Illustrated Bites of Island News

Reporting and photography by Jim Cerny

Town Hall news Pancake breakfast Turning the pages at the library Dennis Robinson on the Wentworth Hotel An eye for eagles Piscataqua ship spotting Visiting Star Island Flowers of spring Quick index to back issues

Town Hall news  

Town Meeting Day.

May 12 was Town Meeting Day for New Castle, with the polls open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.  Then the business meeting convened at 7 p.m. to vote on twelve warrant articles. There was standing room only, with over 200 people in attendance.

Moderator Wayne Semprini, back to camera, takes a question from the audience at Town Meeting.

Article II was the major warrant item, to approve a $1.1 million bond to build a new public safety complex. The result of secret balloting was yea=197 and nay=19, easily meeting the two-thirds requirement to pass.

All the other warrant articles passed on voice vote, with the exception of Article VII, to raise $175,000 for sidewalk construction, and that passed in amended form by a count of hands. The original article was amended completely and replaced by a request to spend $28,000 for an engineering study to determine the exact costs.

(in ballot order all candidates ran unopposed)
Town ClerkPriscilla Hodgkins249
Select Board MemberPatty Scholz Cohen231
TreasurerWilliam Marshall249
Tax CollectorPam Cullen252
Budget Committee, 3-year termThomas Smith230
Budget Committee, 2-year termDamon Frampton236
Budget Committee, 1-year termDavid Borden202
Library TrusteePatricia Burke Hickey240
Cemetery TrusteeThomas Boisvert236
Town ModeratorWayne Semprini238
Maude Trefethen School Board MemberRoddy MacDonald257
Fire Ward [write-in]Peter Rice30
Trustee of the Trust Funds, 3-year term [write-in]Thomas Smith26
Trustee of the Trust Funds, 2-year term [write-in]no winner

New Castle Town Web page

Banner on New Castle town Web page.

The Town of New Castle's official Web page is redesigned and revitalized as the primary means for town communication. The link is:

The town Web page is the place to go for contact information, schedules, minutes, and the "Island Items" newsletter. We also provide a copy of the current "Island Items" here in Saltines see the May 2009 issue, in PDF format, which is 9 pages when printed.

Going to the dogs

If you are one of the more than 120 dog owners in New Castle, remember May 30 is the deadline to register your dog. Unlike some previous years, forms will not be mailed out you can pick them up from a holder in the hallway in Town Hall or you can find them on the Town Web page. And you may even qualify for a senior citizen discount, based on your age, not your dog's!

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Pancake breakfast

Fire engine ready to roll.

On Saturday, April 18, the Fire Department held its fund-raising pancake breakfast, which was very well attended at the Parish Hall.

A room full of pancake eaters.

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Turning the pages at the library

Christine Collins.

Gene Fox.

May marks the departure of New Castle town librarian Gene Fox, who is leaving after six years. Gene's wife, Rev. Paige Blair, is giving up St. George's parish in York, Maine, for a new parish in Del Mar, California. Replacing Gene in the interim is Library Trustee Christine Collins, who expects to be in that role for perhaps six weeks while a new librarian is hired.

Jann Foster is the currently featured local artist at the Library with a display of her watercolors.

Jann Foster's watercolors.

"Rhythm" by Jann Foster.

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Dennis Robinson on the Wentworth Hotel

Dennis Robinson and Maryellen Burke.
On the evening of April 22, local historian, author, and Web site proprietor Dennis Robinson, assisted by his wife Maryellen Burke, was the New Castle Historical Society's first speaker of 2009. Dennis published the definitive book on the Wentworth Hotel in 2004 and his topic was the history of the Wentworth, broadly defined.

Dennis is not only a deeply informed speaker, he sprinkles his presentation with entertaining asides, such as noting the mistaken beliefs that brought the first explorers to this area, looking for the Northwest Passage and sassafras root as a cure for the French pox! And he pointed out the recurring use of a dolphin as a minor motif in local history, sometimes friendly in appearance and sometimes menacing.

The ownership history of the hotel begins with the Campbell family who were undercapitalized and gave way to Harry Beckwith, who was in turn replaced by Portsmouth's Frank Jones, a millionaire when it really meant something to be one. Jones not only had the money to expand the hotel, he knew how to market it. Then came the Smith era and the maximum expansion of the hotel, which is what many long-time residents remember. After the Smiths the hotel sat empty and was extremely close to being beyond repair before the restoration by then owner Ocean Properties, bringing it back now to about the size it was with Frank Jones.

I'm mostly amazed that, in the five years since the publication of the Wentworth book, how many people have no clue that the restored hotel was ever in ruins. Time closes in over the facts like rubber cement and newcomers are shocked to learn that, earlier this decade, Wentworth by the Sea was among the most endangered structures in the region. As I recall, the architect said that another two years and it would have been a hopeless cause. It was ultimately saved by the public-spirited Friends of the Wentworth, the attention given by the National Trust, and the bold investment of Ocean Properties and the bold design of TMS architects. Imagine what might have happened if the $26 million project had gotten stuck in the present economic crisis. In retrospect, it was saved just in the nick of time. Hopefully we will be able to say the same about the Memorial Bridge a decade from now. So far, the book has enjoyed a number of reprints and continues to sell well. I think we have 6,500 copies in print, which is pretty good for a very regional history book about an old hotel. Dennis Robinson, via e-mail

Detail of a dolphin base on a fountain dating to the Beckwith era of the Wentworth Hotel.

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An eye for eagles

Former long-time New Castle resident George Pitts left a legacy of wooden eagles as public sculptures in the Town. The largest and most elaborate is on the front of the Fire Department. There is another one atop the flag pole outside Town Hall and there is another one above the front entrance to the Town recreation building at the Common. And at one time a Pitts eagle was atop the Liberty Pole in the Portsmouth South End, though now replaced with a Raiselis eagle. Pitts' legacy lives on, too, with local metal sculptor Walter Liff, who studied with Pitts in the early morning hours to learn such techniques as representing feathers.

Detail of the Pitts eagle over the Fire Department.

Most residents are probably not aware that the Pitts eagles are in the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Art Inventory Catalog. That catalog includes the story of the "Urina in eum" motto on the Fire Department eagle. Instead of something bland, like "Have a nice day," that motto is Latin for "Piss on it," memoralizing the occasion in 1978 when a hose broke at a fire and one of the firemen gave that as advice!

Pitts eagle atop the Town Hall flag pole.

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Piscataqua ship spotting

Anyone who is near the Piscataqua River can hardly avoid occasional ship spotting of the commercial river traffic. With the Internet it is possible to use Google to find out many details about these vessels that come and go with salt, oil, coal, cement, liquified petroleum gas (LPG), scrap metal, and occasionally other cargoes.

The "JBU LEVANT" unloading salt at the state pier on Market Street (Nobles Island) in Portsmouth.

The JBU LEVANT (IMO 9287986), with a home port of Nassau, Bahamas, was unloading salt at at space leased by the International Salt Company as a tenant of the Pease Development Authority's Division of Ports and Harbors. International Salt is a subsidiary of Sociedad Punta de Lobos. This supramax bulk carrier was built in 2006. It is now owned by the Sterling International Group, through their Siva Ventures Ltd. (Chennai, India), purchased from the Norwegian company J.B. Ugland Shipping AS.

Freshly unloaded salt at the New Hampshire State Pier, being spread by bulldozers, subsequently covered by black tarps.

Salt has been a Piscataqua import for a long time. Ray Brighton, writing about shipping in the mid-1800s, says "Now the salt is used on the ice-slicked highways in winter, but in other days it was used to salt the fish that was once a major project for shippers on the river." (Clippers of the Port of Portsmouth and the Men Who Built Them, p. 15).

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Visiting Star Island

In 2005, access to Star Island became difficult when the Isles of Shoals Steamship Company discontinued landings. The MV Uncle Oscar out of Rye Harbor provides some access, with a much smaller vessel and shorter stopovers. However, now with summer 2009, day trip stops by the MV Thomas Laighton are once again available, three days per week.

The "Thomas Laighton" in the background, with one of the fund-raising "LobStars" created by The Lighthouse Kids in the foreground: "Lobster Buoy" by Laura Morrissey.

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Flowers of spring

This decorative bicycle on Portsmouth Avenue has become an irresistible motif for photographers. The flowers look at first glance like lilacs, but are artificial.

A magnolia blossom at the Wentworth Hotel.

Daffodils (aka narcissus, aka jonquils) on Main Street.

Crown Imperial Fritillaria at the Wentworth Hotel. Click on the image to see a posterized version!

Purple hyacinth on Main Street.

"The rainy days in May at the Isles of Shoals have seemed to me more lovely than the sunshine in Paradise could be, so charming it was to walk in the warm showers over our island " Celia Thaxter, Among the Isles of Shoals, p. 163.

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Quick index to back issues of Saltines

May, 2009