HAMPTON: A CENTURY OF TOWN AND BEACH, 1888-1988
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Chapter 2 -- Part 3
Consider the Beach in 1897: North Beach had several small hotels, including the Leavitt Homestead. There were no cottages on the stretch of new road between the end of High Street and Winnacunnet Road. At Boar's Head, Dumas's large New Boar's Head Hotel was situated on the north side of the Head, but the summit was empty. From the base of Boar's Head south as far as today's Highland Avenue was a collection of hotels, rooming houses, and summer cottages, but these buildings mainly lined the roadside, with little construction behind them. Between Highland Avenue and the river there was nothing but sand dunes, with a few cottages on Island Path.
Together with the street railway, the combination of the Hampton Beach Improvement Company lease and subsequent construction of the Casino changed the Beach forever. The street railway was built from the village to the vicinity of Highland Avenue in 1897, and the following year the Hampton Beach Improvement Company began leasing lots in the section now bounded by Ocean Boulevard and Ashworth Avenue. One of the first businesspeople to realize the potential of the railway was John G. Cutler, who in 1898 built a new café next to his Sea View House. Matching Cutler was Oscar Jenkins, manager of the Bay View, who announced plans in April to build his own café on the northernmost corner of the HBIC lands at the junction of Ocean Boulevard and Ashworth Avenue. Designed and built by contractor Charles O. Stevens, the two-story building had a ladies' parlor, private dining room, main dining hall, and kitchen on the first floor, with six guest rooms on the second and a cupola-topped observation deck on the roof. During the winter months, Jenkins café became the southern terminus of the trolley line. Elsewhere on the beach, hotel owners were repainting and enlarging their buildings in anticipation of the first full summer with trolley service.
Responding to the increased activity, the street railway planned a big celebration for the 1898 Fourth of July -- complete with band concerts and horse and bicycle races -- but that day will be remembered as the occasion of the worst natural tragedy ever to hit Hampton. Frank Beckman's dance-hall-turned-skating rink, midway between Cutler's and Boar's Head, had been converted into to a theater with a stage and a special stereopticon device that projected pictures on a screen, dissolving one view into another. On the holiday, the feature show was The Blowing up of the Maine, the story of the United States battleship that had been destroyed in February 1898 in San Juan harbor, inciting the Spanish-American War.
About 3 P.M., with some 400 people inside watching the show and the Exeter Band playing out front, Frank Beckman noticed the sky to the west was dark and menacing. He no sooner went inside and closed the windows when a fierce storm broke over the beach in a half-mile-wide swath, directly hitting Beckman's Hall. The terrific, twisting wind lifted the roof and sides, except one corner, and carried them clear, sparing the lives of almost all of the occupants of the building. "But the dragging corner caught a few which included Mora [the stage name of Mrs. Fred Williams, a popular actress of the day who was part of the show] and Jim Wingate, an Exeter News-Letter reporter," wrote William D. Cram in a June 1940 Union article, "and buried them in a twisted pile of boards. Mora died from her injuries but Wingate survived. In the front there was a rush for the open door. Mr. Beckman and two others who were together hastened for the front door, the collapsing but moving structure crushed every bone in the body of a man on his [Beckman's] right who also turned in that direction; Mr. Beckman somehow was passed through a window opening as the separating parts of the building passed and was blown in a rolling mass some hundred or more feet towards the sea, while the man on his [Beckman's] left also turning in that direction was caught in a flying mass but not severely injured." Killed along with Mora were Exeter florist Hilding Karlson and John Pressey of Bradford, Massachusetts, a member of the Exeter Band, which had run into the hall when the storm hit. Many of the band members were injured.
Passing within seconds, the storm may have been a tornado. It left behind approximately 75 injured and hysterical people. The survivors' attention was soon diverted to the sea, however, where a worse tragedy was taking place. Mr. and Mrs. William Barker of Kensington were celebrating their thirteenth wedding anniversary in their usual way: a sail with friends in Frank Nudd's sloop. Just off-shore and in full view of the shaken people on the beach, the sloop had quickly capsized, throwing into the water the Barkers, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Hodgdon, Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Janvrin and their child, John Lamprey (all of Kensington), and skipper Nudd of Hampton. The Portsmouth Chronicle's correspondent described what happened next: "Captain Nudd went to the assistance of Mrs. Barker, but both went down and were seen no more. Mr. Barker and young Johnnie Lamprey succeeded in keeping afloat until assistance arrived and they were taken ashore more dead than alive. It took quite a while to get the water out of young Lamprey and when they did they did succeed in bringing him to as he was stark crazy and there is little hopes of his recovery. The rest of the party found a watery grave."
Mrs. Lila Block of North Hampton remembered this storm in a September 1973 issue of the Union. She had ridden her bicycle to the Beach with friends and when they saw the storm coming, they sought cover on the piazza of an unfinished cottage. She wrote,
As I remember, there was much open space at the southern end of the Beach. In an instant the wind had filled the air with wet sand and the heaviest rain beyond imagination. Everything around us was moving; even this cottage where we were was blown off its foundation leaving it standing on the back end but we clung to the piazza still further up in the air.
…The little summer houses were going through the air like pieces of paper. Needless to say we were soaked to the skin as the wet sand and driving rain pelted us furiously. Even the inside of my corset was covered with sand and my shoes were so heavy I could hardly lift my feet. I saw a woman carrying my sailor hat and I ran and grabbed it! Many went for shelter in the Nudd barn as this was practically the only building of any size. An elderly bachelor said, "So many women never held on to me before."
Although the storm downed telephone lines, help was summoned from Exeter and surrounding towns. An ambulance and six doctors came from Exeter and the injured were taken to Cutler's for treatment. Later the street railway brought many of the injured to Exeter Hospital.
With seven drowned, three killed, more than 75 people injured, and some 31 buildings destroyed or seriously damaged, the killer storm was one of the worst in Hampton history. By July 18, however, the Chronicle reported that almost all of the damage had been repaired and a visitor would hardly recognize the Beach as the site of such destruction only two weeks earlier. A tent was erected on the site of Beckman's Hall, where performers gave hourly shows, but the Hall itself was never rebuilt. Apparently Beckman feared the planned Casino would provide too much competition.
Beckman continued to operate his boardinghouse and stables, but on April, 22, 1900, these two buildings were destroyed in an early morning fire, burning to the ground before firemen could be brought to the scene by the street railway from the Village and Exeter. With the new Ocean House scheduled to open in the summer of 1900, and with other new hotels in the center of the Beach drawing business to that area and away from Boar's Head, Beckman again chose not to rebuild after a tragedy.
In 1899, the first section of the Casino was built and the trolley line was extended south to the river and to North Beach and its eventual connection with the railroad from Portsmouth. The most immediate impact was the movement of Beach business from the Boar's Head section to the area we know now as the main beach. Lovell had not been able to find a suitable spot for his casino near Boar's Head, so he leased a large section of sand dunes from the Improvement Company and began construction of the Casino in the spring of 1899. Built by local contractor Abbott L. Joplin from lumber milled by Edwin Janvrin on a portable sawmill placed near the powerhouse, the original Casino was a two-and-a-half-story building about 190 feet long by 36 feet wide and with first and second story porches running around the building. The north end of the present Casino was the first section. The upper floor contained eight bedrooms for the help and a luxury apartment for Lovell. The second floor held a dance and entertainment hall and a large dining room complete with an open fireplace built of sea stones and shells.
Perhaps one of the first groups to use the Casino facilities was the Descendants of Nathaniel Weare family reunion, which met in August. Lovell built four cottages behind the Casino and there were rumors that he was going to construct the largest hotel on the Beach. Meanwhile, the Chronicle reported on August 8, "In spite of the great growth at Hampton Beach during the current summer season, which has caused it to be the destination of more pleasure seekers than ever before, the resort still maintains its high standards and is orderly to a remarkable degree. Guardians of the peace are almost unnecessary, as not an arrest has taken place on the Beach this year."
In late August 1899, the Casino also hosted large gatherings for Portsmouth and Dover Days, and midweek events were regularly arranged for residents of Amesbury, Haverhill, Manchester, and any other large community the EH&A could organize to come for the day. To entice residents of Portsmouth and Dover to the Beach, a special excursion B&M train left Portsmouth at 1:50 P.M. for Hampton depot, where 10 streetcars were waiting to bring the pleasure-seekers to the Casino. The Merrimack Brass entertained with afternoon and evening concerts, and the 12-member Gorman's Columbian Vaudeville company performed on the Casino stage. Baseball games and other sports were held on the diamond behind the Casino. Following an evening dance, the exhausted Port City residents would board the streetcars to meet a 10 P.M. train at the depot. A less tiring event -- if one discounts the many lengthy political speeches -- was the September annual meeting of the Rockingham County Republican Club, attended by 200 people. These special days were lucrative for the railway and the Casino, but it was apparent that more than day-trip visits were needed. The Beach at that time lacked overnight accommodations for large gatherings, but that deficiency was to change the following year. In March 1900, the Chronicle reported that building at Hampton Beach would be the heaviest in history, with some 50 cottages planned for the south beach alone. Joining the Casino as the centerpiece of the Beach was the railway's new Ocean House, named for the large hotel burned in 1885. On North Beach, one-half mile up from the beach on High Street, was F.M. Crosby's large Leonia Hotel, which burned in July 1900.
In 1900, the 57-room Ocean House was built by the EH&A on the lot now occupied by McDonald's Restaurant. Connected by a second-floor bridge to the adjacent Casino, the hotel had electric lights, hot and cold running water, and a bell system in every room. The same season, a two-and-a-half-story addition to the Casino, 47 feet wide and 110 feet deep, gave more room on the lower floor for billiards and bowling, while the second floor was a large convention hall, now used as the ballroom. The next year the Casino got another major addition, the Opera House, complete with a 700-seat theater and a large stage on the second floor and 156 dressing rooms for bathers on the first. Two hexagonal towers gave this addition a distinctive appearance, and the porches of the first building were extended along the front of the now-295-foot-long structure. Across the street from the Casino, a kiosk was replaced with a beach landmark, the bandstand. Called the finest in New England by its architect, the bandstand was built for the railway by Curtis DeLancey for $1000.
In August 1900, a Portsmouth reporter expressed amazement over the growth at the Beach. When the Casino had been built two years earlier, it was a long way from the nearest house. Now, the reporter explained, it was in the midst of the most heavily populated section of the Beach. "On every side, new cottages and boarding houses have sprung up and the magnificent wide stretch of sandy beach extending for a mile along the coast is beginning to find appreciation among the throngs of cottages and excursionists now that it has been brought into easy access." Performing at the Casino were the Alabama Troubadours, "a troupe of colored performers of more than usual merit," and evening crowds watched the daily balloon ascension and parachute jump, saw fireworks, and heard a variety of band concerts. "One of the most noticeable changes for the better this year," the reporter concluded, "is the almost utter lack of drunkenness and it has been very favorably commented on by the thousands of visitors who frequent the resort."
Along with the Ocean House, the new Radcliffe Hotel opened on the south beach. Boar's Head hotels reported "full houses and a splendid season," according to the Chronicle. "This year is by far the liveliest ever seen at the beach. There is not a vacant cottage or store to be found anywhere, and many are doing business in teats. Real estate has taken on a new boom here of late. Six lots were sold to as many different parties Thursday on the Marsh road [Island Path or Ashworth Avenue] and all the owners are contemplating building."
The stories were repeated the next season. In May 1901, the EH&A leased a new hotel built by Mrs. Nellie Wightman of Newmarket, the former cook at Cutler's, for $6,700 for the year. The railway company announced plans to build a $30,000 hotel beside the river, and it was asking for federal funds to dredge the river to make it accessible to yachts and steamers. By the Fourth of July, the Beach was ready for vacationers. Cutler's Sea View House and Café, expanded once again for this season, was the largest hotel on the Beach, hosting up to 160 guests. The new Boar's Head Hotel, owned by S.H. Dumas, and Lewis Nudd's 34-person-capacity Eagle House at the base of Boar's Head both opened. J.P. Maxfield leased Edwin Janvrin's new hotel south of the Casino. The Hampton Beach Hotel, or Leavitt's, owned by Joseph Leavitt, opened about 10 days later than usual but with more guests; the new Radcliffe with 42 rooms, D.C. Roode, proprietor, was to open in a few days. The original Radcliffe, built the year before, burned in April, but the new building was larger, with an oiled-wood interior, a dining room seating 72 people, and seats for 18 more in two private dining rooms. A 1902 advertisement for the Radcliffe boasted that it had electric lights in every room, a new sewerage system, and "every modern convenience." Rates by the week were $7 to $15, by the day $1.25, and Sunday dinner was a specialty at 50 cents.
In mid-July, "Ever solicitous for the entertainment of its patrons, the street railway management .... placed back of the Casino a miniature log cabin, containing seven monkeys. Their grimaces and antics afford no little amusement," boasted the News-Letter. The following week the paper reported that two of the monkeys had escaped the log cabin and "one ran into the Casino kitchen, where it resented [cook Fred] Miller's attempt to reject it. It seized his left arm and bit through an artery and then made an ugly wound about three inches in length in the muscles of his right arm." Miller nearly died from loss of blood, but he was expected to recover, "unless blood poisoning ensues." Both monkeys finally were captured and returned to the log cabin, and by the end of August, Miller who had been hospitalized, had recovered enough to return to work.
In mid-August some 12,000 people attended the sixteenth annual Farmer's Day. They listened to music and speeches by Grange officials and Governor Chester B. Jordan. As the 1901 beach season ended, Lovell sponsored a weeklong party, the forerunner of the later Carnival Week celebrations. The September 6 beach edition of the Union was full of excited praise. "Never in the history of Old Hampton has there been a week like this at the more and more popular beach. It is practically the closing week of the season and it has been a special study of Mr. Lovell how to close with eclat and enthusiasm." Most of the excitement revolved around the second annual pilgrimage of 300 to 400 members of the Aleppo Temple, Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, of Boston. They arrived in Hampton Village on Saturday aboard a special B&M train and were met by the Portsmouth City Band, who escorted them to the Beach and remained to entertain for the weekend. The Shriners filled the Ocean House and the Hampton Inn, another railway hotel, and several cottages. That first evening featured a continuous band concert until 10:30 P.M., an hour and a half of fireworks, and the "annual illumination." The latter was a display of thousands of colored electric lights, primarily at the Casino and the Ocean House. In addition, the Washington House, Cutler's, Green's Inn, Colonel W.H. Carter's cottage, Dudley and White's studio, and many private cottages were illuminated with Chinese lanterns, while two large bonfires blazed on the beach. The rest of the weekend called for vaudeville acts, more band concerts, clambakes, and ball games. The exhausted Shriners left for home on Monday but there was no rest for the Beach as a large contingent of New Hampshire and Vermont Odd Fellows arrived on Tuesday for the first of two field days. The uniformed men drilled, marched, and paraded during the day and in the evening danced in the Casino to the music of the Ocean House orchestra. On Thursday, the Beach hosted 10 brass bands for an all-day musical competition. The bands, one of which had 200 members under the direction of Henri Blaisdell of Concord, competed for $1,000 in prizes. Thursday was also Portsmouth Day, with as many as 20,000 people at the Beach, and Friday featured an excursion by the New England Street Railway Club, Children's Day, and band concerts. On Saturday, there were more concerts, dory races, baseball, fireworks, and dancing. On Sunday, perhaps, the owners and workers at Beach businesses rested.
While the Shriners were meeting on the main beach, Charles S. Powell of Boston and Chicago, who summered at Willard Gookin's, had his annual clambake at Moulton's Grove on North Beach. The menu included clams, lobsters, chickens, sweet potatoes, and corn. Thirty-five guests arrived by hayrack for a morning swim followed by a light luncheon served at noon. The bake, in charge of Moses W. Brown, was served at 3 P.M. For the evening, the guests went to Brown's barn on Winnacunnet Road for more refreshments, singing, and dancing.
The Improvement Company leased 30 lots in the fall, and by November 1901, the Union reported that the HBIC had "disposed of more lots during the past summer than any year since 1898. Most lots will have buildings put upon them within the next two years and few vacant lots will be left." Among the people building on HBIC lots was Lemuel C. Ring, who built a double cottage of two stories on B Street. According to Beach tradition, Ring arrived in Hampton with nothing but a box of tools. By the time of his death in 1933, at age 78, he had been a fire chief and selectman and was the owner or contractor of numerous Beach and Town commercial buildings and residences. Across B Street from Ring, the second Avon, since expanded and enlarged, was constructed for George Ashworth. He had come to the Beach in 1898 and opened the first Avon in a rented beachfront boardinghouse near the corner of B Street. Another early businessman, Joseph Dudley, had built a cottage in 1900, and, in years to follow, all three men became leaders in the Beach community.
Another important Beach businessman of this early time was Edwin Janvrin, a Hampton Falls lumber dealer. He is credited with constructing the first of the fine hotels at the Beach, and at one time he owned at least five hotels. Well known throughout the seacoast, Janvrin was acquainted with Wallace Lovell, who retained Janvrin to supply materials for the buildings needed for the people the railway would bring to the Beach. Janvrin was credited with supplying the lumber for, and, in some cases building, the Casino, Ocean House, the first Janvrin Hotel, the Pelham, the Hill Crest, the Avon, the Belle Villa, and scores of cottages. Much of his lumber came from Hampton, especially from the lands of Mary Batchelder, where on one parcel he cut some 400,000 board feet of lumber. His portable sawmill was set up near the EH&A powerhouse on Exeter Road, allowing for convenient deliveries via the street railway to the Beach. Janvrin's son, B.T., worked closely with his father, and, after Edwin died in 1913, the son continued to be a major supplier of lumber to the Beach. The company business, with its large collection of buildings just off Lafayette Road in Hampton Falls, was still operated by Edwin's great-grandchildren when sold in the 1980s, after about a century of family ownership.
When Janvrin was just arriving on the Beach scene, a near-legendary figure was departing. In February 1902, Colonel Stebbins H. Dumas died at his winter home in Concord at the age of 74. The year before, stating, "I have owned and managed this place [Boar's Head Hotel] more years than I care to own up to," Dumas had leased his New Boar's Head Hotel to O.H. Whittier and Lieutenant Clifford B. Gill. Wallace Lovell had made Dumas an offer for his Boar's Head property in May 1901 and announced he would build the finest hotel in New England. Dumas--perhaps since he had been on the Beach since the 1860s, when he bought the property from David Nudd's heirs--likely was hesitant to deal with the wily promoter, and he told Lovell he was not ready to sell. Apparently he changed his mind that fall. Whittier and Gill were local men, well known to Dumas, and they agreed to pay the taxes, spend not less than $5,000 on repairs, pay interest on a $9,000 mortgage at Portsmouth Savings Bank, and pay the Head one-third of the net income on October 1 of each year. The agreement was for two years, with an option for three more and the option of buying the property any time within the five years for $30,000. As filed in the Rockingham County Registry of Deeds, this agreement gave Whittier and Gill 13 acres of land on top of the Head, the New Boar's Head Hotel, bowling alleys, a barn, sand other buildings, and all of their furnishings, equipment, and contents.
Apparently Whittier and Gill did not fare well in their management of the hotel or with any plans they might have had for utilizing the empty land on the summit, because, in 1904, the Union announced the Head was to be sold to settle the Dumas estate. The local paper speculated that the land was the most valuable parcel on the New Hampshire coast, and that it would become either a large hotel or the site of expensive houses. Apparently there was some thought of the Town or perhaps the State buying the property for a park, an idea mentioned in newspapers as far away as Springfield, Massachusetts. Nothing came of that idea, however, and in late August, Edward J. Butler of Boston bought the hotel and furnishings plus nine lots for $4,100. The best single lot sold for $1,600, but most of the 64 lots sold for $350. By the following June, the paper reported that the appearance of Boar's Head was changing rapidly, as many cottages were built, the result of the previous year's auction. The Dumas era was severed forever in October 1908, when the New Boar's Head Hotel burned, a loss of $15,000. Water lines from the new water tank prevented total destruction, but not enough was saved to rebuild. With the hotel business booming farther south on the beachfront, the half-century-old hotel was not replaced.
At some point during these early years, fireworks became part of the Beach's weekly entertainment. According to James W. Tucker, the first display came as a result of business rivalry between the Casino and those entrepreneurs at the corner of C Street -- namely, Joseph Dudley, John White, and Lemuel Ring. Night after night, Dudley and White watched the people pour out of Joseph Flynn's Casino Theatre and stop to have late-night snacks at Casino shops. By the time most of the people got to C Street, they had already purchased souvenirs and food.
Tucker claimed Dudley told him the trio resolved to do something to bring more of the business their way. They tried price-cutting and other inducements, to no avail. Finally, Dudley passed the hat among the corner businesspeople and collected $7.65, which he spent in Portsmouth for fireworks and Roman candles. Lookouts were posted outside the theater one Saturday night, and when the 300 people came out, a signal was sent to Dudley, who fired off his display. Immediately the people rushed to watch the free entertainment, and when it was over, they naturally stopped at the shops of Dudley, White, and Ring. For an hour and a half, business boomed. Ring sold more sodas at his fountain in that time period than he had done the entire previous week; White ran out of fish chowder; and Dudley sold souvenirs and postcards. "Right then and there," Dudley told Tucker years later, "we learned the value of free fireworks as an attraction." Wednesdays were finally selected for the midweek displays because city stores traditionally closed on Wednesday afternoons, giving their employees, and shoppers, the opportunity and time to reach the Beach.
The hotel operators and owners of the many new cottages needed food and other necessities, which the enterprising village stores and entrepreneurs were happy to provide, using a variety of peddler carts. From 1901 through 1912, the Union mentioned a number of these horse-drawn vehicles: Willard N. Emery's homemade confectioneries, G.W. Barbour's handsome new milk cart, J.B. Brown's fruit-and-vegetable cart, and Everett Godfrey's and W.H. Glidden's bakery carts. George I. Davis, who opened a barbershop at the Casino, had a spring-water cart, and C.D. Dow, the leader of Dow's Orchestra of Newburyport, had Brown's photographic cart. In May 1902, Frank S. Mason's meat wagon, built at J.S. Norton's, was sent away for painting and was to be ready in three weeks for his trade at the Beach. It was designed by George Emery and built without plans. Mason was also a dealer in new and used wagons and carriages. Norton and his son Nelson built many of these carts and wagons. E.G. Cole & Company had a handsome two-horse cart--green with red running gear--for its coal trade. In 1907, Ross Campbell was driving the new Hampton Baking Company cart, and during the summer of 1912, Henry Paul drove a milk team to the Beach, also carrying spring broilers and vegetables. Homer Johnson recalled that his father switched from a horse-drawn wagon to a truck for the Beach milk route in 1916. Selectman Joseph B. Brown was a market gardener who also sold his produce from a wagon. But accidents sometimes occurred. In October 1901, provision dealer George Batchelder, while driving his meat cart, was hit by a streetcar. "George was not hurt but the horse was badly cut and bruised although it survived."
The delivery wagons provided door-to-door service in those days. The grocery-store drivers, who sold everything from food to feed and hardware, visited their customers in the mornings to take orders, returned to the stores to collect the items, and delivered in the afternoon. If the store didn't have everything the customer wanted, someone would be sent on the trolley to Exeter to get whatever was needed. This system ended for most stores about the time of World War I. With gasoline rationing and men called up for the war, new "cash and carry" plans were instituted by the stores, thus saving their customers money. (Marelli's Market on Lafayette Road, however, continues to make home deliveries for a few customers, some as far away as Portsmouth.) While the stores stopped making deliveries, the tradition of itinerant peddlers continued at Hampton Beach for many years. Wagons, and later trucks, brought ice, fresh fish, meat, and produce to the cottages, and residents could count on regular appearances, sometimes for many seasons, of the wheeled salesmen. Among the last of the produce sellers was a Kensington man whose late-night arrivals in the 1950s earned him the nickname "Midnight" Palmer. Another regular visitor beginning in the 1950s was "Jolly" Walker's ice cream truck. Many people also brought fish from the trucks of Myron Norton and William Redman, bakery goods from the Cushman Bakery, and milk from the Marston, Johnson, and Freeman dairies.
During the winter of 1901-2, the EH&A was having financial problems, and a new entity, the New Hampshire Traction Company, had taken over ownership of the street railway from Wallace Lovell, who was then hired to run the business. In February 1902, the Hampton Union reprinted an article written by the Exeter correspondent of the Manchester Union that suggested there was concern on the Beach that the new company would "not pay the necessary personal attention to the discharging end of the various lines to insure the increase in receipts confidentially expected this summer. Certainly Mr. Lovell's magnetism has won him a warm spot in the estimation of the public in this section." The Exeter writer speculated that Lovell retained ownership "and that he still retains and is using for the ultimate good of his various enterprises all the power he ever had, weeding out with a practiced hand where experience has taught him was necessary, and adding tried experience and knowledge where he thinks it will most avail. The new forty-room hotel under construction for Edwin Janvrin of Hampton Falls is said to be really Mr. Lovell's, which, if true, argues that he has not lost sight of his Mecca, but intends to push it this summer as usual." Of course, the writer was wrong. Lovell was the manager of the line only, and 1902 was his last year as a major promoter of the Beach. He resigned early in 1903.
Meanwhile, the land south of the Casino and west between it and the river was being plotted and the lots were advertised in anticipation of the completion of the Mile Bridge in May 1902. The new bridge provided the final link in the ocean boulevard along the entire New Hampshire coast. This road was laid out by order of the Legislature in 1899 and the surveying was completed in 1900. The aim of the project was to provide an unobstructed view of the ocean and to prevent construction of buildings between the road and the sea. In some cases, the commissioners took wider slices of land opposite headlands and where spits of land projected into the sea. This State-financed road project began at the Rye end in 1900. A year later, the Legislature appropriated $20,000 for construction work on the boulevard, plus $5,000 for expenses of the commission, land damage, surveys, and so on. Construction of the boulevard began in May under the direction of the appointed highway commissioners, Colonel Alfred F. Howard, J. Warren Brown of Hampton Falls, and W.H.C. [William Henry Clay] Follansbee [of Exeter]. That season, five miles were built from Wentworth Road in Portsmouth to the Rye resorts. Of macadam construction, the road was supposed to be 100 feet wide, although for most of its route the width was 30 feet.
In June 1901, while the State was working on the northern end of the boulevard, William F. Brown was extending the Hampton end of the highway from the Casino south toward the river. At the same time, the street railway was building a road across the Seabrook sand dunes from the Massachusetts state line to the edge of the river. A completed portion of the boulevard from Wallis Sands to Ragged Neck, Rye, opened on September 3, 1902, with the governor in attendance. Most of the proposed road already existed along the Hampton shoreline.
With the new bridge soon to open and the highway progressing, activity was brisk at the Beach. In April 1902, the Union described some of the construction then underway: a 7-room cottage for Albert C. Turner of Exeter; a dwelling for Joseph Nudd; and a cottage for Joseph L. Leavitt opposite his post office building. Proprietor Oscar J. Jenkins was improving the Bay View with six new rooms on the third floor, plus another dining room and lunch room. Beyond the Casino, Edwin Janvrin was finishing a large double two-and-a-half story hotel, which he sold to the Granite State Land Company. The biggest new building was the Hill Crest, three stories with a basement, built for William W. Ham of Haverhill, Massachusetts. With 40 rooms and a first-class restaurant, it was the finest on the Beach. Built about the same time was the Pelham Hotel. Before the season opened, the Beach was treated to one of its biggest events ever as a new Mile Bridge across the Hampton River was dedicated in a ceremony featuring Governor Jordan and hundreds of dignitaries.
In June, the Union announced that the Beach would host trotting, running, and bicycle races, and automobile races, "providing entrants for same can be procured." For the Fourth of July holiday, 30,000 transients were expected at the Beach, with fireworks, band concerts, and the cars running until midnight. The New Boar's Head Hotel opened, with Mrs. G.G. Smith as proprietor (perhaps hired by Whittier and Gill), the first year since the 1860s without Dumas, who had died. On Sunday, July 14, the first of the excursions from Manchester to Hampton Beach saw 300 people arrive. They left Manchester via the railroad at 7:55 A.M. and changed to trolleys in Exeter for the one-hour ride to Hampton Beach. The tourists may have been having fun, but for others the summer season meant plenty of work, as the Union explained in August: "Friday and Saturday were hard days for the baggage men. The change of guests--the July people going out and the August coming in--uniting with the usual increase at the end of the week combined to make it one of the hardest for the railroad people of the season."
Vaudeville at the Casino, under the management of J.M. Gorman, was a popular attraction. According to the Union, "Hampton Beach can offer two hours of the best vaudeville entertainment, in a well ventilated theater, at the cost of an ice cream cone."
The week of August 18-24, 1902, saw the Beach's largest music festival to date. Organized by Henri G. Blaisdell of Concord, the event featured the New Hampshire Philharmonic Orchestra and a chorus, performing Italian and German music. Two concerts were presented daily, a Hampton Beach band-concert tradition that continued unbroken for more than 80 years. Various musical groups played at the Beach for dances and concerts before the turn of the century. When the Casino was built in 1899, a kiosk was constructed across the street, and band concerts were held here, including an August performance by Talma's Ladies Band. For the opening of the Ocean House in 1901, Henri G. Blaisdell and his 20-piece band played for a week, returning in August for 10 days and playing again on Labor Day. Beginning in 1902 and continuing until 1920, the Haverhill City Band, conducted by Charles Higgins, played during most of the summer. Herbert W. Downe's Band played from 1921 to 1923, then Arnold Chick's Band played the first two weeks of the 1924 season. Because of a wage dispute, however, Chick was replaced by Dr. Richard W.L Wingate and the Amesbury Band for the rest of the season. Harold "Hal" McDonnell's Band played from 1925 through 1936 and from 1941 through 1945. Charles H. Leave of Hampton and his band played in 1937 and 1938, Major Edgar Allen Moses's Band during 1939 and 1940, and the Charles "Chuck" Hill Band performed from 1946 to 1951. Although there were many changes in conductors during those years, several band members returned annually as "regulars." Eddie Madden of Rochester was appointed bandleader in 1957. In 1959, the Hampton Beach Band was under the direction of Dyson Kring of Dover, the assistant leader was Rolvin Coombs of Hampton, and the pianist was recent Winnacunnet High School graduate Glenroy Wolfsen of North Hampton.
Amesbury High School Band leader Frank Lawlor conducted the band from 1960 to 1963, and Stanley Bednarz of North Hampton, music director of Winnacunnet High School, conducted the Beach band concerts from 1964 until 1984. Since 1984, Beach musical entertainment has included Bednarz's Band and other performers, but concerts are no longer daily events. Originally the concerts were paid for by the street railway company and, later, the Casino management, but since the 1920s, the Town and, most recently, the Beach Precinct and the Chamber of Commerce (with Town contributions through 1988) have supported the concerts.
For the 1902 Labor Day weekend, some 400 members of the New Hampshire Brigade, Uniformed Rank, Knights of Pythias, tented out for four days on eight acres just south of Cutler's, the site of the old Ocean House. The same weekend saw the return of 468 Shriners, with the newspapers reporting some 50,000 other visitors as well, making this the busiest weekend ever for the Beach. The Knights laid out 150 tents in military fashion and opened their weekend with elaborate ceremonies and a dedication of the campsite. Taps was sounded at 10 P.M. Civilians had to leave the area and posted sentries permitted no one without a pass to cross the guard line. "And this order," the Union reported, "so far as it related to civilians, was strictly enforced although there were many attempts to trifle with the sentries. Shriners were especially active in trying to get through the lines." It was all in good fun, however, and on Sunday, when the Knights paraded the length of the Beach, wearing handsome white helmets with plumes and gold-laced uniforms, the Shriners were among the most avid spectators. Throughout the weekend, the Shriners "overflowed all the hotels and boarding houses so that it was practically impossible for anybody without a red turban and a silver half moon on it to obtain a place to sleep and something to eat .... Cutler's changed the bill of fare every fifteen minutes to keep up with the appetites of the men with the red hats."
After Wallace Lovell left the struggling street railway early in 1903, the company leased to W.H. Phinney of Boston all of its Hampton Beach property, including he Casino, Ocean House, Hampton Inn, and Opera House. W.S. Bigelow of Boston was manager of the businesses. According to the Union, a regular midway would be built at the rear of the Casino and "Hampton Beach will be rightfully called the Coney Island of New Hampshire." This grand scheme and several other announced plans over the years to build roller coasters and other amusement-park rides have usually been opposed by Beach businesspeople. Edwin Janvrin built his new 38-room hotel, the Belle Villa, on a site north of the Casino. In May it was announced that Mrs. L.M. Graves, hostess of the Pelham, had leased the Hill Crest and changed its name to the Arlington. The next year, the name was changed to the Hill Crest when it was sold to Mr. and Mrs. W. Rollins Abrams, lessors of the Greenleaf Hotel in Quincy, Massachusetts. They opened for the season on May 15. On August 28, 199 members of the Fogg family reunion met at the Beach. President John H. Fogg of Hampton described how the family farm in Hampton had been handed down for seven generations to the youngest son.
In January 1904, the New Hampshire Auto Club formed, the first of its kind in this region, and secured an option on the old Leonia Hotel (burned in 1900) site in Hampton. The club planned to use the 15 acres with stables and barns for autos and repair facilities. Although the group was going to build a clubhouse in the future, it leased the New Boar's Head Hotel for the 1904 season. The club decided to go to the Farragut in Rye for 1905 and never did build in Hampton.
Among the old-timers who returned to the Beach in 1905 were Mrs. Sarah C. Batchelder, who was spending her thirtieth season in charge of the Penobsconuck House, "one of the oldest and most familiar houses along the Beach," and Mrs. Mary A. Hastings of Manchester, who arrived in July for her thirty-first consecutive summer. The Casino installed a penny arcade for the 1905 season. For the busy Fourth of July, Exeter and Portsmouth sent four loaded cars to the Beach every half hour from early morning until late in the afternoon. At night, the Beach presented a most brilliant appearance from a distance, with an almost continuous line of electric lights from Leavitt's Hotel to the Casino. Reportedly "under construction is a mammoth roller coaster being built a little way beyond the Radcliffe," but, like other rumors of this type, it was not built. All of this activity must have pleased Beach businesspeople but some town residents were not happy with the situation.
In June, the News-Letter reported, a local clergyman visited the Beach on Sunday and found that the skating rink, bowling alleys, and the slot machines were in full operation. The Women's Christian Temperance Union immediately gathered signatures for a petition to the selectmen. The Hampton Union suggested, "It certainly cannot help the Beach in the long run to make it a resort for the lawless and the sooner it is cleaned up the better for all parties." A week later, the paper reported that Selectman Warren Hobbs ordered Casino manager Phinney to shut down bowling, skating, and other amusements on Sunday. The Union reasoned that "the working man needs to have the advantage of going to the Beach to have an outing on his one free day of the week," but the paper cautioned against allowing Hampton Beach to become "wide open, a Sunday devoted to sports and dissipation--the wide open Sunday violates the laws of the state and offends the conscience of many good people. If Sunday sports are permitted, if Hampton Beach is to be 'wide open,' the reputation of the Beach will suffer and it will become another Revere." The petitioners were advised to go "to the Beach not just with the law but with the Gospel, perhaps to conduct Sunday services under a tent or on the sand." In mid-July, "Deputy Sheriff Nelson of Candia arrived at the Beach early Sunday morning with instructions from the county solicitor to close bowling alleys and to stop the playing of pool and billiards on the Lord's Day. His orders were complied with and as a consequence Sunday was unusually quiet and orderly." The same legal action was also taken at Canobie Lake Park, another of the street-railway properties.
A Union editorial commenting on the closing explained that "The old Puritan Sabbath is now beyond recall .... Yet it would be deplorable to have Sunday entirely secularized." On a complaint from local clergy, Sheriff Marcus M. Collins of Portsmouth came to the Casino in August, arresting William Barrett and Raymond Heckman and charging them with operating bowling alleys on the Lord's Day. The defendants pleaded not guilty, claiming that no disturbance had been created by the lanes being open and that "times have changed since the law was written and people need recreation." County Attorney John W. Kelley argued that the law had been in effect "since 1843 and meant now what it did then .... Only works of mercy and necessity are permitted on the Lord's Day." Found guilty, Barrett was fined $15.73, Heckman $15.56. Another Union editorial said that the arrests were the culmination of a movement that would result in closed Sundays at the Beach: "Things have been permitted for the past three years but the door must not be opened any wider. Roller skating, gambling, dancing and a Sunday theatre will not be permitted." The paper saw the arrests as a conflict between the Town and the street-railway corporation, which wanted the Beach open more in order to attract more passengers to bring more business to the Casino, which the corporation owned.
A longtime Beach institution began in 1905, when Bethany Cottage, a Fresh Air Fund home for city children, was started in a rented cottage by the Missionary Society of Manchester. In 1908, the group built its own cottage from the stable of the old Boar's Head Hotel. By the summer of 1920, 113 children from ages 3 months to 14 years came for vacations, the youngest accompanied by their mothers.
Another major change in Beach business occurred in 1907, when the Casino opened under the management of General Rufus E. Graves of Exeter and C.J. Ramsdell, who had operated Canobie Lake Park for the previous four years. This lease arrangement resulted from further difficulties of the EH&A and continued until 1920, when the partners bought all of the Beach properties owned by the railway. In June, Graves, who had primary charge of the Hampton properties, ran front-page ads in the Hampton newspaper for the Casino, which they leased along with the Hampton Inn and the Ocean House, and, at the Isles of Shoals, the Appledore House (400 guests) and the Oceanic Hotel (300 guests). The Casino offered a theater, penny arcade, skating rink, laughing gallery (now a fun house), bathhouse with 100 sections provided with hot and cold water, public and private dining rooms, dance hall, a banquet hall seating 400 people, plus Higgins Famous Concert Band giving daily concerts in front of the Casino. When Graves and Ramsdell announced a new three-year lease on the Casino and other street-railway property at the Beach in 1910, the newspaper said, "This will be the first season in many years when no liquor will be served on the property," a curious statement since serving liquor had been prohibited by the HBIC lease.
The importance of the resort business to New England in 1909 was estimated to be some $50 million spent by tourists, with Hampton estimated to have received $400,000. With this much money flowing into the community, building continued at a rapid pace. New construction either underway or planned for the 1911 season was estimated at $50,000. In May 1911, as many as 100 men were working on various Beach projects, a major one being the street railway's construction of the "grandolithic walk," 500 feet long and 12 feet wide, in front of the Casino. The Pelham added 16 new rooms and a spacious dining room. Charles H. Brown was grading the sand and applying a thick layer of gravel for new roads in the HBIC area. Because of the rapid development in the Improvement Company section of the Beach, "the old King's highway [today's Ashworth Avenue], which runs in a straight line from the river through a tract of land west of the Casino is being filled and graded ... under the personal direction of [selectman] Joseph B. Brown," the Union said, and "....it is sure to prove the most valuable work the selectmen have done in the precinct for some time." The road from the depot to the Beach was oiled to make a better surface for automobiles, which were becoming more and more common, and to keep down the dust.
In 1911, Charles F. Allen erected a large tent on the site of the former Radcliffe Hotel (which had burned again in 1909), where he served dinners. He intended to erect a large modern hotel that fall. Elsewhere, nearly a dozen cottages were going up in the Ross field, and many others were being built at scattered points on the Beach. By June, the Union reported that it was " .... almost impossible to lease a cottage at the Beach [this season] so great has been the demand .... It is gratifying to lovers of this beautiful stretch of seashore that the danger that threatened it a few years ago of becoming another Revere [Beach, Massachusetts] or Coney Island has happily been averted. The future of Hampton Beach is that of a residential beach, where well-to-do people from the cities will have their summer homes.
"There is a tendency that is very gratifying on the part of the property owners to identify themselves with Hampton and become citizens of the town." Changes in transportation were also having an impact on the Beach. In late July, the newspaper said there were "171 autos lined up in front of the Casino, representing ten states. Police request that they all back in which 'not only makes a fine appearance' but leaves room for other machines."
On the north shore, Surfside Park was developed in July 1909 by Frank W. Coughlin of Boston. Charles P. Stockwell was the local sales agent, and, according to the Union, "All lots are large and the section promises to be one of the most notable at Hampton Beach." In October 1912, the newspaper reported that 100 lots had been sold during the previous season and the selling price of lots had tripled. Also in 1909, E.G. Cole was offering lots in a large North Beach development between King's Highway and Meadow Pond. These lots abutted the Town-owned Plantation lots, which had been offered for lease as a result of the 1909 town meeting.
The year 1911 was not without its lighter moments. Merrill H. Browne, who had been campaigning against the HBIC, picked out a more popular target: Robert Ring and his popcorn stand. Browne felt that the license for the lucrative popcorn business should be put out for bid instead of granted annually to Ring. During the last years of the nineteenth century, the Town began to require licenses (and still does) for various businesses, including billiard and pool halls, bowling alleys, dance halls, and merry-go-rounds. In 1899, Emile J. Bergulund paid $5 for a license to sell popcorn, apparently in a booth on the sand, which was Town property, since it seems likely that the Casino and other Beach businesses were selling popcorn in their own establishments. The next mention of popcorn in the town report was in 1908, when Robert Ring, son of builder Lemuel C. Ring, paid $100 for a popcorn license, for a location on the sand right in front of the bandstand, the only privilege granted by the Town. The Legislature had prohibited private enterprise between the high- and low-water marks, except with the consent of the Town, to keep the area free from "fakirs" and other itinerants. This spot must have been lucrative to merit such a fee, since R.E. Graves of the Casino paid only $140 for his billiard, bowling, and theater licenses and F.J. O'Dea was charged just $15 for a lunch-cart (victualler's) license.
Ring paid the same popcorn fee in 1910. Browne must have complained to the selectmen, because in a March 1911 letter to the Union editor, he said the town officials had informed him they would accept bids for the rights to the location. Browne charged that since the Town had "given away" its land to the HBIC, surely the Town should make as much as possible from its opportunity to derive license income from businesses on the beach sand. Browne also offered to "police" the Beach for the season for $200, but his offer was refused. Ring got the license again in 1911, although he paid $200 for the privilege. Between 1912 and 1915, Ring paid $300 for the license, while the street railway paid $100 for another popcorn license. In 1914, Ring replaced his stand with a larger building. After 1915, the town reports no longer carried a separate breakdown for the various business licenses, but Ring continued to sell popcorn and peanuts, and to rent beach chairs, on the sand in front of the bandstand until his death in 1927. His building was wrecked by a storm in the 1930s and the State, by then owner of the Beach, refused to allow family members to rebuild.
Difficulties at neighboring Salisbury also led to growth at Hampton Beach. In October, the Union reported that J. Frank Jones, president of the Hampton Beach Property Owners Association, had bought several lots at Nudd's field and was going to erect a cottage on one lot using lumber from his Salisbury Beach cottage, which he had dismantled. The lumber was brought over on a trolley freight car. Many others were expected to do likewise, "induced by a new policy inaugurated by the syndicate controlling Salisbury Beach where exorbitant prices are being exacted for deeds of land on which many of the summer cottages are standing."
After the close of the 1911 season, the Union predicted, "The biggest building boom in the history of the Beach is expected with the expected construction of four modern hotels, each between 75 and 150 rooms. Two were to be built on the north shore, and two on White's Island. The project were primarily by Haverhill and Lawrence businessmen." One Lawrence builder had contracts for 14 cottages, and the newspaper suggested that hundreds of prospective tourists were vacationing elsewhere because there was no room at the Beach. Some people reportedly had been "forced" to buy cottages because of the limited hotel space. One of the final events of the season was The Cutler Club's annual (wild) bird dinner on October 12 at Cutler's, "probably the only hotel along this section of the Atlantic Coast open during the year around." The club was composed of Cutler's prominent political friends from Rockingham County and northeastern Massachusetts. Congressman Sulloway was often the guest of honor.
Among other businesspeople attempting to solve the housing problem was Mrs. Florence Munsey, who had purchased the old Janvrin Hotel and moved it behind Jenkins' cafe. In its place she erected a new building costing $8,000. The most impressive new hotel, however, was being built by Lemuel C. Ring for George Ashworth, owner of the Avon. "The handsome new building near Jenkins' ... will be four stories high, 40 feet on the front, 52 feet deep, ... of an artistic design in which several large Corinthian pillars two stories in height are a prominent feature. It will be one of the most ornate structures on the Beach."
Opened on Memorial Day 1912, the Ashworth immediately became the showplace at the Beach, occupying the highest spot between Boar's Head and the river. Its prominent location was matched only by Ashworth himself, who was a leader of the Precinct and a commissioner in 1916-17 and from 1925 until 1951, when he was voted "honorary commissioner for life" at the annual Precinct meeting. He was a founder and officer of the Chamber of Commerce, founder of the annual Children's Day, and supervisor of the playground. He devoted many hours to committees working to prevent shoreline erosion, and he chaired many civic committees as well. Ashworth was given the honorary title of colonel in 1935 by the governor of Kentucky. Because of his interest in children, he supported the annual Boy Scout camporees held at the Beach and at Camp Ashworth." In 1939, when the other Precinct commissioners voted to keep the playground open until 8 P.M., Ashworth refused, arguing that children should be in bed at that hour. Local milkman Homer Johnson recalled that Ashworth was also a shrewd businessman; when presented bills for payment of milk, Ashworth only paid the dollar amount, refusing to pay the additional cents. He must have saved the pennies, because when he died at age 87 in 1952, Ashworth's will established the George and Grace A. Ashworth scholarship, which is still being awarded annually through the Trustees of the Trust Funds to a graduating senior of Winnacunnet High School. The will provided for additional money for the playground and the Boy and Girl Scouts. Following an example of perseverance set a quarter century earlier by John G. Cutler, Ashworth rebuilt his hotel twice after it burned [two] times in eight years. In recognition of his contributions to the Beach and the whole town, Marsh Avenue was renamed in his honor by the selectmen after an advisory vote of the 1957 town meeting.
By May 1912, more than 100 carpenters were at work at the Beach, the Union reporting that more men were needed to keep up with the building boom. Harry A. Graves of Manchester opened the first pharmacy at the Beach. Called Graves' Fairview Pharmacy, it was located in the Fairview Hotel on Ocean Boulevard at B Street. The Town had been leasing lots for several years at the White Island section of the Beach, adjacent to the river. To keep the tourists there entertained, Harry Chase of Smithtown constructed a large building and opened a billiard and pool hall. In late July, the Rockingham County Republican Club held its midsummer meeting at Cutler's and endorsed the reelection campaign of President William H. Taft. The following day, the county Socialists met at the Beach and put forth their own slate of officers for the fall elections.
When the 1913 season opened, another Beach legend was missing. John G. Cutler, who first came to the Beach in 1875, died in February. His wife continued to run the Sea View, keeping it open year round. The new Olympia Theater at the corner of C Street opened in June 1913 with an admission fee of 10 cents for 90 minutes' entertainment, and James F. Garland opened a store at the rear of his Fairview House. In July, electricity was extended to White Island, making the entire shoreline well lighted. In mid-August, there were two drownings, rare events in those days when most people sat on the sand fully dressed and few people actually went in the water. There were volunteer lifeguards but little rescue equipment. After the tragedy, Police Chief Gerald Smith solicited $154 in donations from Beach businesses and individuals and brought two Swampscott dories and lifesaving equipment. One boat was placed opposite the Dudley & White store, the other on North Beach opposite the Petrel cottage, where there was a boathouse. Volunteer surfmen and first-aid people were also recruited.
Prominent summer resident Ashton Lee and Walter Coulson of Lawrence brought Leavitt's for $8,500 from Joseph Leavitt in late July, ending the Leavitt's involvement with Beach hotels, which began in 1827. In November, the first Ashworth burned, but its owner immediately hired Lemuel C. Ring to rebuild, using the same plans but making the hotel 40 feet longer.
More than 50 new houses were built during the previous winter and spring of 1914. By August, the Union said it was the "largest summer colony ever ... Last Sunday there were fully 20,000 people at the Beach with some 325 cars parked by the Casino…a police officer was stationed at the sharp curve near Leavitt's hotel to slow down the traffic."
In 1915, two of the most memorable events in the history of the Beach occurred late in the season: the first formal Carnival Week and a disastrous fire. The year began as a continuation of the previous busy season. In January 1915, L.H. Hall of Amesbury, who had built more than 40 cottages at the Beach in the previous few years, was constructing a two-story solid brick house, the first stone masonry building at the main beach, at the corner of M Street and the boulevard. The Improvement Company said 150 new cottages would be built that season. Although Graves and Ramsdell were said to be planning to build a mammoth roller coaster behind the Casino, General Rufus E. Graves denied the rumor, claiming it would be "derogatory to the interests of the Beach." Another movie theater, the Strand, was under construction on the boulevard.
In June, the State spent $10,000 making repairs to the highway from the Casino south to the Massachusetts state line. Possibly as a result of this work, the largest number of autos ever at the Beach was recorded on a mid-July Sunday: about 1,000 vehicles were counted during the day and as many were parked along the beachfront about noon. The new parking lot south of the bandstand was filled, as was every available parking space between the Casino and the Ashworth. An old idea of Wallace Lovell's was also revived as plans were announced for a study to build a pier out from the beach to connect with oceangoing vessels and thereby give the Beach more accessibility. The rocky section at the north end of the Beach was the favored site. In late July, the president and chief engineer of the company proposing to build the pier visited the Beach.
During the first years of the century, Beach businessmen had been content to allow the street railway to do most of the promotion of the Beach, apparently believing that the company would want to ensure that its cars were full and its own Casino and other properties were busy. The street railway was the only convenient way for people to reach the Beach, but by 1915, the trolley system was in deepening financial trouble and automobiles were offering an alternative for tourists. Then, as now, a major element of the promotion was to extend the season, since most places had all of the business they could handle in the peak summer months of July and August. Led by Joseph Dudley, John White, and others, the Beach businesspeople formed the Board of Trade in 1915 to begin their own coordinated promotion effort and specifically to conduct a Grand Carnival for the week of September 6. Superintendent J.A. MacAdams was appointed treasurer of the Carnival Week committee, which also included Carnival Chairman James Tucker, Joseph Dudley, Board of Trade President J. Frank James, Frank Callahan, Edmund Langley, and Byron Redman. Some 178 businesses and individuals donated almost $4,000 for expenses. The Board of Trade was organized early that summer, meeting for the first time in Tom Nudd's barn, which also functioned as the headquarters of the Beach volunteer fire department. The club room, with a pool table and card tables, became a social center for Beach men. Tucker, who produced publicity for the 1915 and 1916 Carnival Week programs, spent the entire 1917 summer as "publicity manager"--in effect the first secretary of what became the Hampton and Hampton Beach Board of Trade, now the Hampton Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. Tucker's first office was in the barn's tack room. This promotional group has become one of the most important organizations in Hampton. The Chamber pays for fireworks, the band, advertising, and promotional brochures, and lobbies at town meeting and in the New Hampshire Legislature on issues involving the Beach, and in recent years has made efforts to represent all of the community, not just the Beach. The first uptown winter office was opened in 1957 and the Chamber has organized the annual Christmas parade and other promotions for Village businesses. There have been several name changes but the last was in 1982, when the name Hampton Beach Area Chamber of Commerce was selected and the promotional emphasis was expanded to adjacent communities. The Chamber is perhaps best known for the annual Miss Hampton Beach contest. Beginning in 1915, a "Queen" (and, sometimes, a "King") was selected by various means to preside over Carnival Week activities. For some time the queen was the young woman who sold the most raffle tickets, but the event became a beauty contest in 1946 when Casino owner John Dineen convinced the Chamber that an Atlantic City-type pageant would be a summer highlight and a major promotional event. Dineen was correct, because photos of the winning queen have been published nationwide.
The first Carnival Week could not have been more successful. The Beach was decorated with colorful red, white, and blue bunting and flags. There were decorations displayed from the bridge all along the front, and at night there were long lines of colored lights across the boulevard. Many cottagers built bonfires on the beach. "The most thrilling act ever seen in New England" was a demonstration of aerial warfare by pilots J. Chauncey Redding and J. Howard Bush flying a Burgess-Wright biplane. They showed how airplanes were used to attack and destroy a fort: by dropping bags of flour on a sand fort in front of the Ocean House. At low tide, the plane landed on the sand. Also featured was a parachute drop by Philip Bullman and the airplane flight of the first-ever carnival queen, Blanche Thompson, daughter of the Mr. and Mrs. Fred J. Thompson of Hampton Beach. There were daily parades, nightly fireworks, dances, concerts, baseball games, a marathon run from Portsmouth to the Beach, an auto race for Ford cars on the beach, a motorcycle race, and fireworks, plus another "grand illumination." Hampton's Donald Ring was the winner in the toddler class of the baby contest. It was estimated that 100,000 people, probably the largest number ever at the Beach, arrived on Monday (Labor Day). Some 4,000 ice cream cones were sold at one stand, 2,000 fares were collected on the Portsmouth trolley, and 600 railroad tickets were sold at the station. Daily themes included Labor and Trade Union Day, Children's Day, Fraternal Day, Governor's Day, and Agriculture and Grange Day. Saturday was Flag Day. The carnival closed on Sunday, September 12, with band concerts and a final illumination in the evening. The first person to pilot an airplane at Hampton Beach, Redding was killed in a plane crash shortly after Carnival Week.
Before the month was out, the great celebration was forgotten as the Beach's worst fire destroyed every building between B Street and Highland Avenue, including the Ashworth (lost for the second time), Janvrin, Grand View, Fairview, and DeLancey hotels, the Olympia and Strand theaters, Ferncroft Gardens dance hall, the Jenkins Block, the L.C. Ring Block, and some 40 cottages. Just over $100,000 of the $150,000 loss was covered by insurance, but four days later, Ashworth had a load of lumber delivered to his lot, and, along with others, he began to rebuild immediately in anticipation of the 1916 season.
A large portion of the Beach had a new appearance in the summer of 1916 with many new buildings, some larger than the ones they replaced. The new buildings in the fire area were described by the Portsmouth Herald in April. At the head of C Street was the 28-room New Colonial, built for year-round use by W.J. Miller of Exeter. About where the fire started at the corner of B Street was the 40-room Pleasant View Hotel, while at the corner of A Street and Ocean Boulevard was the new Janvrin, four stories tall with 48 rooms. Behind the Janvrin was the new Lawrence House, and across the street, the new, larger Ferncroft Gardens, a dance hall. Behind the Ferncroft, the new Olympia Theater seated 800 people, and both Jenkins and Ring rebuilt their blocks. The O'Deas built a new hotel on Marsh (Ashworth) Avenue and there were many new cottages. The new Ashworth (which is the current building) was again the showplace of the Beach, with its distinctive exterior marked by columns and detailed interior woodwork. There were empty sites at the locations of the former Strand Theater and the DeLancey and Walford hotels.
Another change this season was the widening of what was then called Ocean Avenue, necessary because of the increasing automobile traffic. The project was made possible by moving the trolley lines to the west side of the road. Concern about speeding autos led to the first speeding arrests at the Beach, with the drivers fined $2 and costs. Elsewhere, the Casino removed all sanitary conveniences from the building and built a new structure for those purposes. The bandstand was lowered to the level of the boardwalk and a canopy was added to help the acoustics. L.C. Ring leased lots at the Pines, made available as a result of a 1915 town meeting vote, and was building the first of 10 "expensive" houses in that section.
Pleased with its success of the previous year, the Board of Trade in June planned a publicity banquet to promote the Beach to a wider area. They wanted to illuminate the Beach with some 2,000 lights hung along the waterfront, to place streamers over the boulevard at the bridge and Boar's Head, to have another Carnival Week, and to use a "beach booster" letterhead promoting the Beach.
At a July meeting of the Board of Trade, the Union reported that "The relationship, or rather lack of a cooperative relationship between the town of Hampton and Beach precinct, appeared to be the keynote of the meeting." Among items discussed was better housing for the fire equipment. The board suggested using Brown's Garage, because it had taken 22 minutes for a man to go from Brown's to the fire station (Nudd's barn) to get the truck for a recent fire. There was no permanent man at the station. A committee was appointed to meet with the selectmen to solve the problem. Beach residents claimed they paid half of Hampton taxes and were entitled to a better share of municipal conveniences. Some people suggested that perhaps the Beach was growing too fast for the municipal machinery of a small town to handle. Also under discussion was another major Beach problem, the removal of swill, which was being buried with rubbish and was said to be a health hazard.
A week later, the board reported on a favorable meeting with the selectmen. The Town agreed to make daily collections of swill, garbage and waste using Town teams, and the selectmen said the Board of Trade could determine the location of the fire apparatus. They selected Brown's Garage, where sleeping rooms above the garage would be outfitted with a sliding pole and sliding doors. A dump was established on Island Path.
In July 1916, the Union described an idea to make Hampton Beach a state reservation. According to the newspaper, Beach people believed they were not getting an equitable share of municipal expenses and attention in relation to the amount of taxes paid. For these reasons, Beach people said they created the Precinct to tax themselves to pay for more improvements -- namely, the fire department and street sprinkling. Town officials argued that the problems were caused by the Beach residents who could not agree on exactly what they wanted. The average Hampton citizen, according to the article, saw a State takeover of the Beach as a joke.
In late July, R.L. McDonald was hired by the Board of Trade as head lifeguard. He was empowered to hire other guards to protect bathers and to "keep a weather eye out for sharks," which had been reported offshore the previous August. Another Board of Trade effort resulted in the HBIC ordering all businesses leasing from them to remove signs hanging over the sidewalks, a decision the board felt would improve the appearance of the beachfront.
On a mid-August Sunday, the Beach was jammed with 40,000 people gathered for the day, and the highway was clogged with 2,500 to 3,000 automobiles. Some 1,500 people came on a special excursion from Lakeport, Farmington, Rochester, Somersworth, Dover, and way stations, overtaxing the streetcars. A highlight of the second annual Carnival Week was a campaign speech by Republican presidential candidate Charles Evans Hughes. Despite the fire that had ravaged a large section of the Beach only a year earlier, the 1916 season closed as the best on record.
The children's playground was installed at the head of B Street in the summer of 1917, and plans were made for a park to run from the bandstand to While Island. "It will be the greatest improvement the resort has ever known," the Union ever predicted. Sand dunes were to be leveled and the area was to be graveled, loamed, and grassed in. The adjacent property owners were said to be willing to contribute to the cost. For Carnival Week, the Board of Trade contracted with John Janvrin to build a six-room cottage to be given away as a prize during the Carnival Week queen contest. Free vaudeville acts continued to be given twice daily, attracting thousands to watch acrobats, a dog-and-pony circus, bicyclists, a dog-and-monkey act, and in 1921, Daredevil Van Norman, who coasted down a long ramp on a bike and flipped into the air while the bike landed in a net and he into a small tank of water with gasoline burning on the top. In July 1917, a special Patriotic Week program featured speeches, vaudeville, fireworks, and a special flag-lowering ceremony nightly at 7 P.M. With World War I underway, a recruiting office was opened at the Beach.
Despite all of the fun vacationers were having at the Beach, some people were unhappy. In late July, the Portsmouth Herald reported, "... rumor is running rife as to the possible results of the agitation against one-piece suits for women, bare legs, short bathing skirts, and the 'handkerchief' combination, all of which have been so popular here as to arouse comment. Several young women were sent off the beach yesterday with the admonition to go home and get properly clothed before appearing on the sands again. There has been talk of employing a police woman to censor all the costumes, but this idea has not been taken seriously." Beach moralists were especially unhappy with young women who "paraded" about on the cement walk: "It is not uncommon to see a bevy of surf sylphs ... dangling their shapely extremities and this thing, it is said, must stop." It did not stop, and, in fact, a bathing girls' parade was held during Carnival Week, attracting a large crowd. The subject of women's bathing suits would arise several times again at the Beach over the years, but women, who for years wore heavy "Dolly Varden" suits, were determined to keep up with the current fashion. One of the last holdouts was the Chamber of Commerce, which, until recently, restricted Miss Hampton Beach contestants to one-piece suits. One can only imagine how bathing suits will change in the next 100 years.
The summer of 1918 began slowly due to the storm damage and later a fire on the Mile Bridge, but business and activity picked up so quickly that by late August, President Woodrow Wilson and his party drove unnoticed through the Beach on a Sunday. In September, orders were issued to enlisted men from the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and the army post in New Castle to keep away from Hampton and Salisbury beaches due to "claims that there is insufficient police protection at these resorts, that street walkers gather day and night, and conditions are dangerous owing to the evil existing there." Earlier in the summer, a letter to a Boston newspaper complained about price-gouging at the Beach, especially for food, and about a policy that suggested prices were higher on weekends than during the week. In 1919, the Portsmouth Herald said that throughout the seacoast many people were seen bringing their own lunches to avoid the high food costs at the resorts. There were record crowds at Hampton Beach anyway, and when the Board of Trade held its annual banquet, the main speaker discussed the evils of bolshevism, not the problems created by capitalism. Late in July, the Herald announced the sale of Cutler's Sea View to a corporation that planned to tear down the old buildings and construct a 200-room hotel, a scheme that failed to happen.
The year 1921 was another important one for the Beach. In April, Dr. Stanley M. Ward, the municipal health officer, reminded the Beach people who were required to have fire escapes, and who had not yet begun the work, that Memorial Day was the end of the grace period. Despite the unusually fine weather, Ward said, few people had begun their fire-escape work. Two links with Beach history were severed in early June. Mrs. John Cutler died, leaving the 60-room Sea View Hotel and a debt-ridden estate to proprietor J.B. Rich. Then Leavitt's, built in 1852, was torn down and replaced by a modern dance hall or ballroom, called the Dance Carnival, Ltd. The Union reported that half of the building operations in New Hampshire were taking place in Hampton Beach, with more than 100 carpenters, for example, working on the new 100-foot-by-200-foot dance hall. H.F. Blackwell, owner of the new dance hall, told a town meeting that he planned a 600-room hotel specifically for visitors of limited means.
As the season began, there were beach fireworks three nights a week and band concerts three times daily. No one was prepared for another disaster, but in late June, early on a Sunday morning, just as everything was ready for the big Fourth of July weekend, fire destroyed the main business area between B Street and Nudd Avenue, almost the same section that burned in 1915. Destroyed were the Janvrin, Fairview, Antler, Imperial, Sturgis, and Jenkins hotels, the Lawrence cottages, plus the Strand and Olympia theaters, a garage, the Ferncroft Gardens dance pavilion, 13 stores, the post office, 13 cottages, and two apartments. The loss to property owners was some $400,000, with $275,000 paid by insurance companies. While the area burned was smaller than the section destroyed in 1915, the buildings were larger and better constructed. On Monday, all 500 people who gathered for a mass meeting were enthusiastic about rebuilding, including L.C. Ring, who had already started construction.
Many burned-out businesses started anew using temporary storefronts and tents, and they were supported by a special advertising campaign aimed at letting New Englanders know that Hampton Beach was still in business. Despite the fire, the general economic decline, and bad weather, the Beach had a good season, with a permanent summer population estimated at 30,000. Following the fireworks some evenings, there was a two-mile-long line of cars leaving the Beach. The street railways offer cut-rate excursions several days per week and the ridership increased from six- to ten-fold. Auto traffic, the heaviest on record, was made more difficult because the State was building a new road along the beachfront, which replaced the old boulevard, "one of the worst stretches of road in the state." With the addition of new signs, it was hoped there would be parking space for 500 more cars.
In July, work began on a new brick police and comfort station built by Harry I. Noyes. It had modern toilet facilities, a rest room for women and children, plus an office for the police. One summer police raid at the Beach, led by Chief S.L. Blake, confiscated 96 quarts of liquor from three Massachusetts men. In the skies over the Beach, pioneer New Hampshire aviator Bob Fogg was performing stunts and landing near the low-water mark on the Beach to pick up passengers for rides. On the sands there was continuing comment, pro and con, over the new women's bathing suits. It was not all good news for the businesspeople, however, as insurance agents were notified that as of August 1, fire insurance rates for all property at the Beach located between the bridge north to and including the North Shore Hotel would be increased 33 1/3 percent.
In November, the Exeter Railway and Lighting Company sold its Beach holdings, including the Casino and the Ocean House, to Graves and Ramsdell, who had leased the property since 1907. They immediately had 26 carpenters at work changing the dance hall and enlarging the veranda.
In 1922, the Beach officially opened on Memorial Day with many new buildings to replace those burned the previous year. The new hotels were "absolutely fireproof," according to the Union. The Sea View opened for its forty-seventh season, new under the ownership of John Rich. Mrs. Cutler's will was fought in court by her relatives, but Rich won, the Union explained, because the court ruled that Mrs. Cutler's health was not impaired when she wrote the will. Mrs. Cutler had willed a $1,000 bond to the Town, but after obligations were paid, only $180.75 was left, which remains as the Hattie A. Cutler Poor Fund. In 1924, Armas Guyon was listed as the proprietor of Cutler's, with Mrs. Florence Munsey as manager. Guyon closed the old hotel between March 31 and November 1, ending the Cutler tradition of remaining open year round. Guyon opened the first swimming pool at Hampton Beach, at the rear of Cutler's, in July 1925. A Beach businessman, a contractor, and owner of several stores, Guyon's service station at the curve of Rocky Bend caused that location to be known also as Guyon's Corner.
In March 1923, fire destroyed Brown's Garage, which housed the fire station. A special Precinct meeting promptly voted to build a new fire station, the one that now houses Beach equipment on Ashworth Avenue. It was completed in July. Some 250 people attended a banquet to dedicate the firehouse in April 1924.
The Exeter & Hampton Electric Company, which operated an electrical appliance store at the Beach for several years, sponsored an electrical appliance show in the convention hall of the Casino in August 1924 to which they hoped to attract 50,000. In September the first Hampton Beach Auto and Fashion Show opened for the week. At that time, a Ford touring car was selling at Hampton Center Garage for $295. To control the auto traffic on the Beach, signs indicating no parking zones were erected in July 1924. There was no parking on the west side of the boulevard from the Casino to the Ashworth, with D and F streets open for eastbound traffic, and C Street for westbound traffic.
On a mid-July Sunday, there were estimates of 100,000 people at the Beach, and 20,000 autos passed along the boulevard. For Carnival Week, the B&M Railroad was planning its fourth excursion trip from Boston and the North Shore to Hampton. Previous trips had brought 450 to 700 passengers, but if the weather was good, 1,000 visitors were expected. The by-then-Town-owned street railway could carry 1,000 people to the Beach in a single trip, loading everyone in four minutes. The Union suggested the money-losing street railway would be needed the next year to continue the excursions.
In 1926, 50 members joined the newly formed Hampton and Hampton Beach Chamber of Commerce, which had replaced the Board of Trade. J. Frank James was elected temporary president until the first annual meeting, which was scheduled for June. In May, the chamber opened an office in the old street railway starter's building, and, at the annual meeting, George Ashworth was elected the first president of the chamber. The meeting voted to raise $10,000 to carry out the promotion program for the rest of the summer and appointed a committee to raise the funds. On June 26, the so-called Great White Way, a string of 2,100 electric light bulbs, hung across the street at intervals from the Mile Bridge to Cutler's, was turned on. Attractive from a distance, the small bulbs did not provide much brightness and burned out quickly, requiring constant replacement.
The highlight of Carnival Week was a historical pageant (with 150 actors) based on Edward Gove's Rebellion in 1683, starring youthful Bill Elliot as Gove. The colonial man, upset with Royal Governor Edward Cranfield, and perhaps spurred on by drinking spirits, led a one-day rebellion that resulted in his quick capture. Found guilty of treason, Gove was sentenced to be "hanged by the neck and cut down while alive, and that his entrails be taken out and burned before his face, and his head cut off, and his body divided into four quarters and his head and quarters be disposed of at the king's pleasure." This gruesome sentence was not carried out. Instead, Gove was sent to the Tower of London for three years. He was then pardoned and returned to New Hampshire. The pageant was written by the Reverend Edgar Warren, who stipulated that it "be performed in a dignified and impressive manner and that he need not be paid for it but he does reserve movie rights." Mary F. Blanchet directed Warren's pageant, which was held for six nights under large tents on the sand in front of A Street.
Also concerned about dignity was the Chamber of Commerce, which in July thanked Police Chief Harry D. Munsey for enforcing a 1925 ordinance prohibiting people from changing into bathing suits in automobiles and "for warning bathers not to parade about the streets and stores without proper clothing over their bathing suits."
The 1927 season opened with substantial changes at the Beach. First, the Town-owned street railway had ceased operation, although trolley service continued to Salisbury Beach for a few more years. Rufus Graves, who had operated the Casino for some 20 years, sold out to a quartet of businessmen, and the name "Dineen" was added to the list of people such as Dumas, Cutler, and Ashworth who had a major impact on the Beach. The new owners, operating as the Hampton Casino Associates, were John J. Dineen, Sr., his brother James A. Dineen, John E. Cuddy, Jr., and Napoleon L. Demara, all of Lawrence. Cuddy was the first of the four to be a Beach businessman, buying Garland's in 1925. Demara, who had a summer place at the Beach for 10 years, owned restaurant and theater chains, while the Dineen brothers owned a theater and a hotel in Lawrence.
The first project of the Casino's new owners was the construction of a new dance hall, a project that doomed the Dance Carnival, located at the base of Boar's Head and away from the main business section of the Beach. The Casino's new dance hall, added south of the theater, was one of the largest on the Atlantic Coast, measuring 100 feet by 232 feet, with a dance floor of 60 feet by 100 feet. At one end of the dance hall were box seats for spectators. The lower floor was used for eight stores. The old dance hall was converted to bowling alleys, allowing space for more pool tables. There was also a general sprucing-up of the property, and the former dull red paint was changed to white. The addition called for 385,000 board feet of lumber, 135,000 bricks, four carloads of cement, and one carload of lime.
In midsummer, Crowley and Lunt published their annual Hampton Beach directory, with 1,500 new names added. More of the names carried street numbers, since the publishers extended the house numbering north as far as Boar's Head at their own expense.
The season was also a good one for fishing and boating interests. Horace L. Bragg, who had started a clam business 35 years earlier near the site of Mile Bridge, was pleased when he sold 32 quarts of clams on one Fourth of July. On the weekend of the 1926 Fourth, he sold 500 gallons, and, for the year, he sold 15,000 bushels of clams. Others selling fresh clams were Fred Lorenz, the J. Ryan store, and the Page store. Lorenz, who had a store and a fish market, employed eight lobstermen and 10 fishermen. He also ran two motor party boats and rented a fleet of dories. Captain Claude Gilmore also ran a party boat, the Gertrude Grace.
More than 50,000 people were present in mid-June 1927 for the opening of the season, which featured a massive fireworks display using three fireworks companies and costing more than $8,000. In July, the John C. White Playground was dedicated, named for the 30-year Beach businessman who had started the playground as a personal effort. George Ashworth, a close friend, raised the funds to complete the playground in White's memory. The annual meeting of the New Hampshire Society of St. Petersburg, Florida, was held in September and attended by some 2,000 people. Beach residents who wintered in St. Petersburg were the hosts. Hampton reportedly sent more people to St. Petersburg in winter than any other town of its size in the country. During Carnival Week, a Hampton girl, Charlotte A. Bristol, was named queen. Beach resident Mildred Dudley, the runner-up, was crowned princess. Lifeguards for the summer were Frederick Williams of Exeter and James Powers of Lawrence, who made 74 rescues. There were no drownings.
The trolley era came to an end on a sad note in late September 1927 with the funeral of Robert Ring, the popcorn man who came to town in 1902 and had operated the business since his early manhood. Ring's funeral was the first to be held in the Hampton Beach Community Church, and the Union said it had the largest attendance of any funeral ever held in Hampton.