Town Hall Day in North Hampton

Hampton Union: North Hampton goes back in time for Town Hall Day

By Amy Kane
May 21, 2013

NORTH HAMPTON — The bell tolled noon on Saturday as town officials in top hats rode an ox-drawn cart to town hall for a re-enactment of the opening of the historic municipal building.

In front of the landmark hall, accompanied by the three members of the current Select Board, town moderator Bill Boesch, with gavel in hand and garbed in the latest 1840s fashion, urged residents to act “in a similar manner as their forebears did” when they voted to accept the completion of Town Hall on March 12, 1844 and, further, to celebrate the restoration of the building and its acceptance into the National Register of Historic Places.

“How say ye, assembled? Yea or nay?” he asked. The small crowd of residents responded with a chorus of yeas.

The re-enactment and dedication was part of North Hampton Town Hall Day, held on May 18 to celebrate the importance of the building to the town and its people.

“Your tax dollars, efforts, enthusiasm and energy brings us to this fine day,” said a dapper and dignified Jim Maggiore, chairman of the Select Board. “You should be proud. We have a very significant building — one we will enjoy for many years to come.”

The single-story white clapboard hall with the distinctive clock and bell tower was declared unsafe for use in 2004. The Town Hall Building Committee formed in 2006 and a multi-year rehabilitation project began. In 2013, the renovated North Hampton Town Hall was named to the National Register of Historic Places. The building is currently used for board meetings, voting and other civic events. It houses the town’s recreation department and cable TV station.

The Saturday ceremony also included presentation of an award for outstanding achievement from Pat Meyers and Peter Michaud of the nonprofit New Hampshire Preservation Alliance.

“The alliance commends the significant decision to embrace rather than avoid the preservation project when the building was considered unsafe in 2004,” said Michaud. “The commitment to fund this out of the town budget, rare to happen in New Hampshire, is an incredible example for other towns.”

After the ceremony, there were activities, refreshments, and displays both inside and outside Town Hall.

Jeff Hillier, of North Hampton, demonstrated a hand printing press in front of the town clerk’s office. The North Hampton School Band played in front of town hall. The oxen stood calmly yoked and available for petting behind the library. American Legion Post 35 sold hot dogs, hamburgers, and pulled pork sandwiches next to Joe’s Meat Shoppe.

Inside, the Historical Society had antique town treasures on display, including town hall’s original lock and key. Curator Priscilla Leavitt also shared a binder cataloguing barns, including one that had been in her family since the 1700s. She is a descendant of John Leavitt who built Town Hall in 1844. Joe Butler manned a table with artifacts and a model of the town railroad station. There were demonstrations of chair caning and rug braiding, fiddle and guitar music, student artwork on display, and Irish moss pudding and Election Day cake to taste.

First-grader Molly Robie pointed out a small clay replica she made of the famous 1815 Revere bell that is housed in the town hall’s tower. “I drive by it on the way to school every day,” she said.

The bell rings every hour between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. George Chauncey, president of the North Hampton Historical Society, was wearing a tri-cornered hat and buckle shoes, when he told the story of how the Revere bell was in storage for 15 years after delivery because two factions in town could not agree on which end of the town hall, front or back, to build the bell tower.

“Selectmen refused to pay Paul Revere because they weren’t using the bell. Finally he sent them a very nasty letter, which we have a copy of, demanding payment,” said Chauncey.

People could peer through bars into the musty old town jail in a cellar below the hall, accessed from outside the building on the right. A couple of skeletons wearing hats, sitting on a straw bale, were inside. The town hall is a short distance from an old railroad depot. “Police used to let hobos spend the night in jail,” said Chauncey.

The North Hampton Heritage Commission organized Town Hall Day with help from many local individuals and business donors. Heritage Commission chair Donna Etela declared the outcome “fantastic.”

“There was a part for everybody,” she said, “and the weather was perfect.”

And so we beat on

Marine Memorial statue back

The Lady (Marine Memorial Statue), at Hampton Beach, from yesterday’s 3-mile seaside walk.

Anna and I saw The Great Gatsby at Regal Cinemas in Newington last night. At times visually entertaining. But in the end it just made me want to reread the book.

The movie couldn’t decide if it wanted to be a Jazz Age cartoon, a Baz Luhrmann stylistic interpretation (with jarringly modern music and bizarre coloration), or a realistic period piece (with perfect hair and costumes). What is subtle in the book was too much in the movie.

Leo/ Gatsby said “old sport” way too many times and pronounced it “old spore.”  Also he is too…  real, because you can see him onscreen rather than imagine him in mind’s eye. He should be more mysterious, less obvious. Daisy is too doe-eyed. Tom is too much of an asshole (but the Australian who played him was the best actor). Nick is too much the innocent outsider. With the balloons, confetti, fireworks and mansion/castle, the party scenes are like a drunken adult version of Disney World.

(Critic Rex Reed: Baz Luhrmann takes a meat cleaver to literary masterpiece.)

Anna was mad because she hates all the characters. Why are they so stupid? Why do they make such bad decisions? Who is she supposed to root for? “I hate Daisy the most.”

“But she’s not real, she’s fiction,” I say, in the car on the way home. “You can’t talk about her like she’s a real person.” I’m not sure how to explain what I mean. Gatsby is not a person either. He’s something we Americans recognize inside us, characterized and caricatured, enlarged and unleashed by a particular period in history and by a writer’s imagination.

What’s great about Gatsby is not the characters, plot or setting but the writing, the words on the page. A color cartoon version loses that, of course. I only cried a teardrop or two at one part in the movie and it wasn’t onscreen romance, or tragic death. It was the ending, because the writing is beautiful.

Nick Carraway/ Tobey Maguire is finishing typing his book and we hear and then (last sentence) see the words…

 And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning ——

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Forget the trapeze and fireworks, more words….

“There was music from my neighbor’s house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whispering and the champagne and the stars.”

“There was dancing now on the canvas in the garden, old men pushing young girls backward in eternal graceless circles, superior couples holding each other tortuously, fashionably and keeping in the corners…champagne was served in glasses bigger than finger bowls. The moon had risen higher, and floating in the Sound was a triangle of silver scales, trembling a little to the stiff, tinny drip of the banjoes on the lawn.”

Sea duck and maple leaves

japanese maple leaves

New baby leaves on the Japanese maple.

Here is what we have planted in the garden, so far: green market cabbage, Fortex (gourmet slender French) pole beans, ronde de nice squash, lemon cucumber, cress, chicory, ovation greens, sanguine lettuce, all-star lettuce, plum radish, bull’s blood beets, kale, spinach, winter density lettuce, two kinds of peas.

Bought parsley. Planted the indoor herbs in the outdoor herb garden. Sage and oregano and tarragon came back from the dead.

Planted seeds of lemon-yellow sunflowers in some spots along the back wall of the house. Chickens ate them the same day.

Strawberries are blooming. Transplanted raspberries are thriving. Rhubarb is almost ready for rhubarb margaritas.

“Let’s plant the corn.” John is hovering. John wants to plant the corn seeds in the tilled place in the big field, right now, almost every day for a week, even though it’s not time.

“Since when are you Mr. Early Corn Planter?”

“Let’s plant the corn.”

“When you get back,” I promise. He left last night for New York. Tonight he will be in San Juan. Then: St. Thomas, then Dallas. Then: Corn Planting Day.

He will wake up tomorrow in Puerto Rico, thinking about the dirt in his backyard and how soon he will rake furrows and drop seeds into his dirt. I will wake up thinking of Puerto Rico, of wearing a sleeveless blue and green summer dress and walking in Old San Juan with a camera hanging from my bare shoulder.



I spotted this male eider near North Hampton Beach a couple of days ago while on a photo safari walk.  The common eider, Somateria mollissima, is the largest duck in North America. Their call: ah-oo!

The ocean has been intensely fragrant for several weeks, more so than I remember. Wave churn, new spring life, east winds? We can smell it at our house at odd hours of the day and night. Walking right next to it is intoxicating.

Last night: rainstorms. Today: some fog. A long walk. And writing.