Group Wants To Save Court

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, November 29, 2005

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

The Old Hampton Courthouse

HAMPTON -- Now that the Hampton District Court on Winnacunnet Road is vacant everyone seems to have an opinion on what should become of the building and the land around it.

Selectmen are looking into the possibility of demolishing the building and offering the land to the state to construct a new joint Hampton/Exeter District Court.

The Lane Memorial Library trustees and the community center committee recently noted that the location would be a great place for a new library or community center.

And the Heritage Commission, well, it just wants to see the century-old building remain intact.

"We sent a letter to selectmen urging them to explore every possible avenue to save the building," said Heritage Commission Chairman Elizabeth Aykroyd.

Aykroyd said she doesn't want to see the building, which has been a part of Hampton since 1873, demolished.

According to archives from the Lane Memorial Library, the building was originally where the Centre School is located, built at a cost of $4,484.

In 1922, the building was moved to its current location and through the years has served as Hampton's first public kindergarten, American Legion Post 35 hall, Fire Station 2 and the Hampton District Court.

"It's part of Hampton's landscape," said Aykroyd. "It's the oldest town government building still standing."

But the building does have its drawbacks. Just ask its former tenants who worked in the building until a couple of weeks ago.

Staffers found mice droppings in the basement, complained of allergies and watched as mold grew on the ceiling tiles of the upstairs courtroom.

More than once, the place was fumigated for fleas.

All of those reasons, and the fact the building wasn't handicapped accessible, were why the state opted to move the court into a temporary location in Seabrook.

Aykroyd admitted the building needs work but said it's a small cost to pay to preserve a part of Hampton's history.

"This is the first time a town building has been threatened that we felt we should get involved," said Aykroyd. "We had no problem with the demolition of the old police station. But this is different."

She said she would like to see the building used as an office or meeting place.

Building Inspector Kevin Schultz said the building is structurally sound but needs to be renovated if it is to be used again.

Selectmen have yet to make a decision on what the future holds for the building.

Although the proposed budget for 2006 includes $20,000 to be used for possible demolition, the board has yet to address the issue.