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Downtown Laconia

Note below the original location of Woolworth’s “Five and Dime” on the West side of Main St, before it relocated nearby to the prominent building at the corner of Pleasant St and Main St, above. By comparing these two images, we can see that, prior to Urban Renewal, most of the historic buildings on the West side of Main St were still being used well into the 1950s. 

The original Woolworth’s opened on July 31, 1909, according to the following articles.

   

In the early 1950’s photo below, one can see the sign for the (Laconia) Gardens theatre, a nearly 500-seat facility that is currently under consideration for restoration as a cultural arts center. Built in 1926, the theatre was in continuous use until the late 1950’s, and then again from 1972-1977, but has laid dormant ever since.

In this late 1950’s photo we can note a few changes: the older Victorian style light fixtures have been replaced by modern street lights, and a traffic island has been installed.

The welcome sign on the traffic island. Note the marquee of the Colonial theatre and the movie playing, “Men of the Fighting Lady“. This dates the photo to 1954 or later.

Below: Moulton’s Opera House is flying the flag on the left corner.
The Eagle Hotel occupies the center. In the 1930’s the structure was replaced by Woolworth’s.
On the right we see the imposing steeple of the Unitarian Church.

Moulton’s Opera House. “Built in 1886, this massive brick structure, containing an opera house on its second and third floors, loomed over Bank Square at its corner with Water Street until it was demolished during Urban Renewal in 1970.” Quote from Warren D. Huse’s book, Laconia, Acadia publishing.

     

The Laconia Unitarian Church opened on November 11, 1868. From circa 1890, until 1903, the Church hosted the Laconia Public Library in its basement. The Church burned down in late 1938. On February 28, 1939, the ruins were carefully brought down, so as not to damage the nearby Laconia National Bank building.

Note the strong similarities between the architectural design of the Unitarian church (above), and of the St. Aloysius church in Nashua, NH, (below), which burned down in 1976.

From the Illustrated Laconian, published in 1899: “The Eagle Hotel, located at the juction of Main and Pleasant streets, on Bank square, is Laconia’s most popular hotel for commerical travelers and others who desire strictly first-class accommodations. The Eagle Hotel…accommodates 100 guests. The table is superb, the rooms and beds are clean and comfortable, the house is illuminated with electricity, supplied with a pool room and a barber shop, while the location, directly in the business centre of the city, makes the Eagle a very convenient and desirable home for the “stranger within our gates.””

  
 

The sign at the front door of the Eagle Hotel. The Colonial Theatre can be seen directly across the street from the Eagle Hotel. It would be another two decades or so before its garish, 1950’s vintage neon marquee would be installed.

Here is another 1950’s view of downtown Laconia.



Here is a late 1920’s view:

Contrast and compare the late 1920’s view, above, with the early 1920’s view below. They are very similar except in the later view the trolley tracks are gone ( the last year of operations for the Laconia Street Railway was in 1925.) The second, black & white view is from a Library of Congress photo. With no cars, just horse and carriages, the black & white view dates around 1910.

downtownlaconia-hires!x1000

Here is another early 1920’s view:

And here are several more rare views, from the 1910’s and earlier:

Note: For consistency, the webmaster has only used photos of Laconia’s main street looking in a northerly direction, towards Bank square. There are many old photos available that look down Main Street in a Southerly direction, beginning from the Laconia Tavern, or from the Eagle Hotel, but they are not nearly as interesting as the photos looking North.

Here’s a view from the 1940’s:

Another 1940’s view:

The following view is of Mill Street (center), looking towards the J.W. Busiel mill. The Unitarian Church can be seen on the left, while Main Street can be seen on the right. At the corner of Mill St and Main St, the store with the six window awnings and sidewalk canopy was the Knight & Huntress Dry Goods and Garments store. (Although the store name sounds quasi-medieval, Knight and Huntress were the last names of the store owners.)
Mill Street no longer exists. It was another victim of Urban Renewal. The photo was taken from the rooftop of Moulton’s Opera House, and was the left half of a panoramic view, which can be seen in its entirety here.

Here are a couple of additional postcard views of Mill Street:

Mill Street Laconia

The following North-facing views (from 1907 and 1917) show a bit of the bridge over the Winnipesaukee River, to the right in the photos.

 

Another view of the bridge over the Winnipesaukee River, this time looking South.