Town Should Take Ownership of Fish House

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By P.L. Curtis

Hampton Union, Tuesday, October 2, 2007

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

The "new" Doggett fish house
[Photo not in original Letter to the Editor]

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

Hampton Union editorial regarding the Plaice Cove Fish House situation left out pertinent information. Here are the facts:

Citizens of Hampton may visit our Lane Memorial Library Web site at to confirm this information. Facts regarding fish house history and the N.H. Supreme Court decision are there. From 1806 to 1950, 13 fish houses occupied North Beach. These fish houses were sold through the years to various occupants. The town of Hampton owned and still owns the land the fish houses sit on. No land lease was or is levied to building owners.

In 1950 court battles ensued between the town of Hampton and fish house owners. This battle continued and eventually in 1959, the N.H. Supreme Court ruled that unless fish house owners were currently commercially fishing, buildings would have to be removed or destroyed. This law stands today. In 1960, at Town Meeting, voters voted to preserve forever the fish house area as a public park. In 1988 the Mace fish house was donated to the town of Hampton. Voters appropriated $2,000 to keep the fish house in good repair. Our Public Works Department has done a commendable job maintaining and preserving the antiquity of the Mace fish house.

The Doggett fish house ownership was transferred to Dave Cropper in 2003. This ownership is illegal since neither the seller nor the buyer are commercial fishermen. Then the authentic fish house was demolished without a permit from the Heritage Committee. This, too, was illegal. Hampton's boards erred. If the initial request to the Board of Selectmen had been researched historically and legally, this situation would have been avoided. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

Now we are faced with what do we do with the new structure? Should we have it removed or may it stay? I say it may stay if it is donated to the town of Hampton as Mr. Cropper offered, for the amount he has invested. Private ownership to a non-commercial fisherman should not be an option.


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