Hampton Beach Master Plan: A History of Hampton Beach

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III. Existing Conditions

This section includes a discussion of the history, land use, economy, transportation, environment, and infrastructure and public utilities of Hampton Beach. It reflects an assessment of past events and existing conditions at Hampton Beach that was made during the Fall of 2000 and the spring of 2001. It is expected that the existing conditions within this Plan will be periodically updated to reflect new trends and issues.


A. History of Hampton Beach

Hampton Beach on July 4, 1915

For its first three centuries, Hampton Beach largely supported a population of coopers, millers, fishermen, joiners, and carpenters. The Beach provided these early settlers with an abundance of natural resources. The land offered rich soil for farming, and the marsh excellent pasture for cattle grazing and hay for fertilizer. Hampton River, North Beach, Hampton Beach, and the Atlantic Ocean provided seafood, a location to keep vessels, and enough products to sustain families and establish small businesses.


The first settlements occurred near Great Boars Head at the end of Winnacunnet Road, one of the main access points to the beach. Other initial developments included areas of fish shacks along North Beach and homes along Winnacunnet Road. Although most of the fish shacks are gone, many of the early homes can still be seen on this historic road.

Bathing Beauties
Development at Hampton Beach between the late 1800s and the 1920s set the stage for the remaining years. During this period, businessmen set up infrastructure to transport and accommodate more visitors.

By 1930, most of Hampton Beach and North Beach was either developed or had streets and lots laid out for development. Post-1930 development occurred on the marsh fringes except in a few areas that were filled such as in the southern portion of the Beach.

In general, it appears that the present use of the beach area as a destination and resort area will continue based on the national trends of increased leisure time and the development trends on the coast over the past 50 years.

The following is list of some key dates and activities that took place before and during the development of the Hampton Beach area.


Events Prior to the Development of Hampton Beach


Hampton was settled by a group of settlers from and under authority of Massachusetts. At that time, Hampton included Hampton, Hampton Falls, Kensington, and part of Seabrook.


The southern part of Hampton’s border was re-drawn at Bound Rock, which was at the center of Hampton River.


Bound Rock, which was originally in the middle of Hampton River, indicated the start of the boundary line surveyed and marked, "AD 1657-HB and SH," by Capt. Nicholas Shapley to determine the line between Hampton and Salisbury. HB denoted Hampton Bound, and SH Shapley's mark.


A New Hampshire state law was enacted to prevent damage to the salt marsh that was caused by people carrying away "flat weed" to use as fertilizer.


Many miles of marshes were dug two to three feet deep to drain haying areas. Many of these ditches were re-dug in the 1930’s.


Many fish were caught in local fishing grounds, and were landed at Hampton Beach fish houses. From there, several species, including cod, hake, and pollack, were dried and shipped to Boston. During various times of the year, the Hampton River also provided an excellent source of seafood, including bluefish, herring, and eels, and clams.


Events That Led to the Existing Conditions in Hampton Beach


Electric streetcar service initiated between Exeter and Hampton Beach.


Hampton Beach Improvement Company began leasing lots between Ashworth Avenue and Ocean Boulevard.


Expanded railroad service connected many parts of New England. It also connected to other area attractions including Canobie Lake Park, Salisbury Beach, and Plum Island. The Casino opened as well.


Hampton was connected to Seabrook by a new, privately owned, "mile long" wooden bridge over the Hampton River.


Sewer lines were constructed to eliminate direct disposal in the marshes and ocean.


Hampton Beach Village District (Precinct) was formed in response to the Town's lack of municipal services to the beach area.


A fire destroyed every house between B Street and Highland Avenue.


A fire destroyed another large section of Hampton Beach between B Street and Nudd Avenue.


The railroad discontinued trips from Hampton and Exeter due to the increased use of automobiles and the lack of demand for railroad services.


The town transferred to the state all the land between the highway and the ocean from the Coast Guard Station to Haverhill Street, except Great Boar's Head and a small area north of the river.


A new sewer treatment plant was constructed near Tide Mill Creek and connected to Hampton Beach establishments.


Fifty new acres of land, now known as the Hampton Beach State Park, were created in the southern portion of Hampton Beach.

1944 –1945

Several major construction projects took place, including the Hampton Beach and North Beach seawall, harbor dredging, and a new 4-lane highway between Ashworth Avenue and the Coast Guard Station.


A new steel and concrete bridge replaced the old "mile long" bridge over Hampton River.


The State of New Hampshire completed construction of a portion of Interstate 95.


The State began to use parking meters at the State Park.


Route 101 was built to connect Hampton Beach to Interstate 95 and relieve traffic on more northerly routes.


The State completed the replacement of the Hampton police station and bandstand with the new Sea Shell Stage complex (stage, restrooms, first aid and lifeguard office, and Chamber of Commerce office).


A new bathhouse was built at the State Park.


Recent Planning of Hampton Beach

Many studies, feasibility assessments, preliminary designs, strategies, recommendations and other documents over the past 25 years focused on particular areas such as a new parking structure or beach pavilion. Several other plans, such as the drainage plan for the Town and the Route 1A Corridor Study, focused on larger areas that included Hampton Beach or parts of it. Although a few plans and recommendations were implemented, many of them were not due to inappropriate designs and concepts, and lack of funding, management, and most importantly, a vision.

The Hampton Beach Area Master Plan, however, represents a milestone for planning at Hampton Beach – it is the first time the State and the Town of Hampton joined to identify the needs and provide short and long-term solutions that will help revitalize this important community and state resource. This union serves as a foundation to coordinate actions and establish the means and support to carry this Plan forward.

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