theater; in the past, residents had to travel to the Beach to view films in one of the several theaters, none of which are open now. In the winter, the street railway offered special rates from Hampton to Exeter, which included a ticket to the loka Theater and a special car that left right after the movie ended. In the mid-teens, entrepreneur William I. Bigley, the operator of the first Olympia Theater at the Beach, arranged to rent the town hall to show movies on Saturday nights. It was not long before he ran into opposition from the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), an organization especially active locally in "protecting" public morals under the leadership of Lucy Marston. In February 1915, a letter to the editor of the Union, signed by the president of the WCTU, complained about the quality of the movies being shown at the town hall, although the writer admitted she had never attended any of the shows. She said that Saturday was not a good night for movies because "many who attend the show are not able to attend church on Sunday." The WCTU also opposed holding a dance after the show (so the proprietor canceled the dances), and the writer concluded, "Someone should be appointed to censor all pictures shown.

Bigley responded the following week, saying he was closing the show due to criticism from the anonymous letter writer. Although he was losing $3 to $5 per week on the movies, he ran the shows to provide winter entertainment for townspeople. Bigley changed his mind a week later, and the Union carried a front-page advertisement for movies on Saturday night. Apparently not everyone in town agreed with the pressure from the WCTU, because another letter from a "constant reader of our valuable paper" complained about the critics of the movie theater and said they also were responsible for the demise of the shoe factory, which would be "here today had it not been for these octopuses crawling up their backs .... They [the shoe company] had no more peace than a dog covered with fleas." The writer, who said he would report the full story if there was more space, was likely referring to complaints about the young men from out of town who worked at the factory and romanced the local girls.

This last letter produced a response from Lucy Marston, who, as "chairman of the committee," said their complaint was not with moving pictures, but with the bad ones being shown. She had attended the previous week's show and objected to the films showing saloons, fighting, and guns. She also said a little boy seated near her was scared. No movies were shown in the summer, but the situation renewed in October when J. P. Spillane, then manager of the moving-picture shows, ran an advertisement stating that "Local parties have taken an option on the Hampton town hall for every Saturday evening during the winter months," so he was seeking another night for his presentations. A week later, the newspaper said, "The local parties .... have given up their project," and Spillane began showing movies again on Saturday nights at the town hall.

At various times into the late 1940s, movies continued to be shown at the town hall and the Grange Hall, but Hampton was without a regular movie theater until Hayden Clark and Michael Tinios started Hampton Cinemas in 1981. The theater is located in the former Hampton Village Ford garage, the approximate site of the old Toppan Mansion. Coincidentally, cable television also came to Hampton in 1981, a system owned by Penn Communications.

For much of the nineteenth century, Hampton readers depended on the Exeter News-Letter for local news items and coverage of social events. The Portsmouth papers provided occasional mention of Hampton, but it was not until June 14, 1899, when Charles Francis Adams founded the Hampton[s] Union [Hampton spelled with an "s" in the early years], just two years after the street railway started a local business boom, that the community received regular newspaper support. A native of Sherborn, Massachusetts, Adams previously had started newspapers in Sterling and Falmouth, Massachusetts. He apparently thought that the development of Hampton Beach would also boost the rest of the town and offer enough business to support the newspaper. He first boarded with W. Harrison Hobbs on High Street and there he met his future wife Bertha, a schoolteacher who came to Hampton on her summer vacation and also stayed at the Hobbs boardinghouse. Adams published the paper from the Shaw Block, the Odd Fellows Block, and then from the building that is now 92 High Street. He also did job printing and published the town reports for many years. He also published the Rockingham County Record, beginning on September 15, 1899, as "the successor to the Exeter Gazette, the Rye Journal, and the Seabrook News." The Record and the Union had a combined circulation of 2,000, which Adams claimed was the largest in the county. The content of the Record and various editions of the Rye, Greenland (Advocate), and Seabrook newspapers was identical with that of the Union; only the titles of the papers differed. Adams had financial difficulties, resulting in new owners and a new name for the paper. As of January 11, 1907, the paper's name was changed to the Hampton Record. The incorporators of the new Hampton Publishing Company were listed as Otis H. Whittier, Edgar Warren, Ernest G. Cole, John G. Cutler, and three members of the Hobbs family. These individuals were important, public-spirited local businessmen, who perhaps took over the paper until Adams could get reorganized. For a few issues the new paper carried the name of F. F. Perry as editor and manager, then no name was listed until the May 15, 1908, edition when Adams was back as editor. The January 7, 1909, edition was issued under the name of the Hamptons Union, listing Adams again as publisher.

During Adams's era, the paper was an uneven mixture of local social events and feature articles, some of the latter evidently purchased from some service and designed to fill up space. These articles ranged from serialized fiction ("A Girl of Grit" in ten parts) to reports on farming, religion, politics, and business. Hampton was a small town, and everyone knew everyone else, so local articles often failed to give first names or street names in mentioning social events, new construction, fires, or accidents, thus making research difficult for today's readers. A section of the newspaper was devoted to religious issues, often with the entire sermons printed. Obituaries were prominently featured, and one could compile a fine genealogy from the pages of the Union. Social events were covered in detail, and sometimes the entire front page was given over to a letter to the editor, especially when Merrill H. Browne was active in the early teens. Rarely was there detailed coverage of selectmen's meetings or other important events that today we all find required reading. Town meetings were sometimes ignored or discussed in one or two paragraphs, with little explanation given regarding action on warrant articles. In the summer, Beach notes were a major feature, and for many years the guests at all the major hotels were listed in the paper's columns. The front page of early issues of the paper often was all advertising, usually from stores in Newburyport or Amesbury, communities easily reached by the street railway. Occasionally, usually as a pre-Christmas edition, Adams published a special supplement with historical articles, stories about various fraternal and civic organizations and churches, and biographies of local businesspeople, clergy, teachers, and town officials. These editions, first issued in 1899, with others in 1900 and 1909, have provided much important information for this volume. From his earliest editions, Adams was a town booster, writing editorials about the potential of Hampton and surrounding towns while urging action on such issues as the purchase of firefighting equipment, the development of a community water system, or Prohibition. The second issue of the Union, which coincided with the opening of the Beach season, carried a front page devoted to photographs of the leading hotels of Hampton and Rye Beach. Photographs, because of the expense of making metal plates for reproduction, were rare in newspapers, and it is possible that the various hotels paid Adams to have the plates made. Adams also borrowed plates of Hampton photographs from magazines and sometimes published entire articles that had appeared in such publications as The Granite Monthly and New England Magazine. Many early Hampton photographs came from these sources and Adams reprinted the photographs many times, especially in his Christmas issues.

Newspaper subscription drives often were big local events. In 1912, Mrs. Charles White of Hampton won a $400 grand piano for getting the most subscriptions in a Union contest. Helene Roberts was second and Ada Philbrook was third. In October 1929, the Union awarded Miss Mary Hadley of Hampton a new two-door Chevrolet Six, valued at $685, in another subscription contest.

Edward Seavey, Sr., of Haverhill, Massachusetts, who had summered with his family at Hampton Beach for many years, bought the paper from Adams in 1929 and moved the offices to the old J. A. Lane store on Exeter Road. Adams sold the Hampton Union and Rockingham Printing Company so that he could retire to devote more time to public interests such as promotion of aviation and development of Hampton Beach into "a vast port of entry for European airlines and the hub of aviation in the eastern United States." Adams, who was also a special justice of the court, pursued his development schemes while a member of the Legislature.

Mrs. Seavey and their children, Edward, Jr., and Doris, all worked for the business. In 1932, the Seaveys sold their building to Albert Lamie, who had started his restaurant in the old E. Warren Lane homestead at the corner of Exeter and Lafayette roads. Seavey, who had bought the large house on the west corner of Winnacunnet and Mill roads, built a newspaper office behind the house. Edward, Jr., who had hopes of becoming a lawyer, left the University of New Hampshire to help run the newspaper, and he acquired it from his father in 1938, remaining as editor until his sudden death in 1963. The newspaper plant moved to 575 Lafayette Road in 1939. Hampton native and Linotype operator Carl C. Bragg married Doris Seavey in 1936. When Bragg and Edward, Jr., were called to work at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard during World War II, Edward, Sr., returned to run the paper until 1945. In the latter year, Edward, Jr., and Bragg became partners, and during the next 28 years, the company had 25 employees and became one of the largest printers in the seacoast, printing some 17 town reports annually and magazines such as the Shoreliner.

"For 17 years we never had a vacation," Doris Seavey Bragg recalls, because the company was so busy. While the newspaper lost money, the printing plant was successful. Edward was the editor and business manager and Carl ran the back shop. In 1963, Edward died of a heart attack at age 49. He had been town moderator for 10 years and was active in many organizations in town.

Mrs. Seavey and Bragg eventually sold their interest in the company to S. Wesley Powell, a Hampton Falls attorney who had just completed two terms as New Hampshire governor. Still smarting after his defeat for a third term, Powell often used the paper to harass his political opponents. During his five years of ownership, the printing business declined and was discontinued when Powell sold the paper in 1968 to his friend Norman Bailey of Manchester. This was during the era when letterpress equipment was being replaced with offset, and many small newspapers sold off their printing equipment and had their editions printed elsewhere. Bailey moved the newspaper to the Woodbury building in Marelli Square. Ironically, one of the competitors of the Union, the Merchants' Review, had been published for a few years in the late 1950s to the mid-1960s in the same building by printer Daniel C. Woodbury.

Bailey eventually moved the newspaper offices to Seabrook. Then, in 1971, he sold to Dear Publications, a chain based in Washington, D.C. Dear moved the office back to Hampton but sold the Union in 1975 to Essex County Newspapers, which, as part of the Dow Jones conglomerate, still owns the newspaper as well as its longtime news and advertising rival, the Exeter News-Letter. In 1986, the weekly paper changed to twice-weekly, giving Hampton the most thorough coverage it has ever had from the press. Hampton continues to receive press coverage in the Portsmouth Herald, from a bureau of Foster's Daily Democrat, which is published in Dover, and, since 1976, from the Atlantic News and Advertiser, a shopper with some local news published in Hampton by Howard McGee.

When the Hotel Whittier burned, the town was left without a first-quality restaurant for many years. This situation changed in 1931, when Albert Lamie, who had operated a small restaurant in the Village, purchased the E. Warren Lane homestead on the north corner of Lafayette and Exeter roads. He turned the old house around to face Lafayette Road and raised it one story. His new Lamie's, with wood paneling and a huge fireplace, soon became one of the finest and best-known restaurants in New England. For travelers between Boston and Portland, Maine, Lamie's became the place to stop for lunch and dinner, and at times it was open 24 hours a day. Lamie soon had to expand his dining room, so he purchased the former J. A. Lane & Company store, then the Hampton Union office, to use as a function room. He sold the business in 1940 to brothers Frank and Alfred Tower. After Frank died, Alfred operated the restaurant until 1954, when he sold it to another set of brothers, the Dunfeys, who were to use the property as their base for developing one of New England's largest and most successful innkeeping businesses, combining hotels with real estate and insurance.

Catherine and Leroy Dunfey, who a ran a small variety store in Lowell, were assisted by their family of eight boys and four girls, most of whom began working in the store during their nonschool hours at ages eight or nine. In 1945, Leroy bought a small cottage on Nudd Avenue at Hampton Beach. While on a morning walk one day in 1946, he met Fred Haywood, who owned a fried-clam stand situated between the Ashworth and DeLancey hotels. Haywood wanted to sell his business, and Dunfey bought it for $25,000 for his children to run. Taking over from Haywood after the 1946 Fourth of July weekend, older brothers John and William, who had just finished World War II service, had a successful season, selling 10 to 12 gallons of clams daily and making a profit that equaled the purchase price. They had no idea the business could be so lucrative, Bill Dunfey recalled 40 years later. On hot nights and on Labor Day weekend, they remained open 24 hours, selling clams and hot dogs until 3 A.M., then switching to doughnuts, serving the many people who in those days were allowed to sleep on the beach. Younger brothers Robert, Walter, and Gerry also joined the business.

By 1949, the brothers also had purchased a small restaurant, a student supply store, and a laundromat in Durham, where they were students at the University of New Hampshire. At first the brothers viewed their Durham and Hampton Beach businesses only as ways to finance their college educations, but a major change occurred after the 1950 Beach fire. Paul Hobbs accepted their high bid for a lease on his new building at the corner of C Street. This prime Beach location was immediately successful and the Dunfeys sold their other Beach businesses, two of which were bought by brothers Robert and Russell Preston.

To keep busy in the off-season, Bill and Bob opened a real estate and insurance office above Harry McDormand's store in the Village. A chance meeting with Al Tower in 1954 resulted in the Dunfeys' purchase of Lamie'sTavern. To Bill Dunfey, Lamie's seemed "as large as the Amoskeag Mills" in Manchester.

"The purchase of Lamie's redefined conceptually what we were going to do," Bill explained. "Prior to that purchase, we were shortorder cooks, selling clams, hot dogs, candy, and pizza at the beach, and selling hamburgers, pizza, and student supplies in Durham. Lamie's had a good reputation and we had to live up to it. We adopted the theme, set by the restaurant, of 'good old New England hospitality."' "Cracker Barrel" lounges became standard in later Dunfey properties. First the Dunfeys surprised conservative Hampton when they secured for Lamie's the first local liquor license since Prohibition. Since liquor at first could only be served to nonresidents, Bill prepared a card for patrons to sign, declaring they were nonresidents and over 21 years of age. "Middle-aged tourists got quite a kick out of the card," Bill remembered. When they added a 32-room motel, decorated with an Isles of Shoals theme, to Lamie's in 1958, the brothers realized that renting rooms was more profitable than selling liquor or food.

The following year, they bought the bankrupt Carpenter Hotel in Manchester, and in 1961 they acquired the bankrupt Eastland Hotel in Portland. Both large properties were turned into profitable businesses. The family corporation evolved with John as president and treasurer, Walter running the Carpenter, Robert at the Eastland, Gerry managing another hotel in Burlington, Vermont, and Bill operating the real estate and insurance offices.

They continued to buy smaller hotels and inns throughout New England, but the business took another major leap in 1968, when they purchased the once-luxurious, but near-bankrupt, Parker House in Boston. This move resulted in another successful property. Bill Dunfey said the working plan for the family in the innkeeping business was to purchase existing hotels and to renovate the properties rather than to build all-new facilities. Since this concept required large amounts of capital, the Dunfeys sought a host corporation that would purchase them, retain the family as managers, and supply the needed expansion funds. In 1971, the business of 18 hotels and motor inns was sold to Aetna Life Insurance Company of Hartford, Connecticut. At the time, the Dunfeys resisted Aetna's attempts to move their headquarters out of Hampton. Several of the brothers, as well as a number of longtime employees, lived in town or nearby, and the family wanted to remain here. Six months later, as Aetna was about to foreclose on a mortgage for the five large Royal Coach hotels, the Dunfeys convinced the company to let them take over the hotels. This gave the Hampton-based corporation properties in five major United States cities and turned the business into a national innkeeping chain. The jewel of the chain was Berkshire Place in New York City, a major residential hotel purchased in 1973.

In 1976, the family orchestrated the sale of the business from Aetna to Aer Lingus, the Irish national airline, and the Dunfey chain became international, with hotels in Paris, London, and Ireland. When Catherine Dunfey, the family matriarch and honorary chair of the board, died in 1982 at age 87, the Dunfey chain owned or operated 26 hotels with some 10,480 rooms. Family members ceased active management of the company in 1985. Two years earlier, with the purchase of the Omni Hotel chain, the Dunfey name began to be phased out. In 1988, Omni Hotels was sold for $135 million to Wharf Holding Company of Hong Kong, led by Y. K. Pao, the largest shipowner in the world. This business continues to operate in Hampton with several employees who originally worked for the Dunfey family at Hampton Beach in the late 1940s. According to Bill Dunfey, Aer Lingus, which purchased the Dunfey hotel business for a $250,000 investment, had previously sold the New England hotels to the Flatley Company for $56 million, and Aer Lingus retained Berkshire Place, now valued at $100 million. From a $25,000 Hampton Beach clam stand, the value of the Dunfey properties in 1988 had reached over $250 million. Even David Nudd, the wily owner of several Hampton Beach hotels in the nineteenth century, would be impressed.

The Dunfey brothers have now formed the Dunfey Capital Group, located in Portsmouth. This venture-capital firm, with social concern criteria, concentrates on projects in northern New England. The Dunfeys have long been active in Democratic party politics, especially Bill, who ran the New Hampshire presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy and was a national party committee member. He was also appointed a citizen delegate to the United Nations. In 1976, 19-year-old Stephen Dunfey, son of John, was elected to the State Legislature from Hampton and was the youngest member of the House in that session.

In 1959, the First National supermarket opened adjacent to Lamie's. The largest new building in the community since the construction of the Casino at the turn of the century, the First National had been operated for the previous 24 years from a store at 438 Lafayette Road [now the Annex of Caffe Fresco in 2005], in a building constructed by Thomas Cogger in the 1920s. In recent years it has been occupied by the Bib and Crib, a shoe store, and the Vanity Case. The First National closed in 1969, when its lease with the Dunfeys ended and the building was converted to Dunfey offices. In 1967, the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (A & P) opened a new store in the Edgewood Shopping Center, south of the Village. The A & P had originally been in the Merrill Block on High Street and in the mid-1940s moved into a new building at 447 Lafayette Road, currently McDormand's. The A & P lasted until 1980, when, as the town's only large supermarket, it closed, to be replaced by S & R Supermarket. It too closed in the mid-1980s, and Hampton was without a major market for the first time in about 100 years -- until 1987, when Super Shop and Save [name changed in 2002 to "Hanaford"] opened on Lafayette Road. This super store, supposediy a new concept in marketing, combines a diverse offering of groceries, greeting cards, small appliances, and video rentals with a pharmacy, bakery, florist, and fish market. While this diversity seems novel today, it is a concept that closely resembles the old general stores of Lane and Cole. In other 1967 store changes, the Exeter & Hampton Electric Company moved adjacent to the A & P, and their old store in Marelli Square became the House of Joy, a religious bookstore operated by the Reverend and Mrs. Howard Danner.

Another central commercial property in Hampton was the Boston & Maine Railroad depot. As described earlier, the [Eastern] railroad came through Hampton in 1840 and immediately changed the community. The commercial center of town, which had been at the Landing on the river, moved to the center of the Village, and people began to set their watches by the numerous trains passing north and south. People had quick and inexpensive transportation on the train, and the freight cars, bringing grain and coal, soon replaced the old coastal schooners. Most of Hampton's business activity eventually centered on buildings constructed adjacent to the Exeter Road crossing, where the railroad placed its passenger and freight depots and a large water tank. This arrangement remained for some 60 years, until 1900, when the various overpasses were built, the line was double-tracked, and the stores were relocated along Lafayette Road.

As part of that overpass project, and instead of building a new depot, the railroad moved the old passenger depot about 50 yards south of the Exeter Road bridge, facing an empty lot on Lafayette Road. This muddy lot owned by the railroad, combined with the ramshackle old depot and no landscaping, was soon considered an eyesore. In 1901, railroad officials visited Hampton and announced plans to create an ornamental park near the depot, but nothing was done. The newspaper and various civic groups, including the Village Improvement Society, continually urged the railroad to make changes, but their efforts were rebuffed until 1916. In April of that year, the Union's "Good Things" column recommended some civic improvements, many of which were being contemplated at that time. First mentioned was widening Main Street (Lafayette Road) from the Odd Fellows Block to the junction with High Street, "which will remove a curve out of the street and eliminate the dangerous situation with the intersection at High Street." The plan hinged on the B&M Railroad providing gravel. Part of this rebuilding included the improvement of Depot Square, where the new Brooks automobile garage was being staked out on land acquired from the railroad. A drive circled the square, and in the center were a lawn and a garden. A month later, the Union reported that the railroad supported the square improvement and would assist in any way it could. The paper also hoped the railroad would reclapboard and paint the station. Under the direction of Selectman Joseph B. Brown, the square project was completed quickly.

A 1925 fund-raising campaign led by barber Chester Marston, who provided Hampton haircuts for some 45 years, resulted in the construction of a bandstand in the square. Concerts were held on Monday nights from 7 until 8:30 P.M., ending in time for the 8:40 P.M. electric car back to the Beach. In 1942, the railroad completely rebuilt the depot, installing modern toilets, laying new floors, and painting it inside and out. The Town finally acquired the railroad lot, known then as Depot Square, for $8,500 in 1955. For more than 100 years the square was the center of transportation activity in the town. Business actually increased after World War II, when the railroad operated a daily "Beachcomber" train that brought vacationers north from Massachusetts (although it didn't stop in Hampton), and in 1954 a new sleeping car was named "Miss Hampton Beach." New, self-powered diesel Budd cars replaced the regular passenger trains in 1953, but, even with all this activity, the railroad was closing small stations and cutting back on the number of daily trains. The Hampton depot closed in 1960, opening only during the summer for the sale of tickets, although the trains continued to stop here and many people continued to commute by train to Boston and elsewhere. Railroad passenger service ended in 1965. Earlier, the depot property had been sold in 1962 to Stanwood Brown and Daniel C. Woodbury. Adjacent to the former depot, Woodbury constructed an office building in 1963, the first floor of which was his Woodbury Press. The building currently is the office of the Union. In 1964, Brown moved his Western Auto store to the remodeled depot, and later he began one of the first Honda motorcycle dealerships. Freight trains still run occasionally through Hampton, coming from Portsmouth, since the railroad bridge over the Merrimack River at Newburyport is not open.

Many train commuters of the 1960s switched to the Trailways bus for their daily trips to Boston. A variety of major bus companies had served the community since the street railway closed, but, as with the trains, the bus lines eventually proved to be unprofitable too, and Hampton lost its regular bus service in 1984.

While the automobile was primarily responsible for the decline in both train and bus passenger service, the motor vehicle business has been important in the commercial development of Hampton. One of the first autos seen in Hampton was an early version of the Stanley Steamer called a Locomobile. En route to a drive up the Mount Washington Carriage Road, Freelan Stanley and his wife stopped at the Hotel Whittier in 1899 and were photographed by Mary Toppan Clark. After the turn of the century, auto traffic began to increase. Alarmed at the speed of the new vehicles, the selectmen posted notices for automobile speed limits in August 1904: "Owing to the reckless manner in which automobiles and other motor vehicles run through the streets, the speed limit of 8 mph is declared and a motor vehicle approaching a team of horses which seem frightened must stop." During the summer of 1905, 75 to 300 autos daily passed through the Village, far surpassing the number of teams, but it was in June 1907 that the first driver was stopped for speeding and fined $14. In response to the apparent speeding, the selectmen appointed William G. Chaison as the new chief of police to enforce the 8-mph speed limit in the congested sections of town, including Winnacunnet Road, the main route between the Center and the Beach. "On Tuesday, no less than 11 large motors were held up and cautioned to proceed within the limits allowed," according to the Union. The paper often carried comments about people in carriages who were injured or about carriages damaged when horses were spooked by autos. In the summer of 1916, the first arrests of speeding automobilists were made at the Beach when two drivers were fined $2 each plus costs.

Responding to the new mode of transportation, in 1906 the Hampton Motor Company leased land behind the Whittier to build a 40-foot-by-40-foot garage to service the large number of autos then using Lafayette Road, the prime route between Boston and the seashore and mountains. The company did not last, but in the summer of 1912, F. L. Bristol of Hampton opened a new garage on C Street, and the Union commented that it had cement floors and toilets. Frank E. Brooks opened the Hampton Center Garage in 1916 in the center of town in a building that is now Apex Auto Parts. When opened, it was the only garage between Newburyport and Portsmouth. Brooks also operated a taxi business, but in 1917 he received a Ford dealership, and by 1923, after he enlarged his building, the company became the second-largest Ford dealer in New Hampshire, selling Ford and Lincoln automobiles, trucks, and Fordson tractors. Brooks owned the business nearly half a century, selling in 1961 to Hayden Clark and Boyd Brodhead, who operated as C. and B. Ford Viliage. A general manager under Brooks and a Longtime salesman for the business was Philip M. Toppan, whose family owned the land at the corner of Winnacunnet and Lafayette roads, where the garage had its used-car lot. Eventually, the Hampton Center building was sold and a new facility was built on the site of the used-car lot. When the business closed about 1980, one of many dealerships nationally affected by the energy crisis when gasoline prices soared and fuel supplies diminished, Clark and Michael Tinios remodeled the garage into the Hampton Cinemas. Previously, in 1970, Michael and Kay Tinios had purchased a small restaurant called "The Mustard Pot". They renamed it, calling it both "Savory Square" and "Savory Street" at different times, then remodeled and enlarged it in 1972 and added a new section called "The Galley Hatch". This name was applied to the whole restaurant in 1974 and the restaurant continued to expand. *** Located next door to the cinema, it has become one of the largest and most popular restaurants in the state.

Two other long-established automobile dealerships in Hampton operated side by side for many years. Scott Pontiac, begun as a small service station opened in 1945 by Theodore Scott, has been a Pontiac dealership since 1948 [sold to Dreher-Holloway of Exeter in October 1999]. Lawrence C. Hackett, a 14-year selectman, was in the automobile business for 46 years, 28 of them as a Chevrolet dealer. Hackett first operated in partnership with his father-in-law, Dana Chase, at the Work-Rite Garage at 575 Lafayette Road, in a building that was later the Hampton Union and Hampton Publishing Company, then Fletcher's Paint Store, and now Brite Ideas Lighting. Chase and Hackett sold Graham, DeSoto, Dodge, and Plymouth automobiles. Hackett later moved the garage business to a large barn at about 34 Lafayette Road, North Hampton. There he became an associate Chevrolet dealer in 1939. In 1944, he purchased Floyd Gale's Garage on Lafayette Road and operated Hackett Chevrolet from that location until he retired in 1972, selling the business to Robert Wallace, who has since sold to Ed Byrnes Chevrolet of Dover. Floyd Gale and his wife, Clara, operated their garage from 1925 until 1944, and at times the building housed the Town-owned school bus and a fire truck. Gale was a deputy sheriff for many years; in 1989, Clara was honored at town meeting for having worked at the polls for 64 consecutive years.

Hampton has had a few other automobile dealerships. Kenneth Ross for a time sold Chevrolets and Oldsmobiles from his garage at Hampton Beach. In the early 1930s, the Hampton Auto Mart, located in the old street-railway barn on Exeter Road, sold Essex and Hudson autos. Philip Howe, who built a garage at 725 Lafayette Road, sold Kaiser-Fraser cars in the late 1940s to early 1950s. Near the Howe garage, Earl Linaberry sold Buicks, and for a time Hackett's son George sold Willys Jeepsters from a garage that is now 58 Winnacunnet Road.

For more than half of the past century, the Hampton business community functioned without a full-service bank. Residents and businesses needing banking services usually went to Exeter, Amesbury, or Newburyport. At various times, some of the banks in the neighboring communities attempted to provide Hampton with service. In April 1907, for example, a branch of the Amesbury National Bank had an office in what is now Colt News Store. It was open only three days per week for two hours on each day, and it paid 4 percent interest on accounts over $10.

Business banking was conducted on a less formal basis than it is now. Employees of the Pow Wow River National Bank of Amesbury came to Hampton Beach one day per week in the 1920s to pick up deposits from businesses. In the afternoon they stopped at the Hampton Co-operative Association to pick up deposits from the Village, then took the trolley back to Amesbury. Also during the 1920s, Thomas Cogger, who was an officer in an Exeter bank, went to Hampton Beach on Mondays to collect deposits from businesses and take the money to Exeter. Many people had their own safes to hold cash until the deposit day, or else they went to Exeter when the Rockingham National Bank was formed or to Portsmouth. "Every week I would take the train into Portsmouth," Hampton banker Dean Merrill explained, "and walk up to the First National Bank, pick up cash, then wait for the next train back to Hampton." There were few concerns about robbery in those days.

Many of the stores operated on credit, and customers usually paid by cash. Merrill recalled an unusual technique used by Howard Lane in his grocery store: "If you went in to ask him to pay a bill, he would pull out his wallet from a side pocket, open it up and find a check [he had received from a customer] that was pretty much the same amount as what he owed [you. He gave you the check] and he would make up the difference in cash."

Without a local bank, Hampton people had difficulty receiving home-building loans. This problem was solved in September 1915 with the formation of the Hampton Co-operative Building and Loan Association. This was a shareholder organization and the first meeting was presided over by Herbert Lester Tobey, who was elected chairman, with William Brown secretary. Later elected as officers were President Edwin L. Batchelder, Vice President John A. Janvrin, Treasurer Herbert Perkins, Secretary H. Lester Tobey, and Directors Amos T. Leavitt, Howard G. Lane, Ernest G. Cole, Walter B. Farmer, Lemuel C. Ring, Henry G. Boynton, Irvin E. Leavitt, George A. Johnson, Warren Batchelder, and Thomas L. Sanborn. The auditors were William Brown, Byron E. Redman, and Joseph B. Brown.

Although this organization became the Hampton Co-operative Bank, it was not a regular bank in those early days. Dean B. Merrill, a native of Concord, who came to Hampton after World War I and worked in the insurance business that was part of the Co-operative Association, recalled that in the early days the bank cashed checks, which came into use about 1920, and held money for local businesses, but it had no savings accounts. "A person bought shares in the bank which meant that they agreed to save so many dollars per month," Merrill explained. "A share was a dollar per month. You paid in every month on the number of shares you subscribed to, which might be 5, 10, 15 or 25. In 12 1/2 years, each of these shares would have accumulated dividends to make it worth $200. That was the only kind of account you had until the 12 1/2 years were up. Then the shares were mature and they were paid out as $200 each." Later the bank was permitted to issue investment certificates with no specific dollar amounts required.

Money could be loaned to an individual against his or her account, and there were mortgage loans. "If you borrowed $1,000," Merrill said, "you had to subscribe to five shares, meaning that you paid $5 a month plus interest of $4.17 on the $1,000 loan. At the end of 12 1/2 years, your shares equaled what the amount of your loan was. You had paid it off."

The first office of the Hampton Co-operative Association was the little Lafayette Road building that had been the DeLancey Express office, now Earl's Barber Shop. In 1936, the bank and Tobey and Merrill Insurance Agency moved across the street to the Odd Fellows Block, remaining there until their new offices were built on High Street in 1965.

Long associated with the bank has been the Tobey and Merrill Insurance Agency. Herbert L. Tobey came to Hampton before World War I. He had been a salesman for a German dye company, but that job ended with the war. He helped to organize the Hampton Co-operative Association and was its first secretary. Tobey operated a small insurance company and during World War I he was also town clerk. Dean Merrill became a partner in the insurance company with Tobey, who later started his own dye companies, first in Boston and later in Providence, Rhode Island. Merrill was left to run both businesses, becoming manager of the bank for some 40 years until replaced by his son Norman. Dean remained with the bank on a part-time basis until early 1988, retiring at age 93 shortly before his death in December 1988. While operating the bank and the insurance company, he also found time to serve as treasurer of the municipal street railroad, four years as town moderator, 18 years as a school board member, eight terms as a state representative, and two terms as a state senator.

Both the bank and the insurance company shared quarters until 1988, when it was announced that the bank would be purchased by Mid Maine Savings Bank of Auburn, Maine. The insurance company moved to remodeled quarters in the old Cotton Brown house on High Street.

While the Hampton Co-operative Bank served the needs of home owners, Hampton businesses perceived the need for a commercial bank. In 1949, a group headed by publisher Edward Seavey, Jr., George Sumner, Alton P. Tobey, and Alfred Tower filed an application with the State Board of Trust Company Incorporation to grant a charter for the Seacoast Trust Company. Although the petitioners presented 25 witnesses who testified to the need for the bank, and there was no opposition, the board denied the application, ruling, "The public convenience and advantage would not be served by the establishment of the Seacoast Trust Company."

Another banking group had more success in May 1957, when the incorporators of the proposed Hampton National Bank received preliminary approval for a charter from the United States Treasury Department. This group was headed by William W. Treat, John P. Dunfey, George Downer, all of Hampton; Carroll Blackden of North Hampton; and Karl J. E. Gove of Seabrook. By the end of October, the incorporators had sold 1,500 of the proposed 2,000 shares, valued at $65 each. Buyers were limited to 50 shares, Treat explained, so that all residents of the area would have an opportunity to become stockholders.

At a unique special town meeting in January 1958, voters approved the sale of a portion of the municipal parking lot for $750 to abutters George and Lea Downer as the site for the new bank building. The Downers later sold the property to Alex Finan, who actually built the bank addition. At the first meeting of bank stock-holders, held in May 1958, Treat was elected bank president and Charles K. Nutter became the first manager. On June 28, following a small parade, Governor Lane Dwinell cut the ribbon opening the first national bank to be chartered in New Hampshire in 30 years. The bank, which had been only a tenant in the bank building, bought the structure from Finan in 1963. The bank moved to its present location on Winnacunnet Road in 1971. Since that time, the bank has opened branch offices in Seabrook, North Hampton, Portsmouth, and Exeter. In 1983, the name was changed to Bank Meridian; it was purchased by Amoskeag Bank Shares, Inc., a bank holding company, for $8.5 million in 1984.

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