1946 - 1995
Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom
Monday, July 31, 1995
History of the Casino & Ballroom
"Where The Beach Meets The Stars"
The Hampton Beach Casino & Ballroom
The Grand Dame of the Beach ... elegant, commanding by nature and steeped with history. The Lady with a past ... The Hampton Beach Casino remains the focal point of the beach. She was built in 1899 by the Exeter, Hampton and Amesbury [Street] Railway Company ... a 2 1/2 story wood frame building about 190 by 36 feet in area with porches running entirely around the structure at both the ground and second floor levels reported by the Exeter New-Letter on July 15, 1899. The following was said in part: "The Casino of Exeter, Hampton and Amesbury Street Railway is excellently supplying a need long felt by visitors of Hampton Beach. Its convenience and attractions are many and fully appreciated. Upon a pleasant afternoon or evening, crowds may be seen resting upon its piazzas. They are 14 feet abroad and to travel their entire length requires a walk of more than a fifth of a mile, which amply indicates the immensity of the building. By night, the Casino is brilliantly illuminated by electric lights, which, viewed from a distance, make a spectacle of striking beauty."
"The second story is utilized for the great dancing and entertainment hall and for the spacious dining room, with a handsome open fireplace of sea stones and shells at its end. The dining room and the cafe on the lower floor are furnished with every convenience, as are the kitchens and the pantries. A very beautiful art tile soda fountain is being set up....". Much of the lower floor will be devoted to billiards and bowling, with an equipment of billiards and two pool tables and two alleys". "An authentic oval, with facilities for baseball, tennis and other sports, was laid out at the rear of the Casino and a building containing 100 dressing rooms for bathers was erected at the south end. Also provided was a kiosk for band concerts, this being located opposite the Casino on the waterside of Ocean Boulevard.
In 1900, a 2 1/2 story Convention Hall was added at the south end of the Casino as well as a 57 room hotel at the north end named, "The Ocean House" which was connected by a "bridge" to the pavilion. 1901 brought the addition of the "Opera House" or theatre on the south side of Convention Hall. On the first floor were 156 dressing rooms for bathers and on the second floor was a large auditorium, seating 700, with an inclined floor and large stage. Hexagonal towers at the front corners of the new addition "lent a graceful air to the structure, and on the practical side, furnished cool and commanding observatories for the sightseer". With the construction of the "Opera House" addition, the original bath house building was moved to the rear of the Casino and was joined to the latter to form an ell running along Elizabeth Avenue (the original "E" Street, no longer there today)". The building was now 295 feet long.
Across the street, a kiosk was replaced with a beach landmark, the "Bandstand" (built for the railway for $1000.00), a boardwalk was laid along the sea wall on the shore opposite the Casino and at the rear of the Casino, a merry-go-round was provided for the children and a gun cottage, with a clay pigeon shoot attached was constructed. The finest in vaudeville and specialty shows including the "Alabama Troubadours," a troupe of black performers of more than usual merit" were presented in the Casino Theatre. According to Hampton Union in 1902, "Hampton Beach can offer two hours of the best vaudeville entertainment, in a well ventilated theatre, at the cost of an ice cream cone". In 1905, the arcade was added. (still in operation today  as Funarama, owned and operated by Joe Dineen and his family for the last 35 years.) There were frequent baseball games on the athletic oval; the popular band converts were continued in 1915, the Board of Trade (Chamber of Commerce) was formed and initiated the first Carnival Week in 1915. [The first "Carnival Queen" was Blanche (Thompson) Worcestor, crowned on September 9, 1915.] Evening crowds enjoyed the Festival as they watched high wire trapeze acts, hot air balloon ascensions, parachute jumps and fireworks. The fireworks are now a weekly occurrence sponsored by Bud Light and the former Carnival Week continues as the five day Children's Festival every August.
entourage on the Casino Ballroom Stage.
The 1926 and 1927 seasons brought about big changes. A quartet businessmen, John and James Dineen, John Cuddy Jr. and Napoleon Demara, all of Lawrence, Massachusetts, constructed and opened a new dance hall, a project that doomed the Dance Carnival, located at the base of Boar's Head. The Casino's new dance hall, (now known as the Casino Ballroom) added south of the theater, was one of the largest on the Atlantic Coast, measuring 100 feet by 232 feet, with a dance floor of 60 x 100'. At one end of the dance hall were box seats for spectators. The old dance hall was converted to bowling alleys, allowing space for more pool tables. There was also a general sprucing up of the property, and the former dull red paint was changed to white. The addition called for 385,000 bricks, four carloads of cement and one carload of lime. Crooner Rudy Vallee played at the new Casino Ballroom in 1927 and 6,000 people paid $1.50 each to hear the star and his appearance did much to enhance the Beach's reputation as an entertainment center. Meanwhile, at the Casino, some 20,000 people danced weekly, paying 10 cents a dance, four for a quarter, to take a partner onto the floor. Only soft drinks were sold, women were not allowed to smoke, and mothers would come to watch their daughters dance with likely prospects for marriage. John J. Dineen, who ran the Casino until he sold out to the present owners in 1976, estimated that about 12 million people had been inside the building, and hundred of the top acts of the day had performed there. In the 1930's and 40's according to Dineen, the Casino was the "Biggest grossing ballroom then".
Every dance band worked here." Frankie Laine, Paul Whiteman, Sammy Kaye, The Dorsey Brothers, Bing Crosby, the Ted Herbert Orchestra (the Ballroom House Band playing to 15,000 a week) and many other internationally known orchestras filled the hall with dancers and brought tens of thousands to the Beach. Entertainment continued to be a focal point of the Casino with contemporary entertainment as well as the still popular big bands for the next three decades. In 1972, the Casino, with newly acquired liquor license, focused once again on the type of entertainment Dineen knew best - Big Band Music. Ted Herbert, who with his orchestra has been a Casino regular off and on for 26 years, returned with a vocal group. John Dineen and Ted Herbert remain legends on Hampton Beach for their contribution to the level of entertainment at Hampton Beach was always known for. In 1976, after half a century of involvement, Dineen sold the property to Fred Schaake, Paul Grandmaison, Sam Waterhouse and James Goodwin, Sr. and Jr. Inside the Casino, bowling alleys were replaced with a mini-mall of shops and games, while the dance hall became "Club Casino" under Jim Goodwin's management, offering a variety of popular entertainment from rock and roll to country, folk and comedy. Outside the Casino, more modern facade of the building was constructed by the new owners. Currently owned by Schaake, Grandmaison, and Waterhouse, the Casino Family Entertainment Center features two restaurants, fast food, games and kiddie rides, specialty shops, miniature golf, billiards and of course, the arcade.
Orchestra in 1946 at the Casino Ballroom.
Today's Casino Ballroom, under the management of Fred Schaake, Jr., Kristen Schaake, Emil and Maureen Dumont reflects the taste of the 1990's from rock and roll, country, comedy to tonight's Miss Hampton Beach Pageant.
Letter From Ted Herbert
"The Ted Herbert Orchestra"
April 17, 1999