Illustrated Bites of Island News

Jim Cerny, reporting and photographs

Fire and police building UNH pier construction Deb Child on John Samuel Blunt Legislators' picnic at Fort Stark Village construction projects Town Energy Committee Senseless acts of beauty

Fire and Police building needs

There was an informational meeting on August 25 for the building plan to house both New Castle fire and police departments in an expanded version of the current fire department building. Current cost estimate is $905,000.

On hand to answer questions were the Town selectmen, Fire Chief Kevin Blanding, Police Chief James Murphy, contractor John Ricci of Ricci Construction, and architect Shannon Alther of TMS Architects. Basic questions included why this is needed, whether other alternatives would work, including use of services from other towns, greater use of the existing Town Hall, or use of space at the Common. Additional questions involved specific features and facilities, such as materials proposed, whether the building would be sprinklered, the energy solution proposed, amount of space required for several functions, and much more. Several times the town of Rye was offered as an example of what should not be done when building such a facility!

Front and side elevations of the proposed New Castle Fire/Police building. Click on the drawing to see a larger version. (by TMS Architects)

At a public hearing on September 8, the Selectmen voted to rescind an earlier vote, meaning they will not seek approval of the plan at a special town meeting in late September, but instead will bring the plan to vote at the normal town meeting in May, 2009.

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UNH Pier Construction

The UNH pier and pier support facilities, adjacent to Fort Constitution and the Coast Guard Station, are nearing completion. The pier replaces the deteriorated pier with a new, well-equipped shorter pier that can service a number of research vessels that were dispersed through the Piscataqua River estuary. This greatly shortens travel time to get to sea and allows for a single well-designed shore support facility.

Vessels already on station at the pier are the Gulf Challenger, Meriel B., Coastal Surveyor, Cocheco, and "RocknRoll II. The Ferdinand R. Hassler, a new 124-foot NOAA coastal mapping vessel is under construction in Pascagoula, Mississippi. This is called a SWATH vessel, for Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull, designed for stability and which looks at a glance like a catamaran, but is not.

The Gulf Challenger at the UNH pier.

Rich Rouleau.
Rich Rouleau is the UNH Project Manager, who summarizes the support facility this way: "The pier support facility will probably have no more than three or four full-time staff.  The pier support facility is just that a facility that supports the pier. There will be no labs, though UNH will continue to operate the Coastal Marine Lab which is located in the 1903 Mines Storage Building immediately adjacent to Fort Constitution. The pier support facility is intended to serve the needs of all vessels utilizing the pier, the SWATH included. It will have an open office with nine cubicles, a 12-person conference room, a dive locker, a garage/workshop, and about 3,000 square feet of storage space." For detailed information on the history of the project, see the UNH project site.

Pier lighting, designed for aesthetics and to avoid light pollution.

Three-ton utility crane at end of the pier.

Existing Coastal Marine Lab in the historic Harbor Defense Mines Building.

Pier support buildings under construction.

Construction of the interior of a storage building, designed for refrigeration units.

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Deb Child on John Samuel Blunt

On August 20 art historian Deb Child spoke at the New Castle Historical Society about her research on John Samuel Blunt (1798-1835), a local artist now getting recognized for his body of work.

Deb Child superimposed against her book cover.

In his short life, Blunt produced a number of landscape sketches and paintings, many set in the Seacoast, that are the focus of Child's book. Of particular note is the view of Portsmouth from Freeman's Point (where the National Gypsum plant is located), with exceptional detail in the 45 x 64-inch painting. Blunt also left us the only representations, other than maps, of parts of Portsmouth that burned in the great fires of the early nineteenth century. The Blunt family has many historical ties to the Seacoast that enrich the story. Blunt's Island faces the Wentworth Hotel, just inside Rye near the Wentworth Golf Club, and Blunt ancestors lie in the Frost Cemetery in the New Castle village.

What makes the Blunt story more complex and more interesting is his identification as a portrait painter who was originally called "the Borden Limner". The connection to Blunt seems tenuous, however, since these Borden Limner portraits are unsigned and are not cited in Blunt's later account book. Deb Child is actively researching this question.  The Rowland Gallery at Strawbery Banke currently features an exhibit of several objects attributed to Blunt that were once owned by the Portsmouth merchant Leonard Cotton (1800-1872) a pair of fire buckets and a pair of portraits.

Fire bucket by John Samuel Blunt

Martha Cotton by the Borden Limner.

Leonard Cotton by the Borden Limner

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Legislators' picnic at Fort Stark

Peter Rice and Governor John Lynch.
On August 13 supporters of the Fort Stark reclamation efforts had a chance to meet Governor John Lynch and a number of State officials. The governor came to present a proclamation in recognition of the citizen efforts.

A number of other State officials were on hand for the proclamation and picnic lunch, including several members of the Executive Council: Raymond S. Burton, Beverly Hollingworth, and Raymond Wieczorek. Also present were: George Bald, Commissioner of the Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED); Allison MacLean, Director of the Division of State Parks and Recreation; and Michael Vlachich, Director of the Division of Economic Development.

The weather was perfect and several dozen participants and supporters turned out for the ceremony and picnic lunch.

WHEREAS, In May of 2007 a dedicated group of volunteers known as the FORT STARK BRIGADE AND FRIENDS began working to clean up FORT STARK, and

WHEREAS, In the last two working seasons these dedicated volunteers removed large quantities of trash, poison ivy, bittersweet vines and other brush, and

WHEREAS, Other activities included the removal, pruning and rehabilitation off invasive trees, restoring and repairing chain link fencing and removing trash and debris from existing buildings, and

WHEREAS, A museum space was created and started to interpret the historic significance to the site, and

WHEREAS, The entire FORT STARK HISTORIC SITE has been returned to the citizens of New Hampshire as a safe, family friendly seacoast park with a multitude of uses,

NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOHN H. LYNCH, GOVERNOR of the State of New Hampshire and the Executive Council do hereby commend PETER PEIRCE RICE AND THE FORT STARK BRIGADE AND FRIENDS for their hard work and dedication in cleaning up Fort Stark and making the community and State a better place to live.

Some of the community members attending the presentation and lunch at Fort Stark, listening to Governor Lynch.

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Village construction projects

Two construction projects in the New Castle village center are nearing completion. The New Castle Historical Society is in the process of adding a rear exit door to the Museum building. And Nancy Borden's plan to open a village store named Henrys' Market, as previously reported, is now looking at an early October opening date.

Interior renovations to create Henrys' Market.

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Energy committee

Sandra Bisset.
The New Castle Energy Committee held its second meeting on August 27, chaired by Sandra Bisset, with more than a dozen attending, including several for the first time.

Bisset called attention to the part of the Selectmen's charge, that "Every distinct Committee initiative must generate cash financial returns that exceed the cost of the recommendation."

There are two new dates to note: first, the Energy Committee is holding an open meeting at Town Hall on September 15th, to report on current energy use and costs; second, the next Energy Committee meeting is on September 24.

David McArdle, leader for the Building Weatherization Team, presented their review and recommendations of an energy audit of town buildings by Lamprey Brothers. They include the Town Hall, Recreation and Library Building, Public Works, Police Chief's residence. The Committee will also review proposed modifications to the Fire Department building. Other Teams being formed, with leaders shown in parentheses are: Electricity (Sandra Bisset); Transportation (Nancy Borden), Recycling; Long Range Strategy for Renewable Energy (Jim Zuckerman), and Education.

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Random kindness and senseless acts of beauty

The Manion family maintains a cheerful strip of flowers in the heavily trafficked area right in front of their house, opposite the New Castle Congregational Church and Post Office.

Lilies and daisies blooming in the New Castle village center.

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Where troubles melt like lemon drops

Part of a rainbow on the evening of August 4, that was unusually complex, bright, and long-lasting. This is looking seaward from New Castle Beach, with the Isles of Shoals on the horizon.

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September, 2008