Beach Blaze Destroys Motel

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By Ed Ballam

Hampton Union, October 2, 1985

[The following articles are courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

Fire Destroyed the Rock Harbor Inn, 387 Ocean Boulevard, Hampton, yesterday, in a four-alarm blaze. In this early shot, taken shortly after the blaze erupted at 9:14 a.m., firefighters attack the fire from above. Photo: Ed Ballam.

Heavy black smoke billowed from the Rock Harbor Inn, 387 Ocean Boulevard, yesterday after a fire erupted and completely destroyed the building.

The fire which was reported at 9:14 a.m., also threatened the Atlantic Motel, 393 Ocean Boulevard, the building north of the Rock Harbor Inn. The Atlantic Motel received heat and smoke damage to at least one side of the building.

Firefighters concentrated efforts on keeping the fire, which was blown north by winds toward to Atlantic Motel, from spreading by hosing down the other adjoining motel and small alley way between the buildings.

Francis and Ellen Chase and Kenneth and Laurie Wilson purchased the motel, formerly known as the Allen House, in June 1985.

At least one witness, who was not identified at presstime, said the two couples had plans to completely renovate the structure which was unoccupied at the time of the fire.

Fire Chief AnthonyKuncho said the cause of the fire was unknown at presstime, but a full investigation of the fire will be conducted.

Officials Call Fire Suspicious

By Ed Ballam

Hampton Union, October 9, 1985

The fire which destroyed the Rock Harbor Inn on Ocean Boulevard last week is being labeled suspicious by fire officials who are continuing their investigation.

Hampton Fire Inspector Stephen Bancewicz worked with two state fire marshals for several days after the fire and will be following up on several leads.

Bancewicz said the fire appears to have started in the basement of the building and worked its way up through the structure.

Firefighters from several surrounding communities fought the four-alarm blaze which threatened adjacent property.

The alarm was called in by a neighbor at 9:14 a.m., on Tuesday, Oct. 1 and less than 20 minutes later, the fourth alarm, requesting more help was sounded.

According to Chief Anthony Kuncho, during the height of the fire, more than 10,000 gallons per minute were used to contain the fire and protect other buildings in the area.

Firefighters were successful in protecting the Atlantic Motel, which stands less than 20 feet away from the Rock Harbor Inn. However, the Rock Harbor Inn, which was nearly fully involved when firefighters arrived, was a complete loss and damages are estimated at about $375,000.

The motel, formerly known as the Allen House, was purchased by Francis and Ellen Chase and Kenneth and Laurie Wilson this summer from its former owner Donald Archambault.

The 100-year-old structure was built in 1885 by John G. Cutler, a black businessman and "prominent Republican . . . a most generous hearted man and gives a great deal in charity and is popular with all men," according to a 1901 newspaper account. The 48-room motel was called Cutler's Seaview House.

In its day, the building sat right on the ocean and was the only rooming house from the Ashworth Hotel to Great Boar's Head.

The building just to the south of the destroyed Inn, currently known as the Cavalier Hotel, was once the cafe for Cutler's Seaview House and the cottages in back of the building were also part of the motel.

On June 26, 1907, the Hampton Village District was formed at a meeting in the cafe of Cutler's motel and its annual meetings were held on the premises for many years until the new beach fire station was built in 1923.

J. B. Rich purchased the motel after Cutler's death, but retained the name, which had a reputation of being a "famous hotel located very near to the water's edge and commands a magnificent view of the ocean."

Other owners of the building are reported as Armas Guyan, Henry Dupree, Edgar Lessard, who was former selectman Robert "Vic" Lessard's father and Helen and Mack Allen.

(Historical information for this article was provided by Arthur Moody.)