The Lakeport Opera House

Above, the Lakeport Opera House on a beautiful spring day, May 10, 2022. Click the button above the photo to go to the website of the restored Lakeport Opera House.

Below, historical stereoviews of the Lakeport Opera House. The building, at 781 Union Avenue, dates from 1882. It was originally Moore’s Opera House. The theater, on the second floor, once seated 350 people. The theater has been completely restored, and reopened in June, 2021. The Laconia Daily Sun reported on July 30, 2019, that it would relocate its operations to the first floor of the building. In 2020, the building was completely renovated, and in addition to the Sun, it now features a coffeehouse on the first floor. Condos are to be built on the 3rd floor.

To the immediate right of the Opera House, Chester D. Andrews photography studio occupied the 2nd floor of the Osgood Block. The Osgood block burnt down in January, 1939, and was replaced in 1940 by a one-story building. That building was first occupied by First National Stores, then the Lakeport Five & Dime. It currently houses the Chaos & Kindness store.

Lakeport Square was once known as Depot Square. Downtown Laconia also had its own Depot Square, so it was not long before the square in Lakeport was renamed to differentiate it from the one downtown. Cards from 1905-1909.

The watering trough in Lakeport Square, ‘which has quenched the thirst of many a horse during the past forty years or more and which in recent years has been an easy target for amateur auto drivers’, was removed July 29, 1923, according to the Laconia newspaper.

These circa 1907 cards of Lakeport Square show the Mount Belknap House on the right.
The Mount Belknap House in 1885. The actual year of construction is unknown, but it is likely the Mount Belknap house was built in the mid-1870s.

After a major fire on November 17, 1911, the Mount Belknap Hotel was reconstructed in the same location. The mansard roof, cupola, and the 2nd and 3rd floor balconies of the old House were lost or removed, while a fourth floor was added to the structure.

The building to the immediate left of the hotel was known as the Cushing Block and housed at first a bakery, then a paint store, then a hardware store. Apartments were rented on the top two floors.

Lakeport Square in 1937.

The Lakeport Railroad Station. The last stop before reaching Weirs Beach. Passenger station on right was removed in July 1986. Freight station on left remains standing.

Lakeport Square was also once known as Webster Square. It received the designation in 1922 in honor of bugler Earl A. Webster, who was killed in WW1’s deadly trench warfare in the Argonne.

Two, nearly-identical views of the Opera House in the 1920s, looking south from the center of the square. The second, partially colorized postcard shows a car that is not present in the first postcard.

Opera House in the 1920s
The photo below can be dated as taken in 1946, when the bottom floor of the Opera House housed the Lakeport post office and a Rexall drug store, and movies were still being shown at the second floor theater. The movie marquee sign shows that “Corp Dolan Goes AWOL”, also known as “Rendevous with Annie” (1946), was the featured movie. The original King Kong (1933) was also being shown.

“The Square, Lake Port”, late 1940s. On the extreme left of the photo is a vertical “Theatre” sign. The neon sign was installed in January 1947. The title of the postcard, simply “The Square”, shows that Lakeport Square was no longer called “Depot” or “Webster” square by this point.

This view of Lakeport Square in the early 1970s shows the Mount Belknap Hotel just prior to its destruction. Both the Hotel and the Cushing block were torn down in November, 1975, to make way for the Lake Village Apartments, which after a long period of construction, opened for occupancy in 1983.

A view from the top of the Opera House of Elm Street.

A view of Elm Street circa 1905.

Another view from the top of the Opera House shows Lake Paugus and the Railroad Station, as well as the two nearby churches.

In the previous postcard view, the NEW, Park Street United Baptist Church can be seen on the left of the postcard, and the Union Avenue Baptist Church on the right of the card. The Union Avenue church, with its soaring Gothic Revival towers, opened on August 23, 1871, and was demolished in October, 1940. Below, a similar postcard.

Below, a detail from a circa 1875 stereoview taken from the top of the OLD, “Free Will” United Baptist Church of Lakeport. This view was taken from the earlier version of the Park Street church, which was built in 1852, expanded in 1877, and burned in 1890. The NEW version of the United Baptist Church was finished in 1892, and still stands, at 35 Park St.

The building at the center that resembles the Opera House was actually its predecessor, the Weeks Block, built circa 1871 and burned in 1881. The new Opera House building substantially resembled the old Weeks Block building, except for the roof and windows, which now sported elaborate lintels. This suggests that perhaps the burning was not total and the old building was partially saved. The photo shows Cole’s Hill extending upward behind the Weeks block. The Mount Belknap House, with its distinctive cupola, is seen on the far right.

A postcard view from the top of Cole’s (Reservoir) Hill.
Another postcard view from the top of the hill.
Looking down Elm Street towards the Opera House.
A military parade in Lakeport Square, late 1880s. The two signs on the Opera House read Drs. Moore & Raby, and Drugs & Medicines.