Construction on the Hall began in the fall of 1875 with an $11,000 donation from North Hampton native, John W.F. Hobbs who offered to build the town a schoolhouse to consolidate districts, along with a designated meeting house and new public hall. The building is situated on the site of the former red brick Centre school, adjacent to the Town Common established in 1742, and the United Church of Christ 1838, and on the Post Road, the former Portland to Boston delivery route.
The original building plans and specifications were drafted by Boston architect, John Dearborn Towle, who designed a two-story clapboard structure on a rectangular plan with two main floors, a full basement, and a full walk-up attic, topped by a straight-sided mansard “Bangor Maine” slate roof with a cupola tower on the front, influenced by French Second Empire style. The building sports jigsaw ornamentation, trusses, beltcourses wrapping each floor below the windows, and other woodwork characteristic of the Stick Style that was in vogue at the time of construction. The Hall was dedicated on April 27th, 1876 and opened for the first half day of school for 80 students on May 1st, 1876.
North Hampton has always been a busy, social town. Throughout the years there is continuous news of events, ceremonies and services held at the Hall. Entertainment options were plentiful and so frequent were social and fraternal affairs that reservations had to me made months in advance for the use of the Hall’s second floor ballroom and stage.
Decades in Flux
In 1948 the Town voted to build a larger and more modern elementary school on Atlantic Ave. and subsequently the Hall saw many transfers of ownership, until it was purchased in 1985 and returned to use as a Montessori school for more than decade.
Today the building is owned and managed by the non-profit 501 (c) 3 Friends of Centennial Hall, Inc. and while only a portion of the 10,000 square feet is currently in use, it is a widely popular community resource for North Hampton and neighboring towns.
Renovating the Hall
Since 1997 the Friends of Centennial Hall (FOCH) has been dedicated to renovating and maintaining this unique 1876 structure, originally built as a combination school house and public venue, for use by the public and private citizens. There have been 11 separate revitalization and preservation efforts all of which have been successfully funded and completed. After a complete full building assessment was conducted in 2018 by Stephen Bedard, noted preservation contractor, FOCH launched the most ambitious effort in our history, a $3.6 million revitalization effort proceeding along two tracks, Rehabilitation and Access Improvement.
Phase 1 of Renovations
Phase 2 of Renovations
Phase 3 of Renovations
Open the Ballroom
The priority goal at the center of this revitalization and access improvement project is to restore access to the Grand Ballroom which will allow us and our tenants to greatly expand performing arts programming and function space access.