National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior

National Register of Historic Places Program:
North Hampton Town Hall, Rockingham County, New Hampshire

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation's historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archeological resources.

 

[Photo]
North Hampton Town Hall
Photograph courtesy of the New Hampshire State Historic Preservation Office

The North Hampton Town Hall in Rockingham County, New Hampshire, was officially listed in the National Register of Historic Places on February 13, 2013. Built in 1844, and moved to its present location at 231 Atlantic Avenue in 1886, the historic single-story, clapboarded building set on a foundation of granite blocks, owes its listing to the work of local residents, starting with a Winnacunnet High School senior project in 2006.

According to Donna Etela, Chair of the North Hampton Heritage Commission, credit for starting the process of nominating North Hampton Town Hall to the National Register of Historic Places goes to Kathy Shea, a senior at Winnacunnet High School in 2006. Noticing the North Hampton Town Hall was in a state of disrepair, Kathy Shea did her Winnacunnet High School senior project on researching the history of the building and placing it on the New Hampshire Register of Historic Places, administered by the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources. Winnacunnet High School in Hampton, New Hampshire, is a public high school that serves students from grades 9 through 12 who reside in the communities of Hampton, Seabrook, North Hampton, and Hampton Falls. Kathy Shea worked with the North Hampton Historical Society, who provided assistance on her senior project.

The North Hampton Town Hall was condemned in 2004 due to its lack of structural integrity. On February 19, 2006, Kathy Shea wrote a letter to the Department of Cultural Resources in New Hampshire stating, “the Town Hall is an important part of the town history, and it most definitely helped shape the community North Hampton is so proud of today. The Town Hall is the oldest publicly owned building in the Town of North Hampton, standing proudly for almost 200 years.” Kathy Shea’s letter can be found online at http://www.northhampton-nh.gov/public_documents/northhamptonnh_bcomm/heritage under the heading “Town Hall Individual Survey Form 2006.” Her letter to the Department of Cultural Resources is near the end of the document.

[photo]North Hampton Town Hall
Photograph courtesy of the New Hampshire State Historic Preservation Office

Kathy Shea’s letter had an impact. The North Hampton Town Hall was added to the New Hampshire State list of historic places.

Others took up the work of listing the building in the National Register in the community. Donna Etela told reporter Kyle Stucker of The Hampton-North Hampton Patch upon learning of the listing, “We’re really happy. It’s just really exciting. It’s wonderful. A lot of people have worked very hard to do this…so it’s finally happened and we’re very very happy.” These remarks were published on February 26, 2013.

In speaking with the National Register, Etela said that on May 18 of this year North Hampton will celebrate “Town Hall Day.”  “We have a reenactment of the opening of the North Hampton Town Hall,” Etela said, adding that local people will dress up in period clothing and local dignitaries will arrive at the town hall in an ox drawn cart, a tribute to the moving of the building by Joseph A. Dearborn, who was paid $200.00 in 1885-6 to move the structure with oxen to its current location.

Built in 1844, the North Hampton Town Hall was the first local building constructed to expressly serve local government functions. The single-story, clapboarded building is oriented with its south-facing pediment to the street and a two-stage tower toward the front of the gable roof. A pyramidal roof with four gable clock faces was added to the top of the original tower in 1920. The structure displays elements of both the Federal and Greek Revival styles of architecture. Most of the interior of the town hall is devoted to a large open meeting room with a raised stage at the north end. The Town Hall has been the center of local government and community activities for over 160 years. It has housed town meetings, the selectmen’s office, the town library, the town jail and provided storage for the fire department.

[Photo]
North Hampton Town Hall
Photograph courtesy of the New Hampshire State Historic Preservation Office

What is now North Hampton was originally part of the town of Hampton and was known as the North Division of Hampton. Settlement began about 1675 and initially occurred along a north-south highway known as the Country Road (now Post Road or Rt. 151), which connected Portsmouth with Boston. On November 30, 1742 the General Court approved the petition for incorporation and the North Hill Parish of Hampton became the town of North Hampton.

North Hampton’s first meetinghouse was a simple building, which was built prior to 1734 on the common at North Hill. In 1760, a new, larger, two-story meetinghouse measuring 58’ X 40’ was built a few feet north of the first. In 1816 a steeple was added on the east end of the meetinghouse and a bell was purchased, cast by Paul Revere & Sons of Boston. As was customary during this initial settlement period, civil and religious functions were combined in one building. The passage of the state Toleration Act in 1819 would ultimately separate the church from the civil authority.

The arrival of the Eastern Railroad to North Hampton in 1840 was to have a major impact on development in town. As a result the center of the town’s activity shifted from North Hill to an area closer to the railroad. On April 11, 1843 the town voted to build a Town House (Town Hall) and land was purchased on “the first knoll eastward of Abraham Leavitt’s house.” The Old Second Meetinghouse on North Hill was dismantled and materials from it were utilized for the frame, rough boarding on the outside, under floors, lathing and dados in the new building as well as rocks for the foundation. The Paul Revere bell cast in 1815 was relocated from the Second Meetinghouse to the tower. The cost of the building was not to exceed $700. According to page 129 of the Town Record book 1832-1860, minutes of 19 April 1843 meeting, John Leavitt was paid $535 for woodwork. The Town Hall was completed in 1844 and was accepted at Town Meeting on March 12th of that year.

[photo]North Hampton Town Hall
Photograph courtesy of the New Hampshire State Historic Preservation Office

In a 1885 town meeting a vote was taken to move the Town Hall about a quarter of a mile southwest, closer to the depot and the activities and businesses nearby. Approximately a half-acre of land was purchased from John Leavitt at a cost of $800. Joseph A. Dearborn was paid to move the building with his oxen. The following year $1,500 was appropriated to enlarge and repair the building and an additional 15 feet was added to the rear of the building. It was probably at this time that the fire department garage and holding cell were inserted in part of the basement. In 1892 the town’s first library was placed in the southwest corner of the town hall. In 1899 a row of ten horse sheds was built behind the town hall, which have since been removed.

In 1916-1917 an 11-foot addition was made to the Town Hall for the stage. Walter Clark did the carpentry and Irving Brown was responsible for the masonry work. In 1920 Joseph Oliver Hobbs (1855-1927) donated the clock that crowns the front bell tower. Hobbs was the great nephew and heir of John Fogg Hobbs (1815-1890), a North Hampton native who went on to become a successful Boston businessman who built his fortune on real estate and a horse-drawn trolley business. The clock was manufactured by E. Howard & Company of Boston.

The Town Hall building has been used for many activities, including dances, card parties, graduations and plays. In the 1940s and 1950s basketball games were played in the hall, with one basket placed over the inside door and one set over the stage. In 1958 an additional ten feet was added to the rear to house a kitchen, heating, and bathroom facilities.

[Photo]
North Hampton Town Hall
Photograph courtesy of the New Hampshire State Historic Preservation Office

Beginning with Kathy Shea’s research in recent years, attention was drawn to repairing the North Hampton Tall Hall. In 2010 the town embarked on a multi-year renovation project which included new bathrooms, a handicapped access ramp in back, a new front porch, restoration for the windows and the installation of storm windows. The renovated building is now used for municipal meetings, voting and a variety of community functions. The Town Hall Recreation Department and the Cable television station also have offices in this building.

Special thanks to Donna Etela for additional information and providing the location of Kathy Shea’s report. The majority of the history sections were excerpted from Lisa Mausoif, Preservation Consultant for the North Hampton Heritage Commission, North Hampton Town Hall NRHP Nomination, New Hampshire SHPO, February

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