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"Our Town" By James W. Tucker
Thursday, March 6, 1952
George Ashworth was an unusual and an interesting character. Like me -- like you, he had his faults, for, like all of us, he was human. He probably hoped, as we all hope, that when he reached journey's end, the good in his life would outweigh the bad. We, who were his contemporaries, will remember him best for his love of Hampton Beach and for his untiring devotion to the cause of its orderly development and its overall welfare. If he had had an opportunity for higher education, he perhaps would have been a planning engineer or maybe an architect, for he had a natural perception for the factors which emphasize the physical aspects of a healthy, well integrated community and an appreciation of grace and beauty in buildings. He loved America and everything for which this country stands with a fervor which few people knew about or even suspected. And this quiet patriotism led him to explore the biographies of many presidents and other national leaders. He was an inveterate reader of newspapers and always knew what was going on at home and abroad. He carefully observed his citizenship responsibilities. Through experience he became highly qualified as a hotel manager.
Interest in Children
If George Ashworth liked children, it was because he saw in them, all the latent possibilities for good citizenship in a future generation which would take over control of the country's destinies after he had gone. He was interested in Scouting because he fully appreciated that the training involved in the Scout program today would make for better citizens tomorrow. He knew the value of education in preparing youth for full acceptance of its coming heavy responsibilities in a troubled world. And our beach playground was but a means to the end and the end was an increased measure of health for the boys and girls of today through exercise which was the more enjoyable because it was essentially play.
Travel For Education
George Ashworth was widely travelled in this country and with very few exceptions he had been in every state capital. He usually travelled in buses because, as he expressed it, "A bus travels through the pretty, residential sections of cities and towns, while all you can see from trains are sooty warehouses, factories and back ends of business blocks." He particularly liked Washington and hardly ever missed a session of the American Shore and Beach Preservation association when it was held in the nation's capital and he would usually stop over for at least a day in that city when it happened to be on the route of his travels. He loved to sit in the gallery during sessions of either Senate or House and to call on his representatives in Congress, "just to find out what was going on."
Honor From Kentucky
George entertained a Kentuckian one time at the Ashworth Hotel, a Kentuckian who knew Ruby La Foon, the, the governor of his own state, well enough to ask him for a commission for his host at Hampton Beach and that is the way George became "Colonel" Ashworth, a title to which he lent more dignity than did many who bore it.
Col Ashworth was born in Haverhill, Mass., on July 21, 1864, the son of Peter and Sarah (Butterworth) Ashworth. He had a brother and two sisters, Mary and Alice. He was educated in the public schools of Haverhill and he also attended a commercial school. His father, Peter, a native of England, must have had several older brothers, one of whom journeyed over-land by wagon to Iowa and settled in Des Moines when that city was first founded. Peter Ashworth was a superintendent in Stevens Woolen Mill on Winter Street in Haverhill and a staunch Episcopalian.
Bookkeeper and Builder
Shortly after his graduation from business school, George was employed by the Leighton Wholesale Grocery Company as a bookkeeper. Later he became interested in building and was responsible, so we are told, for the development of Ashworth Terrace; at the time one of the better residential sections in the west end of the Shoe City. In the late 1890's, he became acquainted with Hampton Beach and probably knew of the building of the first electric railway to the beach in 1897. In any event, as a young man of 33 years, he came to Hampton in 1898, the year before the north half of the original Casino was built. He hired from Mrs. Gilman of Haverhill, a cottage on the front just north of B street, the site now being occupied by John Downer's Lunchroom. Here, he established his first Avon, a small rooming house, on the veranda of which he used to serve clam chowders. Sometime after 1901, he built the new Avon Hotel on B street. Although it has been enlarged many times and altered often, the structure still stands and in it, one can see a definite resemblance to the Ashworth which George built three times on its present site.
The Ashworth Hotels
Sometime around 1906, Col. Ashworth sold the Avon on B Street to Tom Powers of Manchester and began the erection of the first Ashworth on land purchased from Charles W. Ross, father of Kenneth. He designed his new hotel, just as he had personally planned the Avon, using the tall Greek fluted columns as the main decorative motif. The first Ashworth had been erected only a few years, when it was destroyed by fire. It was immediately rebuilt along exactly the same lines only to be burned flat again in 1915. A news story in a local paper of December 31, 1915 says: "A large force of carpenters under the direction of A. C. MacDougall of Amesbury is rapidly bringing order out of chaos in the interior of the Ashworth and the well known lines of its architecture are beginning to take definite shape." Except for the fact that it was a little longer, one could mistake it for its predecessor. And in this planning and construction of hotels, George Ashworth proved conclusively an inherent appreciation of architecture which is mentioned at the outset. All of us know that the present Ashworth has an air of dignity, charm and spaciousness that has brought pleasure to home folks and visitors alike. And the hotel was always conducted by Col. Ashworth in a manner which was highly appreciated by a conservative, discriminating clientele of cultured vacationists. The Ashworth of 1916 and its exclusive patrons were a far cry from the Avon of 1890 and the Alabama Troubadours, together with others like summer Theatrical Troupes who were regularly entertained there. And the remarkable forward step was a real testimonial to the genius in the proprietor.
Fortune in Des Moines
In Des Moines, Iowa, Charles Ashworth, son of one of Peter's older brothers and a cousin of Col. George, was doing quite well with a fortune which his father had carved out of the western plains. The city soon grew onto a portion of the Ashworth holdings, increasing their value, and the family name is perpetuated in Des Moine's Ashworth Park. George made many trips to see his older cousin and his two sisters, Mary and Alice, who lived the latter years of their lives with Charles. George was his cousin's sole heir and when Charles died some years ago, George Ashworth eventually received a very substantial sum of money, which, added to his earnings as a successful Hampton Beach hotel proprietor, assured him of financial independence.
Either in December, 1914 or in January, 1915, Mr. Ashworth married Grace A. Paul of Saugus, Mass. Mrs. Ashworth died in the summer of 1944 at "Ashworth Pines", the new home on High Street, to which the Ashworth's had moved following the sale of the hotel to Ralph Moulton. Col. Ashworth had purchased the High Street house from Gov. Huntley Spaulding about 1931 and moved it from Little Boar's Head to its present location. The house at one time had been owned by President Franklin Pierce who used it extensively during the unhappy latter years of his life.
Col. Ashworth helped to form the old Board of Trade in 1915, out of which grew the Hampton Beach Chamber of Commerce. He was elected a Precinct Commissioner in 1925 and served continuously until 1951 when he failed to run for reelection because of poor health. As a commissioner, he fathered the Manning Plan, proposed by one of the nation's foremost city planning engineers as a pattern for th future development of Hampton Beach; he helped to secure the legislation of 1933 under which the State of New Hampshire took title to the beach front and became responsible for its protection, a responsibility which, by the way, has cost the state better than four million dollars thus far, and he made "Children's Day" a yearly event of outstanding importance. He was prominent in the fight for zoning, which was lost, and at the forefront in the long and successful campaign to abolish our obsolete out-fall system of ocean sewage disposal and to secure a new and modern system of chemical disposal by means of an Imhoff Tank. His outstanding work in behalf of Hampton Beach should be fittingly memorialized at some future time.
The Ashworth Will
On Friday, January 25, 1952, at St. Petersburg, Florida, Col. Ashworth died at the age of 87 years. And when the public bequests in his will became known, we learned definitely of his interest in higher education for deserving boys and girls of our town; of his belief in the value of Scout training for our youngsters as a basis for better adult citizenship and in the usefulness of the John C. White Memorial Playground as a means of building healthier bodies. The income from a substantial fund will provide for a yearly "George and Grace A. Ashworth Scholarship", and for yearly donations to Boy, Girl and Cub Scouts and to the White Playground. And we understand that private trust funds have been established under the will for the education of children in the family.
George Ashworth lived a useful and unselfish life. He has made possible the use of his estate for useful and unselfish purposes -- purposes having to do with preparing our town's boys and girls to become better citizens. The least we can do as a start, to honor the memory of this unusual citizen is to set a part each July 21 as the "Col. George Ashworth Memorial Children's Day."
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