Exeter, Hampton & Amesbury Street Railway

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"Our Town" by James W. Tucker

Hampton Union

Thursday, October 11, 1951


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Note: Because of the interest of a friend, Eloise Lane Smith, we shall be able at some time in the future to relate in this column the true story concerning why a western section of our town is sometimes referred to as "Guinea". This keen-minded daughter of Hampton, who wrote the famous Tercentenary Pageant of 1938, has collected information of a factual nature in connection with the naming of "Guinea" which she has been thoughtful enough to give us for use in this pillar. We are grateful for her consideration and the entire community would be heartily appreciative if Mrs. Smith and her brother, Wheaton, would collaborate in the matter of writing a history of Hampton which might cover its entire existence-span of three centuries, or even that epoch which begins in 1892 and is not covered by Dow's History of Hampton. No citizens of our town are so well qualified in every respect to undertake this work which necessarily must be a labor of love and not of remuneration.

[Editor's Footnote: Peter E. Randall, did in fact, pick up where Joseph Dow left off in his Hampton History in 1888,
and continued the epoch history through 1988 ("HAMPTON: A CENTURY OF TOWN AND BEACH, 1888-1988".
Published for the Town of Hampton, New Hampshire by Peter E. Randall, Publisher, 1989).]

Exeter, Hampton & Amesbury Street Railway

Last week we wrote about the Exeter Street Railway, the first utility of what eventually became the Wallace D. Lovell syndicate of trolley enterprises. Directly connected with the first utility were the Franklin Construction Company and the Rockingham Electric Company -- in fact the directorates of the three utilities were so closely interlocked that the New Hampshire Railroad Commission objected strenuously to the set-up. The next business venture of Mr. Lovell and his associates had to do with extending the lines of the Exeter Street Railway, which, under its charter, was restricted to operation within the townships of Exeter and Hampton. A loop was constructed in Exeter from Court Square through the business section to the B & M. Railroad Station and thence back to Court Square by the way of Lincoln and Front streets. The fare around the Loop was five cents.

A further extension along Lafayette Road in a southerly direction to the Massachusetts state line through Hampton Falls and Seabrook was decided upon. Inasmuch as operations of the company were restricted to the confines of Hampton, it was necessary on June 13, 1898, to incorporate a new company, the Hampton and Amesbury Street Railway, to construct the extension through Hampton Falls and Seabrook to the state line. Here a connection was planned with the Haverhill and Amesbury Street Railway which was to be extended in a northerly direction from the Square in Salisbury, Mass. Construction of the Hampton & Amesbury Street Railway was begun in November, 1898 and completed on May 12, 1899.

Amesbury Connected With Beach

Next came the Amesbury and Hampton Street Railway. The Lovell group decided to extend their tracks from the state line at Smithtown directly to Amesbury by the way of Salisbury Plains. Permission was obtained from the two towns and on January 27, 1899, the Amesbury and Hampton Street Railway was chartered by the Massachusetts Legislature. The building contract was awarded to Soule, Dillingham & Company of Boston, a firm engaged at the time in constructing the Hampton and Amesbury Street Railway, and on July 3, 1899, the new line, including a carhouse on Clinton Street in Amesbury to Hampton Beach began at seven o'clock on the morning of July 4, 1899. In the meantime, the Exeter Street Railway line had been extended on Ocean Boulevard from a point about opposite Highland Avenue to the Casino and from the corner of Winnacunnet Road and Ocean Boulevard in a northerly direction for two miles to the North Hampton line.

Glimpse of Overall Picture

And now, in order that the continuity of these overlapping operations may be preserved and the various enterprises, having to do with the early development of Hampton, properly integrated, we shall be obliged to digress for a moment and look at the over-all picture. In the spring of 1899, the trolley interests had begun the construction of the Casino and two hundred feet of the north end of the building was completed for use that summer. We have already related how the trolley tracks had been extended south along the beach to the new recreation center and how a trolley connection had been made with Amesbury by the way of Hampton village. Within the next three years, the Casino was enlarged; the Ocean House built; the Mile Long Bridge completed and a trolley line built from Smithtown through South Seabrook to enter Hampton Beach from the south by the way of the new toll bridge and the Portsmouth Electric Railway completed from Rye to the North Beach terminal of the Exeter Street Railway. So, before the beginning of the 1902 summer season, Hampton Beach had been connected directly by trolley with Exeter, Amesbury, Portsmouth, Haverhill and other cities. The story of the Casino and of the Mile Long Bridge will be told in more detail at a later date. But now, in order to trace more accurately the growth of the fabulous trolley empire, we shall have to go back to 1899.

Trolley Lines Are Consolidated

On February 15, 1899, the Lovell interests consolidated their holdings. This was the date of the incorporation of the Exeter, Hampton and Amesbury Street Railway. Under the articles of incorporation, the new utility was given permission to acquire within two years, all of the franchises, properties and assets of the Exeter Street Railway, the Hampton and Amesbury Street Railway and the Rockingham Electric Company. At a stockholders meeting on May 20, 1899, the consolidation was made through the exchange on an equal basis of stocks and bonds and the adoption of the terms of new utility's charter.

It will be noted that the Amesbury and Hampton Street Railway was not included in the consolidation mentioned above. Although it had been chartered, the contract for its building had not been awarded and it was not completed until about six months after the consolidation had been effected. Because this railway was a Massachusetts corporation, it could not legally be included in the merger, so the Lovell interests included the line in the new consolidation by the simple expedient of a lease. The lease went into effect on July 1, 1900 and even though the Amesbury and Hampton was to maintain its corporate existence, to all intents and purposes, it became an important cog in the Exeter, Hampton and Amesbury Street Railway consolidation.

The trolley empire of Wallace D. Lovell had started to grow. And with it, our town's beach, as we know it today, was born. The sand dunes along the front were filled with the poundings of builders' hammers and the whining of saws. New streets were laid out and new cottages were being framed and finished on every hand. The clop-clop of old Dobbin's hooves was replaced with the clang-clang of the trolley bell under a motorman's impatient heel. The annual "Farmer's Day," which had attracted hundreds in horse-drawn vehicles to Great Boar's Head, now brought thousands by Trolley to the new Convention Hall in the great Casino building. Two thousand people came from Amesbury on electric cars for the first of many "Amesbury Days." But Lovell's trolley empire had just begun to grow as we shall see next week!

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