Hampton's Great Blazes Scar Beach Area

September 28, 1999

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

Hampton's Great Blazes Scar Beach Area

By Steve Jusseaume, Staff Writer

From a time in the early part of the 20th Century, Hampton Beach developed faster than the village. 1915 fire at Hampton Beach
Charred rubble is all that remains after the 1915 fire.
The above photograph was taken where the Ashworth Hotel had burned.

[Courtesy photo/Emile Dumont]
However a series of fires slowed that growth, destroying much of the area, including the beach's worst fire on Sept. 23, 1915.

The fire began in box of rubbish on B Street, and quickly spread throughout the closely built wooden structures, until finally 10 acres were leveled. Seven hotels, two theatres, 10 stores and as many as 40 cottages burned to the ground. A southerly wind blew the fire north across Ashworth Avenue and Nudd Avenue to Highland Avenue. Fire companies from Portsmouth, Amesbury. Salisbury and Exeter, joined Hampton firefighters during the battle.

"The loss is estimated at about $150,000. the assessor's valuation of the burned property totalling $108,000 and the personal property fully making up the balance." an article appearing in the Sept. 30, 1915 edition of what was then called The Hamptons Union stated.

1915 fire
Residents assess the damage left in the wake of
the devastating fire that hit Hampton Beach in
1915.The blaze burned across 10 acres,
destroying seven hotels, two theatres, 10
stores and an estimated 40 cottages.

[Courtesy photo/Emile Dumont]
The Union article provided a detailed account of the blaze. "In less than half an hour, the flames were beyond control of the few firefighters available. Showers of sparks started scores of roof fires far ahead of the main conflagration. A strong effort was made to save the Ashworth House [Hotel], but the firemen were forced to give it up and retreat behind Nudd’s avenue."

Six years later another fire jolted the beach. The June l921 blaze was called in at 3:34 a.m., and spread from the Strand to the Lawrence House and to the Janvrin. By 4 a.m., the blaze was out of control and fire crews from as far away as Haverhill were summoned to help fight it. At least 300 hotel rooms were destroyed, and the loss was estimated at $400.000.

As a result of the fire, the town assembled in special town meeting in July and adopted its first comprehensive building ordinance and appointed its first building inspector.

Fire also destroyed the Town Hall on Winnacunnet Road in March 1949. The March 24 issue of the newspaper reported that the fire completely gutted the 152-year-old structure at an estimated loss of $30.000." A northwest wind whipped the fire and firefighters had problems with the cold, the temperature being only 10 degree above zero on the morning of the blaze.

Town Hall buildings were rebuilt in the area and town business was carried on in essentially in the same location until just this year [1999]. In 1998 the town purchased the former Citizens Bank building one-quarter mile to the west, and is in the process of moving into the new building.

Old Salt fire 1999
Smoke billows from the buildings destroyed in the
massive fire that struck Hampton Beach June 16, 1999.

[File photo/Tim Cook]
The 20th Century has seen dozens of disastrous fires both in town and at the beach, the most recent being on June 16, 1999 when four businesses, including the Old Salt restaurant. burned. The blaze attracted 37 pieces of fire apparatus from 23 communities, and involved hundreds of firefighters.

"Charred Shells" blared the headline in the June 18 issue of Hampton Union. Three neighboring buildings on Ocean Boulevard -- including the Old Salt, Springfield Motor Lodge and a storefront/apartment building known as the Beach Walk Enterprises -- were gutted in the massive, five-alarm fire." wrote reporter Michael Sharkey of the fire, the largest to hit the town in -- more than two decades.

Hampton Fire Station1922
Fire Chief Alexander H. Brown presided over the Hampton Beach Precinct Fire Station in 1922. The engine behind him was built by Brown and his son Percy from a used Kissell car. The engine to his left was new at the time. It was sold to collectors in the 1950s. [Courtesy photo]

Damage From 1915 Fire Adds Up

  • George Ashworth, hotel — $10,000. cottage — $1,000
  • Julius Benoit, cottage — $1,200
  • C. H. Cutler, Lawrence House — $3,000
  • Mrs. Belle Dearborn, cottage — $1,400
  • J. S. DeLancey. 2 cottages — $1,000, hotel — $5,500
  • Oscar Jenkins, cottage and cafe — $6,000
  • Mrs. Dell A. Munsey, hotel — $11,000
  • Mahoney store, wigwam — $7,500
  • Mrs. Elmer F. Potts, cottage — $3,500
  • Thomas Powers. hotel — $5,500
  • L.C. Ring, Grand View — $8,00
  • Store — $5,000
  • Olympia Theatre — $2,000
  • Ferncroft Gardens — $2,000
  • Cottage — $1,500
  • Katherine Hetherington, cottage — $1,800
  • Edith L. Gilmore, cottage — $600
  • Bertha Mills, cottage — $1,000
  • E. L. Hovey, cottage — $5,000
  • Charles Dodge, land and cottage, $2,800
  • Edwin Janvrin, cottage — $2,800
  • F. J. O’Dea, 2 cottages — $1,800
  • J. H. Hamilton, cottage — $1,500
  • C. D. Bickum, cottage — $1,600
  • C. L. Higgins, cottage — $1,600
  • John Cashman, cottage — $1,800
  • Samuel Sussman, 2 cottages — $2,500
  • W. P. Tucker, land and cottage — $1,300
  • Louis Townsend land and cottage — $1,800
  • James and Lucy Garland, house — $5,500
  • Lydia J. Hunter, 2 cottages — $2,800
  • E. M. Currier, cottage — $2,200
  • A. M. Wells, cottage — $600
  • J. Frank James, land and cottage — $2,200
  • Episcopal church, not assessed
  • Strand Theatre, not assessed
  • Glendon cottage — $2,000
  • Ring cottage, not assessed

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