Group Says Fish House Should Stay

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Selectmen or Voters Will Have Ultimate Say

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, September 25, 2007

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

HAMPTON -- The town's Heritage Commission is staying out of the fight over whether the newly rebuilt fish house at North Beach should be removed.

Owner Dave Cropper tore down the Doggett Fish House earlier this year without a demolition permit signed off by the commission much to the chagrin of several residents upset that the historic building is now lost forever.

Those upset residents claim Cropper only received permits to restore the old fish house and now that it's gone he should be forced to take down the new structure.

The Heritage Commission discussed the issue at its last meeting and the general consensus was to allow Cropper to keep his newly rebuilt fishing house.

"We talked about it whether or not we would want him to remove it and all and all, we think not," Elizabeth Aykroyd, chairman of the Heritage Commission.

Heritage Commission member Fred Rice said the new fish house should stay intact because it represents an important part of Hampton's history. The fish houses were once a symbol of the town's thriving fishing industry.

"If he had come to us at that time and said he was going to demolish the old fish house, he would have gotten a no," Rice said. "But since he's already done it, and even though it's not exact, it does preserve the flavor of it."

Meanwhile, resident Judy Curtis is still pushing selectmen to force Cropper to tear down the new fish house.

But selectmen have yet to decide whether the building will be allowed to stay or whether voters in March should decide its fate.

The Doggett Fish House was one of 13 fish houses that stood along North Beach from 1805 to 1950, all originally serving as storage facilities for gear and bait of commercial fishermen.

Curtis said fish houses have long been a contentious issue that landed in court in the 1950s when a dispute arose over who owned the land on which the houses sat.

At the time, the court determined the town was the owner and ordered that unless the fish houses were used for commercial fishing, they had to be removed or destroyed.

Only two houses -- one owned by Doggett and another owned by Harold Mace -- were allowed to stay because they were still being used for fishing. Curtis said she wants Cropper's fish house removed since the original building is now gone and he's not a commercial fisherman who would have a legal right to keep the house on town property.

If Cropper is allowed to keep his new fish house than others who were forced to tear them down because of a court ruling should be able to rebuild, Curtis said.

Cropper, owner of Cinnamon Rainbows surf shop, said he purchased the fish house in 2003 after being approached by Barbara Doggett who could no longer maintain the building.

He told selectmen he had no choice but to demolish the original house because it had rotted beyond repair. Cropper said he was unaware he needed a demolition permit and that his only goal was to preserve the old fish house.

Some of the original fishing gear belonging to Arthur Doggett is still stored in the rebuilt fish house, including an oyster rake, nets, old wooden paddles and a bamboo fishing rod.

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