Hampton Beach History

The Early Years  "Winnacunnet Shalbee Called Hampton"

Since its settlement, Hampton Beach has evolved into a destination for entertainment and leisure for all New England. However, the beach was not what first attracted European settlers to the area. 375 years ago the colonists arrived in the area now called Hampton and Hampton Beach. The landscape was quite similar to what exists now from the salt marshes to the sandy beaches to Great Boar’s Head. However, the area was not used for recreation and relaxation as we use it today. 200 years passed before the local community realized Hampton Beach’s potential to become the recreational center of the region. 
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Geographical and Historical Background "Let's Go Down to Hampton Beach"

Hampton beach is a barrier chain, or a strip of land that protects the mainland from the damaging effects of waves and hurricanes off the ocean. It is surrounded by the salt hay marshes that first attracted English settlers to the area 375 years ago in 1638. The town did not learn to appreciate the recreational assets of the beach until the 19th century. In 1897 the Hampton Beach Improvement Company began the recreation and entertainment-based development of the beachfront. The State of New Hampshire acquired the beach in 1933 and took responsibility for maintaining it. The State also maintained and added to the buildings that the HBIC had developed. The beach has been constantly evolving since the early 1800s and continues even today.
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Turn of the 20th Century "A Seaside Tourist Destination"

Hampton Beach completely transformed at the turn of the 20th century. The town leased the beach to a locally formed agency to develop the area into the center of activity and entertainment that exists today. In less than a decade, Hampton Beach gained an electric trolley, a bridge connecting Seabrook to Hampton Beach, the famous Hampton Beach Casino, and a bandstand across the street to attract thousands of tourists to this recreational center every summer! 
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1910 - 1950  "The Summer Playground for All New England"

Hampton Beach grew exponentially in the first half of the 20th century. 20,000 people danced weekly at the Hampton Beach Casino and walked the new boardwalk that ran along the beach. Automobiles became available to everyone and driving personal cars and taking buses replaced the electric trolley as the preferred forms of transportation. Even after two destructive fires, Hampton Beach continued to grow and host a variety of spectacular events. In order to maintain the beach, the town transferred its ownership rights to the State of New Hampshire in 1933 and Hampton Beach State Park was established. 
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1950 - Present "Still Enjoying a Golden Era"

1950 to the present day has been a time of progress at Hampton Beach. In 1957, a memorial honoring sailors and soldiers lost at sea was built on the boardwalk and the bandstand was replaced by the Seashell complex in 1962. The 99-year lease that had given the Hampton Beach Improvement Company rights to the beach’s development expired in 1997. A multi-agency partnership completed the Hampton Beach Area Master Plan in 2001 to imagine the development of the beach over the next 50 years. The construction of a new Seashell Complex in 2012 achieved a goal of the plan that continues the 200-year legacy of improvement at Hampton Beach. 
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About the Author

Grace Lyons is a 2013 graduate of the University of New Hampshire, earning a Bachelor’s degree Cum Laude in History with a focus in Modern U.S. History. Her passion for history, and specifically American history, started when she was twelve years old while attending a summer camp at Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, N.H. At camp she learned to be a volunteer Junior Historical Role-player. Grace still volunteers and works occasionally as a role player at the museum.

The Hampton Beach Public Interpretive Display project is a required mitigation measure for adverse effects identified due to the Hampton Beach State Park Redevelopment Project. Grace Lyons was selected to intern with Ben Wilson, Chief, Bureau of Historic Sites, Division of Parks and Recreation, while a student at University of New Hampshire. She collaborated with people from the State of New Hampshire, the Hampton Historical Society, and the Lane Memorial Library to develop the final products for both the kiosk signs and the accompanying website. 


I would like to give special thanks and recognition to a few individuals whose help was invaluable to this project. I would like to thank Bill Teschek, the Assistant Director and Head of Technical Services of the Lane Memorial Library. His vast knowledge of the history of Hampton Beach was an important and helpful resource. Without his help and guidance, it would not have been possible for many of the pictures that are featured in this project to appear at all. 

I would also like to give special thanks to Betty Moore and Rich Hureau from the Hampton Historical Society. Betty is the Executive Director and Rich is one of the Trustees and the expert on Hampton Historical Society technology. Their help and willingness to share their many resources and great knowledge of history with me made it possible to dig deeper into Hampton’s history. Several of the postcards and pictures featured in the project were acquired with the help of both Betty and Rich. This project would not have been possible without the help of these individuals and countless others who were part of the project’s development. Thank you for all your support and patient guidance!