Hampton Beach Burned -- 1921

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Part of Business Section Destroyed With $400,000 Loss

The Hamptons Union, June 30, 1921

The aftermath of the 1921 conflagration.
[Photo not in original article]

Following is a list of the more important buildings burned:


The Janvrin, loss$90,000
The Fairview, loss$25,000
The Antler, loss$20,000
The Imperial, loss$21,000
The Strand, loss$25,000
The Lawrence, loss$35,000
The Sturgis, loss$40,000
The Jenkins, loss$8,000

Amusement Places, Etc.:

The Olympia Theatre, garage and the Ferncroft dance pavilion,
13 stores and post office, loss.


Three on Marsh Ave., owned by Ralph Stillman, Haverhill, loss.$5,000
Four on Marsh Ave., owned by Ernest Tewksbury, Haverhill, loss.$10,000
One on Nudd Ave., owned by J. H. Tucker of Lawrence, loss.$1,500
One on A St., owned by Mrs. Swett of Beverly, loss.$1,000
One on Nudd Ave., owned by Mrs. Mary Williams of Exeter, loss.$1,000
One on Nudd Ave., owned by Mrs. Rowell, loss.$800
One on Nudd Ave., owned by Robert Ring, loss.$4,000
One on Marsh Ave., owned by William Dowling of Manchester, loss.$1,800


Two on Nudd Ave., owned by James F. Garland, loss.$25,000
Mrs. Thomas Hobbs, loss.$500
Wilbur B. Lamb, loss.$8,000
Norman Beane, Portsmouth, loss.$2,500
William Brown, loss.$2,500
C. G. Mitchell, loss.$15,000
Goldstein Bros., loss.$10,000
A. H. Walker, loss.$500
Byron Redman, loss.$500
W. J. Bigley, Somerville, loss.$3,500
W. E. Ralston, Lawrence, loss.$1,000.
Rose Courtley, Philip Morris, Mrs. Kelly, C. H. Buzzell,
A. C. Cox, W. H. Reed, Mrs. K. Williams.
Small losses

The aftermath of the 1921 conflagration looking east.
Ashworth Hotel can be seen at left.
[Photo not in original article]

For the second time, the main section of the business area at Hampton Beach, between B St. on the South and Nudd Avenue on the North, was fire swept and laid in ruins early Sunday morning. It was almost the same territory as that devastated by the big fire of 1915, except the earlier fire crossed Nudd Avenue and destroyed the Ashworth, DeLancey's, the Episcopal church and many cottages in that vicinity. But, owing to the fact that the rebuilt structures following the 1915 fire were much larger and better constructed, the fire of this week far exceed in damage that of the earlier one. It is estimated that the present loss will reach not far from $400,000 with insurance of about $240,000. The 1915 fire caused a loss of $250,000 with a larger per cent of insurance.

The flames were discovered at 3:45 o'clock Sunday morning by Mrs. C. G. Mitchell, manager of the Strand Hotel, which was located above the big Strand bowling alleys just leased by Carl G. Mitchell, and owned by Goldstein Brothers of Springfield. She was awakened by smoke, and upon going down stairs found the ceiling of the kitchen ablaze, which led to the belief that the fire started from defective wiring.

Mrs. Mitchell aroused guests in the hotel, but so rapid was the spread of flames that some occupants were forced to lower themselves from upstairs windows to the ell of the Janvrin Hotel, from which they made their way to the ground.

Realizing that local fire equipment was unable to stop the spread of the fire, hurry calls were sent to neighboring localities for aid.

Starting shortly after four o'clock, motor driven apparatus from Portsmouth, Haverhill, Newburyport, Exeter and Amesbury rushed over the roads, and by daylight the equipment from these communities had made record breaking trips from their stations and were aiding the Hampton department.

Different pieces of apparatus were stationed at the vantage points and firemen finally concentrating their efforts, checked the onrush of the flames at the Ashworth Hotel, the largest on the beach. Had that hostelry caught fire, it is probable that the flames would have wiped out the resort.

Although handicapped some what by low water pressure, the firemen fought a heroic battle against the flames and won in the end.

From the Lawrence House and the Janvrin the course of fire was in three directions: south to B street, destroying the fine Garland block, the Fairview, with stores and hotel; west to Marsh avenue and north to Nudd avenue.

With the rapid spread of flames the fire became the most spectacular ever witnessed in this vicinity. The progress north along the boulevard was irresistible. It cross A street from the Janvrin to the Sturgis as though they were adjoining buildings, and from the Sturgis the flames were soon eating their way into L. C. Ring's vast property, valued at $100,000, and which included the post office, many stores, the Olympia theatre, dance hall and big garage.

Meanwhile the flames to the west swept around the curve in Marsh avenue and advanced toward the Ring property, meeting at the Imperial, owned by F. J. O'Dea, one of the best constructed hotels on the beach. The Imperial was soon enveloped in flames, the Jenkins building at the corner of Nudd avenue and Ocean boulevard were burning, dense masses of black smoke were smothering the Ashworth and the handsome cottages in the immediate vicinity when the critical point was reached which was to determine whether the flames could be stayed at this street or the beautiful Ashworth and the most valuable property north of Nudd avenue was to be destroyed. All possible efforts of the various fire companies were concentrated here, but in spite of all it looked for a while as if it were impossible to make any headway against the fiery demon. Then suddenly the wind shifted, the black smoke and the heat were turned back, the water pressure, which had been low, revived, and in an instant there was hope, which broadened and soon gave way to a certainty of early control; soon after the firemen got the upper h;and and the fire was under control. Some of the cottages to the north of Nudd avenue on the lower end of the street were destroyed but otherwise the fire was held on the avenue.

One feature which contributed to success at the critical moment, which was noted after the fire, was that the asbestos shingles which covered the sides and roof of Lamb's cottage at the rear of his store had not burned, but had melted instead.

Business men, residents, and cottagers of Hampton Beach are undaunted. The spirit of the phoenix, which is reputed to have arisen from the ashes, fills everybody. If there had ever been the slightest doubt of the comeback traits of the Hampton Beach folks, it was dispelled with a bang Monday night, when a mass meeting of businessmen and residents was held in the cafe of the Ashworth hotel.

The fact that one-half of the beach business and residential territory of this summer resort had been wiped out by the big fire of Sunday, didn't mitigate against enthusiasm. There was enough hurrah and cheerfulness at this meeting to win another World War.

It is estimated that there were in the vicinity of the people at the mass meeting, it was presided over by Henry W. Ford, president of Hampton Beach Board of Trade, and his apt introductory remarks were gathered and delivered under the title "How To Come Back in a Hurry." Mr. Ford was happy in his address and introduced as the first speaker. Rev. Father P. J. Scott of Exeter, who for the past seven summers has been the rector of St. Peter's church here.

Father Scott aroused intense enthusiasm. He said that there were many things to be thankful for. One that there was no loss of life and no one had been maimed. He paid a glowing tribute to L. C. Ring, one of the largest property holders before the fire, and who had been hit the hardest by the untimely conflagration, and who already had started in rebuilding operations. Father Scott advised caution on the part of business men and firms who had not been affected by the fire not to charge exorbitant rates and thus injure the fair name and popularity of the summer resort.

Frederick M. Sise of Portsmouth, an insurance man, stated that by Thursday the insurance companies that he represented would pay over to the insured losers in the vicinity of $275,000, and that this sum would go a long way towards the expense of reconstruction. He drew contrasts between Sunday's big fire and the conflagration of 1915, at which time there was but $95,000 insurance to be paid.

George Ashworth addressed the meeting and requested that a petition be drawn up and signed by fifteen legal voters asking the selectmen to call a special meeting and consider more stringent building laws and the appointment of a building inspector.

J. Frank James of Lawrence, Mass., former president of the board of trade, criticised the lack of fire safety devices at the real need of pumping apparatus.

Chief Ring of the beach fire department urged calling upon the board of precinct commissioners for better reservoir facilities, as it was demonstrated that the pressure Sunday was quite inadequate in fighting the terrible contingency that prevailed.

The advisability of continuing the publicity campaign for Hampton beach was discussed. The affirmative was given to the proposition in a most emphatic manner when immediately several thousand dollars was subscribed by the audience to continue the campaign. Something of the idea of the spirit that prevailed may be gained from the action of Mrs. D. A. Munsey, who owned the Janvrin hotel, and who was one of the greatest sufferers by the fire. Mrs. Munsey at once doubled the previous subscription, although she said she had twice been burned out and that she is through with business at the beach for all time. Yet she wanted to show her perfect loyalty to the interests of the resort.

A committee was appointed, consisting of Mrs. D. H. Cushing, Mrs. Louis Hartman, Mrs. J. S. Ceby, Mrs. George Kerr and Miss Villa Johnson, to canvass the cottagers for further subscriptions and also to consider the advisability of holding a tag day on Sunday next.

Animation and enterprise are the two words which describe the situation at Hampton beach at present. There is not a lazy person on the entire beach. Everybody is busy in the initial mode towards rehabilitation. Already the start has been made to build the postoffice and Saturday night will see the structure up and doing business.

Another straw that shows the way the wind of enterprise is blowing was seen in the erection of a tent on the beach in which Mrs. Thomas Hobbs set up her tea room. Mrs. Hobbs, who had conducted a tea room for several seasons in the district which was razed by fire Sunday, lost everything she had and all the furnishings. Undaunted, the lady who originally came from Manchester, opened up a new tea room under the sheltering spread of canvas.

The plan is to build a frontage of temporary structures from 500 to 1000 feet in length on the ocean front to facilitate business the coming summer. These temporary structures will all be removed in the fall and permanent and more elaborate buildings erected on their site.

L.C. Ring, who owned one of the biggest blocks that was destroyed, has been burned out six times, twice here and four times in Haverhill, yet no once did the fire start on his premises. But Mr. Ring is one of those men who does not permit a little thing like six fires to squelch his spirit, and he is one of the most active men at Hampton Beach today, in the initial move for rebuilding.

The Hamptons Union

Thursday, July 7, 1921

In spite of the conditions brought about by the fire of ten days ago the 4th of July business at Hampton beach was fully as good as in the past seasons and by many of the business men it was considered even better. The cottages were all full and the hotels crowded to the limit. Thousands of automobiles found their way to Hampton and the three electric roads did a splendid business over the holiday week-end and on the "Fourth."

Much interest was expressed in the rapid progress which had been made in cleaning up the debris left by the fire and in building the temporary structures along the front that are to house the store proprietors who suffered the fire loss. In fact several of the stores were occupied on the "Fourth" and many more of them will be occupied before the end of the present week.

Several attempts to purchase leases from those who were burned out have been made by outside parties. As all of the land covered by the fire is leased land and none of it is deeded, the leases held by the property owners along the front are quite valuable.

However whether or not they can be transferred for a consideration is decided by the Hampton Beach Improvement Association that owns the land. This association will not permit the transfer of leases to parties who in any particular might be considered undesirable. This makes it possible to keep Hampton Beach the "clean resort" for which it has gained an enviable reputation.

The first impression of those who read the fire stories of one week ago was that Hampton Beach had been wiped entirely off the map and that the season at this popular resort would not amount to very much. As a matter of fact only a very small percentage of the entire front was swept by the flames and a great part of that is now covered with temporary buildings as has already been stated.

The loss which is estimated to amount to about $400,000 was played up strong, but it has not been stated that over $250,000 worth of property has been added to the beach this spring and summer by the erection of new buildings. The Board of Trade estimates that 320 rooms were lost to the beach by the fire, but is equally possible to estimate on other hand where over 300 rooms have been added to the beach through building operations this spring. Since the fire many partially finished rooms have been completed and today Hampton Beach can take care of just as many visitors and a few more than it could last season at this time.

"Business as usual" is the motto at the beach and if the business of Sunday and Monday can be taken as any kind of a criterion there is no doubt that business will go on as usual at Hampton this summer. The permanent building of the new front will not begin until the close of the season.

Hundreds of applications were received at the Board of Trade office during the past week for work. If these applications are an indication of business conditions in general, work must be slack in the surrounding towns and cities. Contractors, carpenters, masons architects, community builders, engineers, fire prevention experts, safe experts, and every other kind of and expert flocked to the beach after the fire looking for an opportunity to help the stricken resort and as a side issue get a little business for themselves.

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