Final Curtain Call For The Hampton Playhouse?

Developers Consider Demolishing Hampton Landmark

By Tom Donaldson

Atlantic News, Thursday, October 15, 1998

A GRAY DAY FOR THE PLAYHOUSE — And a gray area in the plans for its future. Will the landmark Playhouse fall prey to the whims of housing developers like so many other historic Seacoast structures? [Atlantic News Photo by M.L. MacDonald]

HAMPTON -- When Attorney Craig Salomon recently presented a conceptual plan for Irondale Realty Trust, who want to build a l6-home development behind the Hampton Playhouse, he said that Irondale wanted to save the playhouse. In addition to presenting the plan to the planning board, he also petitioned the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) for a variance to allow access to the proposed development off Penniman Lane by running a road off the Penniman cul-de-sac to Richard Road and thus into the development. According to Selectman Fred Rice, who represents the board on the planning board, Salomon was apparently going to sell his house and run the access road where the house now stands. Planning board member Carolyn Payzant said that roads off cul-de-sacs are not usually permitted.

When contacted, Salomon said the petition to the ZBA had been withdrawn but would not comment on why. He agreed that without the variances, the entrance to the development would then have to go off of Winnacunnet Road, the Playhouse would have to be torn down. Salomon also declined to name the principals of the Irondale Realty Trust. Destruction of the Playhouse would allow the developers to build 11 additional homes on the property where the Playhouse now stands.

When Salmon presented the conceptual plan to the planning board, member Peter Olney commented that a plan for the land behind the Playhouse might help the popular summer theater survive (Olney called it a "Hampton institution"). Plans to tear down the building would probably bring about a hue and cry from those who have attended performances for many years and feel it is one, if not the only, cultural institution in Hampton. Regardless of what happens, there will no doubt be the usual concerns from abutters and nearby residents about traffic, noise and drainage.

At press time, the developers had not yet scheduled a second appointment with the planning board.