By Liz Premo, Atlantic News Staff Writer
Atlantic News, Friday, August 18, 2006
[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News]
[Atlantic News Photo by Liz Premo]
HAMPTON -- It was the gray and pink linoleum with a distinctive "spatter" pattern that gave it away.
"It" in this case is the approximate age of a beach cottage donated to the Hampton Historical Society by the owners of the former Sea Castle Motel at Hampton Beach.
Originally thought to be a relic from the 1950s, the cottage — thanks to the clue provided by some uncovered patches of original flooring — dates back at least two decades earlier.
"We were just so excited to find that we could go back to the '30s," says Elizabeth Aykroyd of the HHS and the town's Heritage Commission.
Why the marked enthusiasm over a little beach shack with multiple coats of flaking paint, an interior the size of a shoebox and a kitchen window in dire need of repair?
It's a unique part of 20th century Hampton history that's worth preserving, according to Betty Moore, executive director of the Tuck Museum, the grounds upon which the cottage now sits.
"Hampton had all these little tourist cabins all up and down Route 1, the beach [and] Winnacunnet Road," she says. "They're rapidly disappearing."
The antique cottage was one of just over 30 similar structures that were part of the Sea Castle complex on Ocean Boulevard. When owners Janet Reynolds and Jean Boudreau made the decision last spring to clear the property for an extensive building project, there were a few steps the sisters needed to follow before proceeding.
"To get a demolition permit, they had to go to the Heritage Commission," says Aykroyd, noting that "originally, they were going to donate them (the cottages) to a religious retreat."
Aykroyd figures the original owner of the cottages was a gentleman named Hamblet Young, who built Young's Cabins way back when. A later owner from Manchester by the surname of Lomazzo operated the property as Young's Motel in the 50s, in addition to running the Hollywood Motel and a restaurant.
After many successive summers of being inhabited by hundreds of beach visitors, the cottage is now seeing a rebirth. Once the necessary arrangements to donate the cottage to the Historical Society were completed, plans were made to transport it from the beach to the museum via a trailer. It was a joint task shared by many.
"Members of the community [pitched in]," says Moore. "People with skills came in and helped us" complete jobs such as pouring concrete footings and making repairs. HHS barn expert Dave DeGagne crafted a new window for the cottage. Moore herself applied primer and paint to the exterior after HHS President Sammi Moe used a power sander to remove the previous coats of paint.
Now a pristine white with green trim and latticework around the bottom, the cottage sits on the northern part of the Tuck Museum property, near the museum's one-room school house. Eventually, a raised viewing platform will be added on the outside so visitors can get a close-up inside view of the cottage once the exhibit is open to the public.
The current focus is to transform the interior into a space recalling the structure's era, much like a trio of restored tourist cabins on display in Plymouth Notch, Vermont which Aykroyd has visited.
"They're great; that's what gave me the idea," says Aykroyd. She envisions the revamped surroundings to include the cabin's original sink/ refrigerator combo (likely from the 1980s), a 1940s sundress donated by Pat Triggs, a radio from the 30s-40s, vintage Fiesta pitchers, an antique calendar, furnishings and period luggage (it is a vacation spot, after all).
"We might need to be going off to visit the salvage places," Aykroyd predicts.
Aykroyd and Moore are interested in hearing from individuals who may be willing to donate related items, as well as offer some insight on the cabin's history. Former managers, housekeepers and vacationers who have a personal connection with the overall beach property are welcome to come forward and share their stories.
In fact, anyone who has any type of association with similar properties from Hampton's past is invited to provide some oral history to the HHS.
"We're trying to collect pictures [and other information]," says Moore, "while people are still around" -- and while Hampton's other beach cottages are still around as well.
"They are disappearing from the landscape," says Aykroyd, adding that "more are due to come down at the beach. It's incredible."
Those who can help out with this effort, or who would like more information about the Hampton Historical Society's beach cottage project, may call the Tuck Museum at (603) 929-0781.