When did Native Americans inhabit Weirs Beach?
          Weirs Beach has been habitated for thousands of years. A 1976 archeological excavation at the beach, led by Charles Bolian, a Professor of Anthropology at the University of New Hampshire, found that Native Americans used the area as a summer camp for hunting and fishing as long ago as 8000 B.C!
           The campsite extended in a long arc along the lake and along the Western shoreline of the Weirs Channel, roughly from today's Winnipesaukee Pier to today's Channel Marine. Before the original Lakeport dam was built around 1766, the level of the Lake was roughly 5'-12' lower than it is today, so much of the original campsite is now under water!
          Around 1000 B.C. the inhabitants began living there in a year-round village rather than just camping there during the summer. The location provided a source of year-round water, as the Channel does not freeze in the winter, and it was well buffered from winter winds by the mass of Brickyard Mountain.
          The native tribe of Winnepiseogees shared their name with the Lake, belonged to the Pennacook confederacy, and were ethnically Western Abenakis, who were part of the Algonquian peoples. They called their village Agua-dak-'gan (Aquedoctan), meaning "a landing for portage" (agua-dak, a landing, and 'gan, short for wnigan, portage). Aquedoctan may have also meant "a place of good fishing".
           However, according to Frederick Matthew Wiseman, a Native American and author of "The Voice of the Dawn: An Auto-history of the Abenaki Nation", the village was actually named Nonegonnikon Wiwinebesaki, meaning "a village at the lake in the vicinity of which there are other lakes and ponds", from wiwini, (around, in the vicinity), nebes (lakes or ponds), and aki (region or territory) – literally, Lakes Region Village.
          For fishing, they built a special type of basket, called a WEIR, (also known as an Ahquedakenash)
to capture the abundant fish (shad) that migrated through the Weirs Channel on their 128 mile journey from Lake Winnipesaukee to the Merrimack River to the sea. Several WEIRS went into the channel to block the shad from passing through, effectively trapping them.
          The original fishing WEIRS had been made of stone walls in the form of a "W"and stretched across the entire width of the channel. The bottom two points of the "W" pointed towards Paugus Bay and were utilized during the late summer Shad down-river migration, while the middle point of the "W" pointed toward the Lake and was utilized during the spring up-river Shad migration. The points of the "W" were "...left open a few feet for the water and fish to pass through. A short distance below the opening another wall was built in a half-circle, and into the spaces was placed wicker-work, made of small saplings, through which the water could easily flow, but fine enough to entrap fish of any considerable size."
          The stone walls, sturdy enough to last hundreds of years, were only partially destroyed by the several miller's dams that were built in the Weirs Channel from 1766-1829 and an 1833 dredging project. They were still in evidence until the dredging of the Weirs Channel in the early 1950's.
          The adult Shad migration from the sea to the Lake peaked during the first two weeks of June; while the young Shad migration from the Lake to the sea peaked during the late summer. It is unknown exactly when the Shad ended migrating to and from the Lake, however, it is clear that the many dams, as well as canals and locks, built in the 18th and 19th centuries along the Merrimack and Winnipesaukee River caused the migration to collapse. In 1789, an estimated 830,000 shad were caught in the Merrimack; but by 1888, the Merrimack catch was zero.
           The Lowell and Lawrence mills in Massachusetts, recognizing that control of the Merrimack's sources in New Hampshire was crucial to the water delivery system which powered the mills, joined forces in the 1840's to buy rights to the waters of Lake Winnipesaukee, Newfound Lake, and Squam Lake. Even today, the Merrimack still supplies power to cities and industry, via five hydroelectric dams on the river, and almost 100 small power projects.
           The Anadromous Fish Conservation Act of 1965 led to a joint, multi-state and federal effort to restore migratory Merrimack fish such as shad. The
Merrimack River Anadromous Fish Committee is comprised of the Massachusets Division of Marine Fisheries; the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife; the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game; the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the US Forest Service.
            The first two obstructions on the river are the Essex Dam in Lawrence, and the Pawtucket Dam in Lowell. While these two dams have had fish passages since the 19th century, they simply did not work. When the restoration effort began, in 1969, shad were brought by truck from below Lawrence and released above Lowell to continue their journey. The completion of modern fish lifts in 1982 (Essex) and 1986 (Pawtucket) has allowed shad to move naturally upstream as far as Manchester after more than a century's absence. In 1989, the Amoskeag Dam in Manchester completed its modern fishways.
          To make their way past Manchester, upstream to the junction with the Winnipesaukee River, now seems possible. On the Merrimack, the only remaining obstacles are the Hooksett Dam and the Garvin Falls Dam in Bow. (The Sewalls Falls Dam in Concord, now a public park, was breached on April 7, 1984, and is no longer an obstacle.)

Downstream fish passageways were built at the Hookset and Garvin Falls dams in 1988. On May 18, 2007, PSNH received a new 40-year license from the FERC (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commision) for its 3 dams on the Merrimack. PSNH is now required to build an upstream fish passageway at Hooksett after 9,500 shad pass Amoskeag Station, and an upstream passageway at Garvin Falls after 9,800 shad pass Hooksett. (The latest fish count, dated 10/31/08, shows only 4,152 shad made it past Pawtucket.) 
          If the shad ever do make it to the head of the Merrimack, and continue on to the Winnipesaukee River, the Franklin Dam, the Clement Dam in Tilton, the Lochmere Dam in Belmont, the Aver
y Dam in Laconia, and the Lakeport Dam, will all remain formidable obstacles to the shad making it all the way back to Lake Winnipesaukee.
     Prior to construction of the hydroelectric portion of the Lakeport dam in 1984, river eels were migrating from the Lake to the sea, despite all the dams. A 1984 article noted that "in previous year the eels went over the dam...this year they are being channeled through the turbines and the blades are cutting them to pieces."

          The Aquedoctan archeological site at the beach was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

         Before the Lakeport dam raised the Lake level, the Weirs Channel was actually a short river - there was a 3 foot, 8 inch drop from the Lake to Paugus Bay! Detail from an 1816 map.

In Truth Is Our Trust • In Union Our Strength
Five years prior to the Civil War, the sentiment of the North is well expressed here

          Colorized engraving, above and right, from an 1855 issue of Ballou's Pictorial magazine, depicts fishing at the Weirs Channel as it was practiced before and after white settlement of the area. Before settlement, there was a short waterfall at the Channel; afterwards, a miller's dam.

          These 1950's souvenirs are not historically accurate, as the Native Americans of Weirs Beach did not wear the type of headdress depicted.

          During most of the nineteenth century, Lake Winnisquam, Lake Opechee, and Paugus Bay were all considered part of Lake Winnipesaukee, even though the Lakeport and Avery dams had separated the three bodies of water since the late eighteenth century. Lake Winnisquam was known as Great Bay; Lake Opeechee was known as Round Bay; and Paugus Bay, as Long Bay. Now, only Paugus Bay is still considered part of the big Lake.

          In 1871, Martin A. Haynes, publisher of the Lake Village [Lakeport] News, proposed the new name Paugus for Long Bay, "in honor of the old Indian chieftain who once ranged this region and the country to the North of it." Hayne's friend and associate, Professor J. Warren Thyng, proposed the name Opechee for Round Bay, as robins "used to be numerous in the vicinity", and "Opechee meant robin in the Indian language". The two names stuck.

          The Professor had come across the word Opechee in Henry Wadsorth Longfellow's The Song of Hiawatha. One of Longfellow's most recognizable works, The Song of Hiawatha is based on an accumulation of Native American stories and legends. However, Opechee is a word taken from the Sioux language, not the native Abenaki's.

          The first Lakeport dam was built in 1766, the second in 1828. The third dam, built in 1851, was built to last out of stone, and it is still there today. In 1861, the wing dam, to the left in the postcard on the left, was built. (The main dam is just barely visible to the far right center of the postcard.) Around 1957 the wing dam was filled in. On March 31, 1958, the dam became state property. Below, another view of the wing dam, looking South towards Lake Opechee. Click here for an additional view of the wing dam.

          Left - the original Avery dam in Laconia was built in 1791. Made of wood, the dam provided power for Laconia's mills and other industries for over a hundred and fifty years, until it was replaced in 1949, by the current concrete structure. Below, another view in 1908, "Looking up the river from Mill St Bridge, Laconia, N.H."

          On the left, the Pemigewasset enters from the North; on the right, the Winnipesaukee enters from the East, forming the Merrimac, which continues South to enter the Atlantic ocean at Newburyport, Massachusetts.

          An aerial view of Franklin, New Hampshire. The confluence of the Pemigewasset (larger river on the left) and the Winnipesaukee (narrow river on the right) is just off the photo in the bottom left corner. Click here to enlarge the photo.

Why is Weirs Beach where Lake Winnipesaukee begins?
         In 1652 an expedition sent by the colonial Governor Endicott of the Massachusetts Bay Colony followed the Shad's migration trail of water in reverse, discovering Lake Winnipesaukee upon arriving at Weirs Beach on August 1. Endicott Rock was then carved with the initials of the explorers to mark the northern boundary of the colony.

Click here to see a larger, clearer picture of Endicott Rock, plus a bonus picture.

          The expedition had been preceded two years earlier, in the autumn of 1650, by the Reverend Gabriel Druillettes, a Jesuit missionary. He was the first white man known to have visited Weirs Beach.

          Endicott Rock was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

           Endicott Rock before the western side of the Weirs Channel was filled in. Note the 1833 dredgings down the middle of the channel. The Mount Washington steamer in the background is heading towards its wharf.

          Long forgotten, the rock was rediscovered in 1833 when the Weirs Channel was being dredged to allow the Lake's first steamer, the Belknap, as well as other large craft, to pass between Lake Winnipesaukee and Paugus Bay. At that time the channel was perhaps twice as wide as its current width, but relatively shallow. Only the east side of the channel was dredged. Rather than being removed, the dredgings were dumped in the center of the channel, creating a barrier down its middle, with a deep, dredged eastern side, and a shallow, western side. It was not until 1938 that the shallow western side was completely filled in to expand Endicott Rock Park, and the Weirs Channel became the narrow body of water with which we are familiar today.

          Belknap County was named in 1842 after the Reverend Jeremy Belknap, of Dover, the "first historian of New Hampshire".
          The steamer Belknap was 96' long, had a beam of 17', and a top speed of only 6 mph.
          Circa 1908 a breakwater was constructed along the line of dredgings, but the western side of the channel had not yet been filled in. The Uncle Sam heads towards Paugus Bay.

          The rock is still there today, protected by a monument dedicated on August 1, 1892.

          Initially connected to land by a wooden bridge, a more substantial steel bridge connected the Endicott Rock monument from 1901 until 1938, when the part of the Weirs Channel separating the monument from land was finally filled in.

           In 1652, when visited by the Endicott party, the village of Aquedoctan was fully occupied by several hundred villagers. Even after 1696, when the village was finally abandoned, when the small band left relocated to Pequaket (the Conway, NH - Fryeburg, ME area), Native Americans continued to sporadically visit the area to fish and hunt, as the white man had yet to arrive in any numbers.
           Visitation was made easy by the several Indian trails that led from every direction to Weirs Beach. From the East, the Coheco-Winninanebiskek trail led from Dover Point to Alton Bay to Weirs Beach; from the South, the Merrimack-Winnipesaukee trail led from Pawtucket Falls in Lowell to Franklin to Weirs Beach; from the West, the Mascoma-Aquadoctan Trail led from the Mascoma River in Lebanon to Bristol to Meredith to Weirs Beach; and from the North, the Ossipee trail led from Ossipee Lake thru Sandwich and Moultonborough to Weirs Beach.

          In 1938 the breakwater was extended around the monument. The steel bridge to the monument was removed. The western side of the channel was filled in. The project was completed on June 17, 1938.

          The first white men to regularly visit the area arrived in 1736, with the construction of a fort on the East bank of the Weirs Channel (right side of these pictures). This marked the definitive end of the era of Native American habitation of Weirs Beach.

          However, it was not until the 1760's that white settlement really began to take hold, with the arrival of the first farmers and millers, which only began to take place once clear titles to the land could be acquired.

          Notice the road on the right side of the channel. Today the road has been abandoned and the area is overgrown. The road was called Interlaken Avenue. In 2003, the City of Laconia traded its right-of-way to Interlaken Avenue for an easement to build a footbridge over the Weirs Channel. An 80-room hotel is planned for this location.

          Both of the above color postcards of Endicott Rock and the Weirs Channel were taken in the mid-1900's. In the picture on the left, the level of the Lake is very low. In the picture on the right, the level of the Lake is very high, covering up the dredgings down the middle of the Weirs Channel, and almost submerging the monument.
          Noticing the dramatic difference only a few feet can make in the appearance of the shoreline, one can only wonder what the Lake looked like before the Lakeport dam, when it was 5-12 feet lower! The map below gives an indication. Click here to see the Lake when it was very low in 2001.

Above: Algonquian New Hampshire
          The 1753 map on the right shows the land had been subdivided but not sold. But by 1770, as the above map shows, a dozen original landowners claimed title to all of the land of Weirs Beach.

          For the next 100 years or so, Weirs Beach was a sleepy little agricultural town, very little known by the outside world. But that was all about to change in a very big way.

When did tourists begin to arrive in Weirs Beach?
          Around December 1, 1848, the Boston, Concord, and Montreal railroad reached Weirs Beach, making it easily accessible to New Englanders. (The railroad had reached Laconia on August 8 of 1848, prompting the "biggest celebration the town had ever witnessed up to that point.". Meredith was reached by March 19, 1849. Weirs Beach was reached about halfway between these two dates.)

Here is a timeline of the ownership of the railroad line in Weirs Beach:

1844 – On December 27, the Boston, Concord, & Montreal (BC&M) railroad is incorporated. The grand name of the railroad was chosen to appeal to investors; but in reality, the name was very misleading; the railroad was a "country" line, serving only a sparse, rural population, and never came close to Boston or to Montreal, except by connecting to other, larger railroads (and paying expensive connection fees.)

1846 – On February 7, construction begins in Concord and heads north to Sanbornton Bridge (now Tilton). This first section was relatively easy to construct, being mostly flat land alongside the Merrimac river.

1848 – On May 22, service begins, initially only as far as Tilton.

1848 – Around December 1, the Boston, Concord, & Montreal (BC&M) railroad reaches Weirs Beach, 34 miles from its starting point in Concord.

1857 – On January 31, with temperatures at 30 below zero, the BC&M repair depot at Lake Village (now Lakeport) burns. Four engines and considerable equipment are lost, but the railroad recovers from the disaster.

1869 – In July, the Mt. Washington cog railway begins operations. The BC&M, which by this time had expanded operations considerably into the White Mountain region by leasing other railroad lines, owns a 25% share. Later that summer, President Ulysses S. Grant passes through Weirs Beach on his private sleeping car, on his way to tour the new cog railway.

1874 – The Pemigewasset Valley Railroad is chartered on July 9 to build 20 miles of track from Plymouth to North Woodstock. On February 1, 1882, the BC&M leases the line for 100 years. The line finally opens on March 1, 1883. The line is the key to the extraction of timber resources from what would later become the White Mountain National Forest. Eventually, five logging railroads would branch off this line. The line also offered regular passenger service until September 21, 1938.

1880 – Up to this point in time, BC&M's steam engines had burned only wood. The BC&M begins conversion to coal as a fuel source.

1883 – The BC&M reaches its peak as an independent railroad, operating 37 engines, 21 coaches, 5 parlor cars, and 3 observation cars. 343,630 passengers are carried that year, as well as 324,132 tons of freight.

1884 – On June 19, the Boston and Lowell (B&L) railroad leases the BC&M for 99 years. The line is renamed the B&L White Mountains division. The B&L pours money into its new line, building a new restaurant, the Weirs Cafe, at Weirs Beach, and spending liberally on marketing and advertising.

1887 – On April 11 the board of directors of the BC&M votes to take legal action to void the lease to the B&L. This action is approved by a BC&M stockholders meeting on May 30. The B&L sues. The BC&M ultimately prevails in court, as the lease is defeated in May, 1889.

1887 – On October 11, the Boston and Maine (B&M) railroad takes over the B&L.

1889 – On September 19, the Concord (NH) railroad receives permission from the NH general court to merge with the BC&M. On January 1, 1890, the merger is completed. The new railroad is named the Concord & Montreal (C&M) railroad. Here are 1892 and 1894 route maps of the C&M.

1895 – On June 21, the B&M railroad leases the C&M railroad for 91 years.

1914 – As required by the federal government, the B&M conducts a system-wide valuation of all its lines, recording all B&M track, bridges, buildings, etc. on a series of right-of-way maps. Each set in the series recorded an entire line from beginning to end. Each map in the set showed exactly 1 mile of railroad, and began where the previous map left off. The former BC&M line from Concord to Woodsville was valuation #21 and contained 130 maps. Weirs Beach was map #70. The map began at Channel Lane and ended just past Centenary Avenue.

1919 – The B&M expansion strategy was to buy up as much stock of its leased lines as possible. On December 1, with the B&M already owning a considerable piece of the C&M, the C&M is officially consolidated with the B&M under a court directive, and it is merged into the B&M system.

1954 – One hundred and two years after completion, the B&M abandons 42 miles of its main line trackage, from Plymouth to Woodsville, on October 31. What was formerly the terminus of the
Pemigewasset Valley branch, Lincoln, becomes the new, northern end-of-the-line.

1970 – In December, the once-mighty B&M files for bankruptcy protection. It continues to operate, much diminished, until 1983, when it is sold to Guilford Transportation Industries.

1975 – The State of New Hampshire begins a policy of acquiring railroad lines to "encourage active freight rail service to shippers as an economic development measure" and to "preserve them for possible future use". On October 30 it acquires the line to Weirs Beach.

1976 – On January 28, the Wolfeboro Railroad leases the line from the State, and renames it the "Central Division". That year, 425 cars of freight are handled for the Franconia Paper Mill in Lincoln. Presaging the later tourist line, a daily summer shuttle is operated between Laconia and Meredith; and weekend excursions are offered between Concord and Lincoln during autumn foliage time. But only one short year later, operations end, on February 12, 1977.

1977 – The Goodwin Railroad leases the line, and continues freight operations to the mill in Lincoln. The mill shuts down permanently on June 11, 1980. In October of 1980, the Goodwin Railroad shuts down as well. The North Stratford Railroad takes over the line on a temporary, emergency basis.

1982 – On September 1, the New England Southern Railroad begins a series of operating agreements to provide freight service on the line. Initially, three trains a week service thirteen shippers, the largest being Home Gas of Northfield. By 2001, only monthly freight service is offered. The operating agreements are continuously renewed at least through June 30, 2002, and perhaps to the present.

1984 – On August 25, the Winnipesaukee Railroad begins tourist operations along the Paugus and Meredith Bay shorelines.

1987 – The Plymouth & Lincoln Railroad (the Hobo railroad) begins tourist operations along the Pemigewasset River.

1991 – The Winnipesaukee Railroad loses its lease with the state. That summer, the Hobo Railroad takes over the tourist operations on Winnipesaukee, slightly renaming them the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad. The Hobo Railroad continues to operate the tourist operations to the present day. Click here for a photo gallery of the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad.

2001 – In April, NH's latest State Rail Plan is released. The Concord-Lincoln track is rated "Class 2", which means the maximum speed is 30mph for passengers and 25mph for freight.

2008 – On the evening of August 7, severe flooding breaches the line at the Weirs Beach boardwalk and at several places northward as far as Ashland. After only a few days interuption, tourist service resumes between Weirs Beach and Meredith. Emergency repairs to the boardwalk section to allow the line to traverse Weirs Beach and continue southward to Lakeport are completed on August 28, just in time for the Labor Day holiday weekend. However, the damage to the line northward of Meredith is far more extensive, with numerous embankment washouts and culvert erosions that leaves the tracks suspended in air in numerous places. After a month of repairs costing around a million dollars, the line reopens from Meredith to Ashland, just in time for foliage season.

2009 – A temporary pedestrian walk-around the destroyed section of boardwalk is built in May. In November, work begins on reconstruction of the Weirs Beach boardwalk, including not only the missing span, but reinforcement and upgrading of the entire southern section.

2010 – On Thursday, May 27, just before Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start of the summer season, the newly reconstructed boardwalk reopens.

          Continuing construction of the railroad past Weirs Beach, its easternmost point, the BC&M swung to the Northwest, reaching Plymouth, NH (mile 51) on January 21, 1850. The more mountainous terrain ahead proved more difficult to traverse, requiring at Glencliff a 3/4-mile-long deep cut. The end of the line (mile 92) was eventually reached in Woodsville, NH, around 1852. An essential one-mile spur from Woodsville, bridging the Connecticut River to Wells River, VT, and connecting to the Connecticut and Passumpsic (rivers) railroad (and thereby to the Central Vermont railroad, which ran on to Montreal), was finally completed on May 10, 1853.

BC&M System Map
          Weirs Beach was commonly known in the latter half of the nineteenth century as "Weirs Steamboat Landing", or simply, "Weirs Landing". So, when a century later, the town became Weirs Beach, it was not the first time a descriptive had been added to the name of the town. In fact, the town has also been called (and often misspelled) at least 8 other ways over the years! 1)Weirs 2)Weirs Station 3)Weirs Bridge 4)Weir's Bridge 5)The Wiers 6)The Weirs 7)The Weirs P.O. and 8)Weit's. (From various 19th century maps of NH)

          B&M Railroad route map in New Hampshire in 1909. Click here to supersize the map.

Click here  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  to see several large pictures of the train canopy.

         Weirs Beach grew to become one of the most popular tourist destinations in New England. By the turn of the century, four express trains left Boston's Union Station each day bound for Weirs Beach.
         The Boston & Maine railroad gradually gained control of other railroad lines until by 1915, it controlled 2300 route miles of track, traversed by 1200 steam locomotives, and had 28,000 employees. The B&M railroad linked hundreds of towns in the northern New England states to Canada, New York, and beyond. By 1915, the B&M controlled over 90% of the 1260 miles of railroad lines in New Hampshire.
          After peaking in 1915, train service from Boston to Weirs Beach began a long, slow decline, culminating with the end of year round service in October of 1959. A limited summer service was offered for the next few years, until it too was ended, in 1965.
          The Weirs Beach train station was open year round until 1940; but from 1941-1951 the station was only open 7 months a year, from April 1-October 31. From 1952 through 1959, the station was only open 5 months a year, from May 15 - October 15. After only selling 199 train tickets the entire season of 1959, the station closed permanently.
           Click here for a 2009 map showing the status of railroad lines in New Hampshire. By 2001, only 459 miles of line were being used. As can be seen from this map, the tracks all the way from the MA-NH border to Weirs Beach are still being maintained. The B&M maintains its line as far north as Concord, and the state of NH is maintaining the branch from Concord that passes Weirs Beach on its way to Lincoln, NH. Therefore, there is no physical reason why train service from Boston to Weirs Beach could not be revived, only economic ones.
          According to a Laconia Daily Sun newspaper article, dated April 27, 2007, a railroad authority was proposed for NH to "plan, design, build and manage future commuter and tourist lines", including "a commuter rail from Manchester to Nashua and Lowell, with connections to Boston." This commuter rail plan "has already received substantial federal funding, and most of the designs are completed"; and efforts are being made to "define this project as reaching all the way north to the state capital". If this project was to actually get built, particularly to Concord, revival of service to Weirs Beach at some point in the future could become a real possibility.
          However, another Laconia Daily Sun article, dated September 5, 2007, throws cold water on the whole idea. Judge Barbado of the US District Court in Concord denied the Conservation Law Foundations's request for a feasibilty study for a commuter railroad in the median of the planned widening of a 20-mile stretch of Interstate 93 in Southern NH, or in the abandoned Manchester-Lawrence railroad corridor. NH State Representative Fred King, R-Colebrook, commenting on the ruling, said "The people pushing for railroads are crazy. Nobody is going to build one." Yet, Representative Howard Cunningham (D-Center Sandwhich) pointed out that the escalating cost of widening the highway - from an initial estimate of $275 million to $805 million today - "might some day make mass transit viable in comparison."
           The best hope today for revival might lie with the New Hampshire Railroad Revitalization Association, which has been pushing since 2004 for revival of train passenger service in NH, and the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority, which was officially established on July 17, 2007. According to a Laconia Citizen newspaper article, dated April 26, 2010, the Authority is seeking $3.5 million in federal funding for additional study of the proposed Boston to Concord "NH Capital Corridor" (NHCC) Commuter Rail service. The estimated cost to extend service from Lowell to Concord is $250-$300 million.

BC&M's No.29 locomotive, "Mt.Washington" was the heavy-duty workhorse of the line. Built in June 1876, this 30-ton "Mogul" 2-6-0 was said to be the most powerful engine in New England at the time. Its job was to haul passenger cars up the steep 6-degree grade from Fabyans in Crawford Notch to the Marshfield Base Station of the Mount Washington Cog Railway, an elevation change of 1097' over 6 miles. It always drove backwards on the way up and forwards on the way down, as there was no place to turn around at the top of the dead-end grade. The Fabyans-Marshfield branch opened in 1876 and was abandoned in 1930.

          In 1852, in a shrewd business move to increase rail passenger traffic to Weirs Beach, the Boston, Concord, and Montreal railroad purchased the steamship the Lady of the Lake from the Winnipesaukee Steamship Company. She had been launched without her engines on May 16, 1849 from the shipyard in Lake Village (Lakeport). By the middle of June of 1849, she was completely ready, and made her first voyage to Weirs Beach, where she was an instant success.
          The BC&M moved the Lady's home port from Lakeport to Weirs Beach, where she offered regular, comfortable service to the Lake Winnipesaukee ports of Wolfeboro and Center Harbor (but NOT to Alton Bay!), until her last excursion on September 14, 1893.
          After several years of being out of active service, the Lady of the Lake became a floating hotel for workers building Kimball's Castle from 1897-1899, anchoring off of Belknap Point, where she had been towed (her engines had been removed at the shipyard in Lakeport). She was purposely sunk in Smith Cove in Glendale in 1899. Now she is Lake Winnipesaukee's most famous dive wreck.
          Who was the Lady of the Lake? Not as well known is the origins of her name. She was Ellen Douglas, the immortal Scotch lassie with the paddle in her hand, from Sir Walter Scott's The Lady of the Lake, first published in 1810.
          Above is a rare, 1885 map of Lake Winnipesaukee, showing the route of the Lady of the Lake. The map was bound into the first edition of the Boston & Lowell Railroad's "Summer Saunterings", a guidebook to "pleasant places among the mountains, lakes, and valleys of New Hampshire, Vermont and Canada."
          Below is a 1900 map of Lake Winnipesaukee, showing the route of the Mount Washington. The map was bound into the first edition of the Boston and Maine Railroad's "Resorts and Tours", a guidebook to "summer excursions to the White Mountains, Mount Desert, Montreal and Quebec, Winnipesaukee, Memphremagog, Rangeley and Moosehead Lakes, and the New England Beaches".
          The original Mount Washington, owned by the competing Boston and Maine railroad, was built and launched from Alton Bay on May 30, 1872, where she began service on July 4. She was longer, faster, and more luxurious than the Lady of the Lake. And for 67 years, she carried thousands of passengers every summer on her decks.

Click here to enlarge this postcard of the original Mount Washington, and to see additional postcards showing the Mount picking up hoards of passengers and their mounds of luggage at the Weirs wharf.

          The Mount's original home port was Alton Bay, where she had replaced the B&M's original steamer, the Chocorua. From there, the Mount offered service to Wolfeboro, Center Harbor, and occasionally, Meredith - but NOT to Weirs Beach! (The B&M's northern terminus was in Alton Bay. Here is an 1884 B&M system map showing the line to Alton Bay. In 1863, the B&M had leased the Dover & Winnipiseogee RR, which had been created on June 1, 1862, from the Cocheco RR, which had reached Alton Bay in September, 1851. In June, 1892, the B&M purchased the line.)
           For a period of about 40 years, there was an intense rivalry between the competing railroads that serviced Weirs Beach and Alton Bay, and their competing steamships. Neither steamship was allowed to dock in her rival's home port. During the first half of this period of competition, the Lady was the better, faster boat than her rival, the Chocorua. But during the second half of the competitive period, the Mount was clearly the superior vessel. It was not until 1894, following the retirement of the Lady of the Lake, that the Mount moved her home port to Weirs Beach, and that one vessel began servicing all FOUR major ports on the Lake - not only Wolfeboro and Center Harbor, but BOTH Alton Bay AND Weirs Beach.

The Lady of the Lake and the Mount Washington at Center Harbor, circa 1885.
Click here to supersize.

         Not only were railroads and steamships in competition, but so was the name of the Lake! The railroads that serviced Weirs Beach had always named the Lake "Winnipesaukee" (often mis-spelled "Winnepesaukee"), but the railroads that serviced Alton Bay had always named the Lake "Winnipiseogee" (often mis-spelled "Winnepiseogee"). It was not until 1933, by an act of the NH legislature, that the name of the Lake was formalized - and in this case, the Weirs Beach spelling of the name won out! (The meaning of the name of the Lake is a controversy that has never been resolved.)
          In 1939, on December 22, during a fire that also destroyed the Weirs Beach railroad station and wharf, the original Mount Washington burned and sank. It was the end of the steamship era on Lake Winnipesaukee.
         Today's Mount is almost entirely a tourist attraction, but until the mid 1920's, the Mount, and her predecessor, the Lady of the Lake, were not only tourist attractions - they were vital links in the transportation chain. While there were good roads to Laconia, Lakeport, and Weirs Beach, there were only rough dirt roads connecting the other towns around the Lake. For travelers from points to the South and West of Weirs Beach, including the main population centers of Boston and Manchester, NH, the easiest and most convenient way to reach the port towns of Alton Bay, Wolfeboro, and Center Harbor was to travel by train to Weirs Beach, transfer themselves and all of their luggage aboard the Mount Washington or the Lady of the Lake, and cruise from Weirs Beach to their destination. Those wishing to travel to the Conway area of the White Mountains would take the Mount or the Lady to Center Harbor, from where they would take a stagecoach further north.

          Below is a reprint from Eastman's White Mountain Guide. The 9th edition was published in 1869.

This lake lies in the two counties of Caroll and Belknap, and is very irregular in form. At the west end it is divided into three large bays; at the north is a fourth; and at the east end there are three others. • Its general course is from northwest to southeast, and from one extreme end to the other the distance is not far from twenty-five miles. The width varies from one to seven miles. • The waters of the lake descend four hundred and seventy-two feet in finding their way to the Atlantic. A rapid river of the same name with that of the lake, over which the railroad passes at Sanborton Bridge, serves as its outlet to the Merrimac. • The waters of Lake Winnepiseogee are remarkably clear, so that at the depth of many feet the fish can be distinctly seen playing among the rocks. •Lake Winnepiseogee is a mountain lake, yet it lacks almost all those wild, rough features of mountain scenery which usually characterize inland waters in mountainous regions. • The mountains rise on all sides; but the shore, seen from the distance, is comparatively smooth and level; and the islands, far from being precipitous and rocky, are covered with verdure, and seem to float like fairy barks upon the broad lake-mirror. • There are two steamers that ply upon the lake; two points at which may be approached from the south, and two points of departure for the mountains. The steamers are the Lady of the Lake and the Chocorua. • The former plies between the Weirs, Centre Harbor and Wolfborough, and connects at Weirs with the Boston, Concord, and Montreal Railroad. •The latter plies between Alton Bay, Wolfborough, Centre Harbor, and Meredith Village, and connects at Alton Bay with the Boston and Maine, and Cochecho Railroads. • The Lady of the Lake is a charming little steamer, and is in charge of Capt. W. A. Sanborn. • The steamer Chocorua, but recently newly built, a pleasant and commodious boat, moving with great rapidity and steadiness, is under the command of Capt. A. Wiggin, who is thoroughly acquainted with the lake, having been long connected with the lake steamers.
Besides tourists, who else came to Weirs Beach?
          In the early 1870's, Methodists discovered that Weirs Beach provided the perfect setting for their summer religious meetings. In January, 1874, 13 acres were purchased for $2000 for a "camp-meeting ground."

By the 1890's, the Methodist campgrounds had evolved into a densely settled colony of cottages and cabins close by the lake.

          In 1875, ten years after the Civil War, the New Hampshire Veterans Association was formed. Two years later, the Association held their first annual reunion at Weirs Beach. Leasing 7.7 acres of land on Lakeside Avenue from the railroad, they constructed a series of Victorian buildings, one for each regiment, in the style of the times.

          A current map of the Veteran's Grove shows the few remaining buildings. Click on each building to see a past and present photo of the building.

          Known as the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) buildings, several of these grand old buildings are still standing today, including the Cavalry HQ, 9th and 11th Regiment, and 7th Regiment, L to R, above.
          In 1924, with assistance from the NH legislature, the Association finally purchased the large tract of land from the railroad, for $4000.
         For a historical timeline of the Association, along with clickable, past and present views of all of the Veteran's buildings, plus some additional historical photos, click here.

Click here (1900) and also here (1924) to see enlarged postcards of the Cavlary HQ, 9th and 11th, and 7th Regiment buildings.

          Over the last century and a quarter, the diversity of the membership of the New Hampshire Veteran's Association has greatly expanded, while the number of historical buildings has continued to decline. In 2000, members of the Association's board included representatives from the Sons of Union Veterans; Veterans of Foreign Wars; American Legion; Disabled American Veterans; Waves National - Granite State Unit #33; and the Vietnam Veterans of America. The buildings, which peaked around 35 structures in the early 1920s, were down to 17 when a historic district was established on May 22, 1980, and are now down even further to about 10 structures, with fire have claimed many victims.

    The cannon on the front lawn of the Veterans HQ is fired for the first time in 50 years, August 12, 2000. Fortunately for the train station across the street, the cannon wasn't loaded! Now the cannon is fired every year during the annual reunion.
    Click here to enlarge the veteran's reunion shown in the postcard in the left, and to see the original black and white photo of the reunion.

          From a 1914 Lake Winnipesaukee booklet by the B&M railroad:
          The tourist has choice of three different routes to Winnipesaukee from "The Hub". He may go via Portsmouth to Wolfeboro, getting some entrancing glimpses of the Atlantic and its surf-washed strand en route. Another route lies through a smiling section of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, via Dover, to Alton Bay, one of the prettiest and most popular of the the Winnipesaukee resorts.
          The third and favorite avenue is the far-famed Merrimack Valley route, which takes the traveler in fast-moving, comfortable trains along the curving banks of the lovely Merrimac river, passing Lowell, Nashua, Manchester, Concord (the capital of the Granite State), Laconia, Lakeport, and other interesting communities, and in a few hours depositing him at Weirs, the great railroad, steamboat, and social headquarters of the Lake, in full view of Winnipesaukee's fairest charms.
          This is a ride that poets have often praised in verse, and novelists woven into their romances. It is one of the most satisfying and inspiring railroad journeys in all America...

         M.F. Sweetser wrote in 1889: Weirs is the summer capital of the Lake Country. The great camp-meeting grounds...have a fame that is almost national, and are occupied during the summer by convocations of people devoted to religious advancement, the temperance cause, the heroic memories of the Union-saving war, and other worthy causes, grangers, Good Templars, musicians, oarsmen, Foresters, and other fraternal men. As recently as 1870, this site was occupied only by a little wooden railway station, and all the development of the cottage city, even yet in its infancy, has gone forward since then.

          For the first 40 years (1879-1919), the annual veterans reunions attracted large, enthusiastic crowds, sometimes estimated in the thousands; here seen gathering by the HQ in the early 1900's, complete with a marching band. More recent reunions have been much more modest affairs, attended at best by a hundred dedicated souls. Click here to enlarge the above photo.

          Several US Presidents have visited Weirs Beach. The most famous visit was President Theodore Roosevelt's. On August 28, 1902, he give a speech in the Veteran's Grove. Thousands came to watch.
         President Grover Cleveland visited Weirs Beach while he was vacationing at the summer estate of Stilson Hutchins on Governor's Island.

           Every four years, New Hampshire natives recall another type of person who often came to Weirs Beach - POLITICIANS! Since 1920, New Hampshire has held the first presidential primary in the nation. Weirs Beach has played a role in three of the last six presidential elections.
          George H.W. Bush came to Weirs Beach in 1988 while campaigning for the Presidency, and went on a fundraising cruise on the M/S Mount Washington.
          Republican presidental candidate Bob Dole also went on a fundraising cruise on the Mount, in 1996.
          On October 15, 2008, Vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin gave a speech on a speaker's platform erected right in the middle of Lakeside Avenue.

Aerial of Palin Rally

Click here to see an enlarged view of the Weirs Beach waterfront circa 1906

Right, Palin gives her speech. Click here for many more photos of the rally.

          In a 1907 brochure, the New Hotel Weirs (see below) claimed among its clientele a slew of domestic and foreign dignitaries - Senators, Congressmen, Governors, Admirals, Generals, and even Prime Ministers!

When was the Golden Era of Weirs Beach?
          An imposing statue in the middle of town...ornate fountains everywhere...orchestral music floating in the air...ladies and gentlemen (and children) frequently dressed in formal attire...luxurious accommodations...exquisite cuisine...are we talking about London or Paris? No, Weirs Beach! That's right, at one time, all of the above could be found right here in Weirs Beach!

          Detail from the grand staircase at the New Hotel Weirs — seemingly lined with gold...Click here to enlarge.

          From the late-1890's to the mid-1920's, the center of Weirs Beach was dominated by one of the grandest hotels in New England ever constructed, the New Hotel Weirs. A stay at the 230-room (and 50-bathroom) Hotel during this time could be associated with a certain amount of sophistication, wealth, and status. Certainly the Hotel catered to an affluent East Coast clientele from Boston and New York, (it had sales offices in both cities), and perhaps attracted customers with a certain panache and savoir-faire from even further afield.

Strollers on Lakeside Avenue approaching
the New Hotel Weirs in 1905

"The four story yellow edifice was set back from the road on a terrace. Its spacious lawn was studded with trees, sculptured hedges and flower beds. Verandas furnished with white wicker furniture surrounded the first two floors. Its red roof, with American flags flying from its two turrets, gave a patriotic touch. The cozy gazebo, to the left of the entrance, lent an accent of welcome. It was a tranquil scene of affluence, streched out in all its dignity."- Betty Hoey Leahy, who visited in the early 1920's

         Guest rooms offered "perfect sanitary arrangements", were "fully equipped with electrical appliances", and were "connected by telephone and telegraph...to all points". The fine dining room's cuisine was "excellent and up-to-date"; the water was "pure..coming directly from mountain springs". For relaxation, guests could perambulate on the hotel's spacious verandas, with daytime views of "unsurpassed magnificence"; in the evening the verandas were "brilliantly illuminated by hundreds of electric lights". For entertainment, the hotel featured a "fine billiard room", and in the music room, an "excellent orchestra" furnished "daily concerts".
          When first built in 1880 (from parts of the disassembled Diamond Island House hauled over the ice), the sign over the front door of the Hotel read "Hotel Weirs". Even when called Hotel Sanborn in 1893, the sign was still there. In the late 1890's, after considerable expansion, the word "New" was added both to the sign(s) over the front door(s), as well as to the name.
          The Hotel was expanded in 3 phases. The left turret was the original Hotel. In 1896, the central section between the two turrets was added. In 1899, the right turret, and the rooms to the right of the right turret, were added all at the same time. In the winter of 1905-1906, the rooms to the left of the left turret were added, completing the Hotel.

         So popular was the Hotel, it was the main focus of numerous postcards from the time. In fact, no other subject was deemed as noteworthy, judging from the numerous views of the Hotel from every conceivable angle. For a grand tour of this golden age, click below to see an extensive gallery of colorful New Hotel Weirs postcards. For a verbal description of its architecture, click here.

Ownership/management of the New Hotel Weirs changed frequently over the years.

W.H. Sanborn, 1880-1892
Chas E. Sleeper, 1893-1894
Dr. J. Alonzo Greene, 1895 -1905
E.C. Hibbard, 1906-1909
Merritt & Brown, 1910-?
Frank H. Green/Lancaster & Lane Hotel Co., late 1910's -1924

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          Note: The images have been placed roughly in chronological order*, beginning in the late 1890's and continuing through the 1910's. They are all extra-large images, approximately 150k-250k in size, and best viewed with a 19" monitor or larger.

To put them in chronological order the webmaster has used obvious clues. The far left wing of the hotel was the last part of the hotel to be expanded when it was extended to New Hampshire Avenue, and in some of the postcards above, one can see the roof of the left wing to be in a different color from the rest of the Hotel roof.
          Logically, images with telephone poles and wires came after those images where they are lacking (or perhaps, they were not deftly retouched by artists to remove the unsightly poles, like other postcards were).

         The New Hotel Weirs' elegant standard of service would not have been possible without modern utilities, which came to town in the 1880's as follows:

• Winnipesaukee Bell Telephone Company - 1881

• Laconia Electric Light Company - 1884
• Laconia and Lake Village Waterworks - 1885
(In August, 1926, the Laconia Gas & Electric Company joined with 3 utility companies from Manchester, Nashua and Keene to form PSNH. On January 4, 1956, the City of Laconia purchased the Weirs Water Company from George W. Tarlson.)

          The New Hotel Weirs was not the only large hotel in Weirs Beach at this time, although it was certainly the grandest and best known. Just across the way stood the imposing, 4-story Lakeside House, with 118 rooms. And further down Lakeside Avenue, even the more compact Story's Tavern still offered about 70 rooms. Other notable hotels of the time included the Winnecoette, the Endicott, the Aquedoktan, and the Lakeview. Of all the hotels mentioned, only the Lakeview is still in the business of accommodating travelers today.

           The Lakeside House became the Lakeside Hotel in the 1940's, and then the Winnipesaukee Marketplace in 1986 when the 1890 and 1899 additions behind the original 1880 4-story central building were torn down to make way for "Fanueil Hall North". Of course, it didn't work out that way. Purchased by the Ames family in 1991, the building now houses on its first floor the Patio Garden Restaurant, Stageview Subshop, and J.B. Scoops Ice Cream. There remain about 20 vacant rooms in the upper 3 stories of the building. Scroll to the right to see another picture of the Lakeside House.

Strollers on Lakeside Avenue departing
the Lakeside House in 1913

For more colorful images of the Lakeside House, click below:
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For images of the Lakeside Hotel, click here

          Built around 1886, Story's Tavern changed its name many times over the years, first becoming a Tavern instead of a Hotel in the late 1890's, then taking on the name of (owner Alice) Cawley's in 1922, and finally taking on the name of the "Weirs Hotel" in the 1940's. By the 1980's it had fallen into disrepair and was called "That Olde House"; the unoccupied building burned down on September 27, 1991. Now the location of the Beachview parking lot. Scroll to the right to see another picture of Story's Tavern.

Strollers on Lakeside Avenue passing by
Story's Tavern in 1910

For more colorful images of Story's Tavern, click here:

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            The end of the Golden Era at Weirs Beach came swiftly. On November 9, 1924, a great fire destroyed the New Hotel Weirs, as well as numerous other Weirs Beach structures. In 1925, the Laconia Street Railway (see below), which for years had brought a steady stream of customers to Weirs Beach from the burgeoning nearby "City on the Lakes", ceased operations. And in 1929, before the grand hotel could be rebuilt, the stock market collapsed, bringing on the Great Depression. Weirs Beach was never the same again.

          In the early 1930's businessman Bob Wagner built the Half Moon Tea Room – restaurant, snack bar, bowling alley, and cabins – on the spot of the former Hotel. The modern era of Weirs Beach had begun.
          Perhaps to capitalize on the enduring fame of the New Hotel Weirs, Story's Tavern was renamed the "Weirs Hotel" in the 1940's. (The cabins mentioned in the above ad were located directly behind the hotel; they did not burn down in 1991 and still exist.)

          By the time of this ad in a 1976 Weirs Chamber of Commerce brochure, the Tavern name was back!

          Trolley No. 14 at Weirs Beach

Above - Laconia Street Railway Trolley No. 20 heads towards Weirs Beach.
Below - Trolley No. 18, parked in Weirs Beach, ready to head to Laconia.
The Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport has a similar trolley in its collection.
          Trolley No. 12 passing through Lakeport Square. Click here to enlarge.

Where can I find more historical information about Weirs Beach?
          No history of Weirs Beach would be complete without addressing its intimate connection with the Lake and the water craft that travelled upon it: luxurious passenger steamers and elegant, mahogony & brass boats. The New Hampshire Boat Musuem (603) 569-4554, in Wolfeboro, has many displays, which, enhanced with archival photos, trophies and models, bring to life a truly grand era of boating.

          Trolley No. 19, named Aquedoctan, was an enclosed trolley, used for winter transportation. Note the destination sign indicating Lakeport and Weirs.

          Miss Winnipesaukee speedboat rides were offered for 42 years (1930–1972) at Irwin's Winnipesaukee Gardens. A man with a megaphone advertising the "10-mile", 20-minute rides could be heard all over Weirs Beach. At the peak of their popularity in the late 1940's, there was a fleet of five of the speedboats, all nearly identical, circa 1930 vintage, 26' or 28' triple-cockpit Chris Craft runabouts that seated nine. The painting below, "Another Summer" by Alton, NH artist Peter Ferber, depicts the Weirs Beach waterfront in the late 40's/early 50's.

         The megaphone man's pitch went something like the following: "Come on down for the next thrilling Miss Winnipesaukee speedboat ride! Enjoy a 10 mile, 20 minute ride! See the mountains and ride the waves on the fastest, safest and largest speedboat in the country! Come onnnnnnn down!"
          According to Gary Morse, who was a driver and megaphone pitchman in 1972, "...the best part was how we elongated the "Come on down" for as long as we could hold our breath."
          The pitch was repeated over and over again throughout the day, every day during the summer season.
          You can explore the history of Weirs Beach and other towns around the lake up close and in person at the Lake Winnipesaukee Historical Society museum. Located at 503 Endicott St N in Weirs Beach (one mile north of the Weirs Beach sign on Route 3), the museum houses many exhibits on the 300+ year history of the area.

          To read about the history of Weirs Beach, consult the Weirs Times, a newspaper that frequently offers a front page article on Weirs Beach history and is always chock full of historical tidbits. First published from 1883-1902, in 1992 the paper was revived and today is a free weekly with a circulation of 30,000.

           Another great source of historical information about Weirs Beach are the historical photograph and postcard galleries on Winnipesaukee.com. Many hours can easily be spent perusing these on-line galleries. One contributor in particular, "McDude", has posted a massive collection of old Weirs Beach photographs and postcards. His fascinating 3-part Weirs Beach thread can be found here, and his "Weirs Image Gallery" here.

          Those interested in further pursuing the history of the area should also check out the historical societies in Laconia, Gilford, and Meredith, as well as the New Hampshire Historical Society.

Click below to take a sentimental journey around Weirs Beach in 1889.
Nine views from the above folder.

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Click here to take a sentimental journey around Lake Winnipesaukee in 1906. Twenty four postcard views from the above folder.

          Canoeing was a popular theme for the cover of these postcard folders

Click here to take a sentimental journey around Lake Winnipesaukee in 1915. Eighteen postcard views from the above folder.

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