Don't be too quick to cast aside Hampton fish house

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An Editorial

Hampton Union, Tuesday, September 18, 2007

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

The 'new' "Doggett Fish House" at North Beach
[Photo not in original article]

Residents shouldn't be too quick to cast aside the new fish house at North Beach.

Dave Cropper's replacement of the Doggett Fish House in Ruth Stimson Park is again threatening to remove more of the last vestiges of a fishing industry that once defined a significant portion of the town's character.

Few would argue that it in a perfect world the Doggett Fish House would have been restored instead of replaced with a replica. But, it does seem perfectly believable that a poorly maintained, old and dilapidated fish house was beyond salvation. While our older generations sure did build things to last, nothing actually lasts forever, especially a 50- to 100-year-old wood building near the ocean.

Part of the dispute is whether Cropper had appropriate approval to raze the Doggett Fish House and it appears he did not. Cropper said he met with the building inspector, selectmen, Conservation Commission and the state Department of Environmental Services about restoring the building. But, he did not get a required demolition permit from the town's Heritage Commission.

But it's doubtful the original went down and away in a day or that the replica went up the next day. So, where were the aforementioned officials while this was going on?

In the end, the original Doggett Fish House is gone, joining 12 others to go before it. The new Doggett Fish House, which Cropper said he spent $40,000 to build, sits next to the last original one. The question left for town officials and residents is if they really want to remove Cropper's new fish house from Stimson Park? They should keep in mind how all things come to an end and that the one original fish house will in time face its own ultimate demise.

Judy Curtis, whose husband's grandparents owned a fish house in the 1950s, told selectmen she wants Cropper's fish house removed since the original is gone and he's.not a commercial fisherman who would have legal right to keep the house on town property.

But is that the town cutting off its nose to spite its face?

The best solution may be to attract a town resident with an architectural background to volunteer to assess the integrity of the replica. If that independent person advises it does function as a replica, perhaps the best move is to leave it there. The new materials are sure to fade and the house could continue to offer a glimpse to a time sadly gone in town.

If such an architectural approval is reached, the town and Cropper could reach an agreement on what would be permitted in the fish house to keep with the spirit of the court decision that allowed the continued presence of the fish houses in the park. If the spirit of preserving our New England heritage truly guides the process, we are confident an amicable solution will be reached.

[— The Hampton Union]

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