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It was once touted as "the beautiful, big pride of New England beaches," and so it remained for close to 50 years.

Built along the Hampton Beach shoreline, this remarkable pleasure palace attracted tens of thousands of summer visitors each season; where else could one shoot some pool, bowl a few strings, watch a baseball game, take in a vaudeville revue, dine on succulent seafood, and dance the night away, all under one roof?

A recreational complex that elevated having fun to an art, Hampton Beach Casino offered all these diversions and more.

Despite its reputation as a fun spot, the Casino's original purpose was financial gain for the newly formed Exeter, Hampton and Amesbury Street Railway.

In 1899, the company built the original Hampton Beach Casino on Ocean Boulevard, directly across from their trolley depot, in the hope that ridership to the beach would increase as a result.

Passengers from Amesbury, Newburyport, Exeter, and surrounding areas soon flocked to Hampton, in part because the trolleys offered a convenient and economical mode of travel.

A trip from Market Square in Portsmouth to the beach, for example, cost 20 cents and covered the picturesque 14-mile distance in one hour and 15 minutes.

The Casino itself proved a highly successful lure, however.

Illuminated by thousands of electric lights, the Casino celebrated its official grand opening Saturday, July 15, 1899.

The two-and-a-half story building ran 190 feet along Ocean Boulevard and featured open porches running the entire length on both the ground and second levels.

Inside, the ground floor consisted of a dining room and a small cafe, both run by a "noted" Haverhill caterer.

Most of the floor space, however, was taken up by several pool and billiard tables and two full-length bowling alleys.