The Tuck Museum Turns 90 in 2015
Happy first day of 2015!
This year marks the 90th anniversary of the Hampton Historical Society and Tuck Museum, founded in 1925 by Reverend Ira S. Jones and others. To celebrate this milestone the Society has planned several events throughout the year. Also, this summer museum visitors can experience our Retrospective exhibit, a decade-by-decade visual exploration of the museum’s history set against a backdrop of important town, beach, and national events. And here at our blog we’ll be highlighting the history of the Society, the museum, and the staff of dedicated volunteers who keep it all running.
THE FOUNDING OF THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY
On February 28, 1925, over 70 people signed Articles of Agreement to establish the corporation whose purpose was “to erect a suitable memorial to the founders of the first settlement in Hampton.” The following week the Articles were approved by the New Hampshire Secretary of State and The Meeting House Green Memorial Association came into being.
Part of the “suitable memorial” included creating a repository for the town’s historical treasures. For that purpose the Frank Fogg house, located adjacent to the historic meeting house green, was purchased for $4,000 and a small addition with fireplace was built at the rear of the house. The house was named in honor of Edward Tuck, the philanthropist who funded the project and whose mother was born and raised in Hampton (Tuck, who was born and raised in Exeter, also funded Stratham Hill Park, the Amos Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, the library at the New Hampshire Historical Society, and, of course, the Tuck playing fields in Hampton).
FIRST GIFTS TO THE MUSEUM
Donations of historical items were needed to furnish the new museum – which in the early years was called either “Tuck Hall” or “Tuck House.” The museum still holds the original list of items donated in 1925. Most are still part of the collections.
–Caroline Campbell Lamprey Shea (1860-1933), a descendant of early Hampton settlers and the granddaughter of prominent local lawyer and political figure Uri Lamprey, was the Association’s first secretary. She gave the museum one of its most historically significant donations: a walking cane that had been given to her grandfather by President Franklin Pierce.
–Mrs. Joshua James, whose house would be added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002, gave a c. 1740 box pew chair that was used by generations of Jameses in their pew at the old meeting house.
–The Locke family gave a family-made quilt sewn from coats of both English army Redcoats and Continental army Yankees.
–Irene Trefethen Burnham gave the first organ used in the Hampton Methodist Church in the early 19th century.
–Mr. Frank Leavitt gave a late 19th century hair wreath that had belonged to Mrs. Abbie Leavitt Lamprey.
There are a few first items that are no longer in the collections (and won’t be missed, either) – a set of stuffed, arsenic-laced Hampton marsh birds and a 100-year-old (in 1925) coconut. I always smile when I wonder who donated the old coconut and why, but I have an inkling that it was brought home as a souvenir from some exotic tropical locale by one of Hampton’s intrepid seafaring men.
NO LIGHTS FOR YOU! THE FIRST ANNUAL MEETING
On October 14, 1925, the Association formally dedicated the Meeting House Green and Memorial Park, across the road from the Tuck House, as “a tribute to the heroism of the early settlers and a mark of respect to the Rev. Stephen Bachiler, the Father and Founder of the Congregational Church and the Town of Hampton.”
After the dedication ceremonies and a banquet held at the Dance Carnival on Boar’s Head (“the Prettiest and Coolest Spot on Hampton Beach”), the Association held its first annual meeting in the log cabin that had been built on the museum grounds as a “replica” of the first meeting house.* Caroline Shea’s tart New England sense of humor shines through in this brief first record:
At the closing of the Celebration of the Meeting House Green Memorial Park Association which continued for two days exclusive of the Exercises in the Congregational Church on the preceding Sunday, a Meeting was held in the Log Cabin.
The Secretary’s report was not read as there was no light in the room.
The Treasurer was not present and had sent no report.
A Committee for drawing up by-laws was appointed as follows: Mr. Barker, Mr. Chas. F. Adams with Mr. Jones.
Officers for the coming were elected as follows: Mr. Jones, President and Superintendent; Mrs. C. C. Shea, Secretary; Mr. Oliver Hobbs, Treasurer.
C. C. Shea, Secretary
*This was not a building style used by English colonists in America, and I am still trying to find out whose idea it was to build the log cabin as a supposed replica of the first Hampton meeting house. With a roof of bark-covered slats, it’s amazing this building was still standing well into the 1940s. When it finally collapsed, it was never rebuilt. According to Harold Fernald’s notes for a talk he gave at Lamie’s Restaurant in 1970, the cabin was replaced in 1950 by the restored one-room district school house (which still inhabits the spot).
Special thanks to retired teacher and historian Harold Fernald, whose amazing personal stash of Hampton history contributed to this article.
–Wishing you a prosperous and magical 2015, Cheryl